[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

1.2 The cart before the horse

Early problems with spatial analysis included: gaps in settlement distributions due to post-depositional damage, the probability of uneven recording and variable accuracy, and the uncertain chronology of recorded sites (Fig. 1A). Not so often questioned was the validity of the models and tests to which the data were being subjected. It can be overlooked that modern European land-use patterns, which form the basis of the models, may be very different from those of other societies and of past times, and consequently may not be suitable for the analysis of pre-modern cultures.

In transferring to a new technology, archaeologists did not address the previous problems. Further criticisms of the use of GIS have followed (Gaffney 1995; Harris and Lock 1995; Church et al. 2000; Wheatley 1993) (Fig. 1B). The problems principally stem from the same cause, as Harris and Lock explain:

We must be careful not to be technologically deterministic here as the importance lies not in the methods used but in the underlying archaeological theory involving explanation and meaning inherent within spatial relationships. It is worth emphasizing that GIS is not an objective, value neutral, unbiased technology ... [GIS] represents the social reproduction of knowledge and, as such, the development of a GIS methodology cannot be divorced from the development of the theory needed to sustain it (Harris and Lock 1995, 355).

[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

© Internet Archaeology URL: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue16/4/1.2.html
Last updated: Thur Nov 11 2004