GIS and Archaeology
Knowth, County Meath, Ireland
Imagine going to Ireland and visiting the main mound at Knowth.  As you get closer to this mound, you realize it is over 18 feet tall.  There is a small entrance, narrow and dark, but with your flashlight you move in through the pathway.  As you get to the end of this passage, the light explodes into a huge chamber made with art-decorated stone.  This is my dream, to some day see this site. My dream is becoming urgent because these sites are eroding away from the effects of human and environmental factors.  My search here, is looking for ways to save these mounds by preserving what they looked like in the past and finding ways to protect them in the present. I have found that Geographic Information Systems and Science could be a large part of this process.  GIS provides a way of taking “Snapshots” of the sites to preserve their state and potentially record the information they contain for future study and analysis. GIS would also be a way of saving current data gained through the systematic recording of multiple similar sites in the area.
Box, Paul. Safeguarding the Plain of Jars: megaliths and Unexploded Ordnance in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. California: Journal of GIS in Archaeology V1: 91-102, April (2003). Published by ESRI.
    The author gives a description and location of the megalithic stone jars and the unexploded bombs near the jars on the Xieng Khouang plateau. He then goes on to explain a project to save this important site.  The overall aims were to create a GIS based inventory for the cultural resources, define and map site boundaries, and evaluate all the different resources of the Xieng Khouang plateau.  Documenting would be done in three levels including: base-mapping in an overview scale of 1:100,000 for the whole province; making a site plan in large-scale for selected pilot sites; and performing site surveys in archaeological detail.
Bradley, Richard. Ruined Buildings, Ruined Stones: Enclosures, Tombs and Natural Places in the Neolithic of South-West England. World Archaeology, V30, N1:13-22, June(1998). Published by Taylor & Francis. Ltd.
    Bradley offers  a new theory on what Tors and Megalithic tombs have in common. The author refers to a description from Christopher Tilley's observations of the Bodmin Moor.  This was a discussion on how the prehistoric people were using these granite formations and went on to describe the words: “Tor” and Non-domesticated “Megaliths”.  Bradley then explains the differences between the natural structures (Tors) and the culturally made structures (Quoits = Megalithic tombs). He uses the three sites, Carn Brea, Helman Tor and Stowe's Pound as examples.  The author argues that the megalithic tombs not only resemble the granite tors, but feels that the Neolithic people of that time, thought the tors were ruined tombs of their ancestors.  Bradley gives his evidence on why he believes this theory.
Chapman, Henry P.  Rudston 'Cursus A': Engaging with a Neolithic Monument in its Landscape Setting Using GIS. Oxford, England. Oxford Journal of Archaeology,V22, N4:345-356, (2003). Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
    An interesting article that describes what cursuses are and the theories of their function. The author defines the methods used to study these theories portrayed. The cursuses described were by the village of Rudston, East Yorkshire.  They are long underground pathways with varying theoretical functions.  The author explains two theories that this paper discusses.  These are 1) the construction of these cursuses were determined by the landscape following the easiest route and 2) The cursuses were defined by links to other cultural landscapes surrounding it.  The methods used to look into both the theories includes 2 GIS analyzes: First, GIS “cost-surface analysis” (finding out whether movement was restricted by landscape areas)  and second, the “least-cost path analysis” (based on a DEM of the landscape).  The “cumulative viewshed analysis” that was introduced by Wheatley in 1995 was also discussed. This method combines viewsheds with different environmental data so as to check possible visibility factors. The results of this study showed that theory #1 had similar routes to one another but completely different placement from the original cursuses.  Theory #2, using the viewshed analysis, showed visibility toward the other monuments surrounding it. The author concludes that Rudston Cursus A had a visual relationship with the other monuments to the west, which suggested a link between the two earthworks.
Craig, Nathan and Mark Aldenderfer. Preliminary Stages in the Development of a Real-Time Digital Data Recording System for Archaeological Excavation Using ArcView GIS 3.1. California: Journal of GIS in Archaeology, V1:13-22, April (2003). Published by ESRI.
    The author described a new process under investigation to use real-time data recording in an archaeological process.  Through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the team applied this new process at a site in south-central Peru, called Jiskairumoko.  Craig explained the importance of data collection in archaeology.  The data sources used were space-borne remote sensing, magnometers, ground penetrating radar instruments, electronic total stations for mapping of both surface and excavation unit/features, and digital cameras.  He then explains the beginning process of taking old topographic information and translating the data into ArcViewGIS 3.1.  The results of this process showed promise in the field collection of data with increased consistency and resolution.
Darvill, T. C. Court Cairna, Passage Graves and Social Change in Ireland.  Man:New Series, V1, N2:311-327, June 1979). Published by Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.
    Darvill discusses spatial analysis to aid in identifying any social structure pertaining to court cairns and passage graves in Ireland.  He used available archaeological data and found there were issues finding any actual social structure between the cairns because of the abundance of them.  It was found that chronology needed to be addressed first because of this heavy distribution of these Court Cairns and Passage Graves. Intensive surveys and studies were done after World War 2.  Studies on pottery helped with the chronology and then using different analysis tools such as Thiessen polygons to analyze the data.  Through this process, they discovered additional information about the sites and social structure. The author concluded saying that the analysis only looked at one type of spatial patterning which makes this a bias view and more work must be done to further this theory.
Diggs, Dr. David M. and Dr. Robert H. Brunswig.  Weights of Evidence Modeling in Archeology, Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado:College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pgs.1-14 (unknown date), University of Northern Colorado.
