Internet Archaeol. 16. Phillips. Summary

GIS and Landscape Analysis, or the cart before the horse?

Caroline Phillips

Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand.

Cite this as: Phillips, C. 2004 GIS and Landscape Analysis, or the cart before the horse?, Internet Archaeology 16.


Spatial analysis has traditionally considered settlements in relation to each other and aspects of topography. Criticisms of environmental determinism, and identification of problems with site data and analytical models, have followed. Transferring spatial analysis to a GIS platform has not resolved these concerns. This article highlights the fact that there are cultural assumptions within spatial analyses, through examining the land-use systems practised by New Zealand Māori, and argues that models based on modern European land use are not necessarily appropriate for other times and cultures. This test case also supports the contextual archaeology definition of landscape as a dynamic inclusive system between people and land. It is concluded that the resolution of such problems, especially when analysing societies with a recent ethnography or history, requires a landscape approach together with multi-disciplinary data and the further development of dynamic modelling and simulation through GIS.

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Last updated: Thur Nov 11 2004