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GIS and Underwater Archaeology

GIS and Underwater Archaeology - GIS and Underwater...

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GIS and Underwater Archaeology Introduction In its broadest sense, archaeology is the study of the human past through physical remains. Information about the location and orientation of archaeological sites and artifacts in relation to each other and the world must be known for the archaeologist to interpret and analyze them effectively. GIS has therefore developed into an essential tool for archaeology. The use of GIS for terrestrial archaeology has however surpassed that of underwater archaeology over the past twenty years in both theory and practice. This is a curious paradigm; in some ways underwater archaeological sites are more complex and are in greater peril, as they are increasingly influenced by coastal development, recreational activities, and a host of other natural and anthropogenic impacts, and are therefore in need of a comprehensive strategy for research, conservation and management. This paper presents the development of GIS for terrestrial archaeology and examines how lessons learned in this arena can be applied to GIS and archaeology underwater. Terrestrial archaeology Terrestrial archaeology relies on a plethora of data sources that are inherently tied to changes in physical space over some period of time [Limp 2001]. These sources include, but are not limited to, the use of landscape data, such as topography and land cover [Llobera 2001; Davis et al. 1997], environmental information, such as vegetation communities and their pollen deposition and dispersal [Fyfe 2005], remote imaging, such as aerial photography and spaceborne imaging radar data [Neubauer 2001; Holcomb 2001], geophysical prospection, such as magnetic susceptibility, resistivity, and ground penetrating radar [Aubry et al. 2001; Neubauer 2001], and of course the more traditional excavation. Time periods over which archaeologists study changes in can vary from days to millennia. The use of maps with some simple computer programs and datasets, such as digital elevation models (DEMs), began in the early 1970s, and led to the utilization of GIS for archaeology in the 1980s. One of the primary purposes in the early days of GIS was to inventory large numbers of sites for both research archaeology and cultural resource management. The use of map-based datasets was viewed to be a useful and intuitive way to represent large amounts of geospatial data [Wheatley & Gillings 2002]. Analysis and computation soon followed the simple visualization of sites as archaeologists wanted to answer more analytical questions, such as statistical distribution of sites, landscape visibility, environmental factors leading to settlements, regional variations over time, and modeling land use [Maschner 1996; Brandt et al. 1992; Kvamme 1990; Fry et al. 2004]. For example, one might look at the locations of rivers and fertile soils to predict the positions of prehistoric settlements [Harris 2002]. Today, GIS is assisting archaeologists in location models and prediction, environmental reconstruction, catchment and territorial analysis, viewshed analysis and cognitive analysis [Wheatley & Gillings 2002].
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