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Applications of GIS in Archaeology

Applications of GIS in Archaeology


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A widely encountered application of GIS is storage and management. As with databases, a logical and efficient storage system greatly improves the ability to access your information. It is very important to keep your data well-organized and easy accessible, as well as store it in a format that is easy to understand for outsiders. In this sense, a GIS simply completes your database with spatial references. Another use for GIS, which directly follows from the above, is visualization of data. Because all data is referenced to the same coordinate system, it is very easy to select specific parts of your data, and display them on a map. This has obvious advantages for rendering your data immediately comprehensible, for yourself and public, for example in reports and publications.

The real strength of GIS applications within archaeology however, lies in the possibility to use an extensive set of tools to analyze your data. Basically, it is possible to include in your questions every part of the data that you stored in your GIS, whether in tables or as spatial features. Besides from using selections and queries to study your data, you can execute advanced calculations and combined spatial queries. Apart from using the geographic attributes of the data to make a spatial selection, GIS enables you to plot complex data, queries and calculations on top of each other that are useful in identifying patterns. Finally, a GIS allows you to do extensive contextual analyses of the landscape, such as visibility analyses, cost-distance analyses, etc.

Very important in archaeology is data capture and digitization. The data we store, visualize and analyze are often newly generated, original data (coming from projects) and have to be processed before we can use it. Nowadays, GIS plays an important role in data capture and digitization. The data we digitize have to be adjusted for use in GIS, or are even directly captured using GIS applications. Main tools that are used are Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) programs in which you can directly digitize drawings, scanning (of maps and such), Robotic Total Stations (with modern versions directly drawing in CAD programs) and GPS, possibly directly connected to a GIS application.

Research topics: Software & Technology