    This journal article was a start of an inventory project in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).  It was funded by the Systemwide Archaeological Inventory Program (SAIP).  Over a 5 year process,  multiple sites were recorded covering about 30,000 out of 274,000 acres.  The primary goal was to collect data and develop models of cultural and religious beliefs relating to the park land.  This process included four types of inquiry. They are 1) Researching ethnographic and historical data relation to Native American religious practice; 2) Launching a longterm “consultation program” with members of the Ute and Arapaho groups and the elders; 3) to continue the process of archaeological work in locating sites of ritual activity and 4) The use of GIS to generate and test landscape models using all the above data sources.  The actual article pertained only to the 4th process.  
    In 2006, the authors made a beginning sacred landscape model using ArcGIS 9.0. GIS layers were made from variable lists and a (Digital Elevation Model) “life-zone” layer to represent areas of the park.  Other layers constructed included aspect, N-S and E-W co-aspects, a shelter layer, and a vegetation “cost-distance” layer. The team went on to analyze many variables of sacred sites and features using the tables for zonal statistics, including a Kolmogorov- Smirnov (KS) test.  The modeling technique used for the project was ArcSDM 3.1, a Spatial Data Modeler extension.   They describe this process in detail including the process of “weights of evidence” modeling; making “weight tables” and final prediction maps to compare maps made.  The authors then conclude that the final map was a collection of many investigations relating to ritual-ceremonial practices in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  That future testing of the model would require more field surveys and data collection
Dyson-Bruce, Lynn. Historic Landscape Assessment: The East of England Experience Paper Product to GIS Delivery.  California: Journal of GIS in Archaeology, V1: 63-72, April (2003). Published by ESRI.
    The author explains that HLA (Historic Landscape Assessment) was made in response to the LCA (Landscape Character Assessment) because LCA was unable to identify and assess historic dimensions of the landscape. The need to produce the proper information by archaeologists and historians was necessary. An appropriate format that other specialists could use was recommended by the author. HLA  was formed to set back this balance of information.  Dyson-Bruce went on to define “time depth” with three identifiers.  These were: the speed to which landscapes change; how landscapes changed in the past; and how frequent were these changes.  HLA, with their methodology would seek to chart visible historic components within the East of England Project using a GIS based ArcView platform. The three interactive aspects of this method were HLA: creating attributes from the landscape types, GIS: data capture processes and input, and Metadata: from both HLA and GIS. The author concludes that the Project was still in progress but looked promising and will become a promising tool for accurate and reliable analysis.
Dureka, J. Thomas and Roger G. Moore.  A Gazetteer of Archaeological Sites and Cultural Resource Surveys Surrounding the Big Thicket National Preserve.  California: Journal of GIS in Archaeology, V1:117-122, April (2003). Published by ESRI.
    Big Thicket National Preserve (BTNP) has been obtained by the National Park Service. The authors discuss a process of putting all the archaeological and historical data into a cultural landscape model.  This gazetteer was prepared by Moore Archaeological Consulting using 4 different archaeological data sources.  This collection is a multimedia reference source containing both manual and digital information that became a great resource for BTNP.  Site recording in Texas is all digital as of this paper.  It now uses an official site form to add location data into the sites. It is called TexSite and the Texas Historical Commission oversees the collecting and storing of data. The authors gave a fictitous example of how to use the TexSite data entry form and the result of said information on a map. The article was very helpful in seeing how manual and digital data could be used to help with resource management.
Eriksen, Palle.  The Great Mound of Newgrange: An Irish Multi-Period Mound Spanning from the Megalithic Tomb period to the Early Bronze Age. Denmark: Acta Archaeologica, V79:250-273, (2008).
    This article was an updated view from the author on the cultural implications of the Great Mound of Newgrange. The author argues that Newgrange is a multi-period mound. He suggests the need to find out what the mound looked like and when it was built to save the mound before it totally erodes away like some other passage tombs. To do this, the old papers and books were reviewed for information on any site descriptions from the early days before erosion and modification of the mound took place. One of the earliest records of the passage tomb was found in the “Handbook of Architecture” written by James Fergusson, 1854. The author then went into a detailed explanation of this passage tomb sighting many books and articles. The archaeological drawings of the stratigraphy and pictures of stone circles around the mound were extremely detailed. There were also some hand drawn contour maps and later aerial photographs in the paper.  The author concluded the paper with a possibility of restoring the mound to its original likeness, instead of building new “white walls” around them.
Johnson, Ian and Andres Wilson. Making the Most of Maps: Field Survey on the Island of Kythera. California: Journal of GIS in Archaeology, V1:80-89, April (2003). Published by ESRI.
    Johnson and Wilson explain the Australian Paliochora-Kythera Project (APKAS) that started in 1999.  Kythera is an island off the coast of Greece that population was reduced seven different times. This study was set up to determine why this occurrence kept happening.  The project was an archaeological field study using GIS/GPS, pottery collection and analysis, historical and ethnographical research.
    This specific paper was a description of their GIS procedures for this project.  The GIS tools, spatial analysis tools, and software used in this project were RasTools, MapInfo, Trimble Pro XR GPS, ERMapper, GeoTiff, VericalMapper and ProVec.  A detailed DEM protocol was used to create 3-D views of the area.  The authors also explained that in building the new database with GPS data, old aerial photographs and older surveys was a challenge that the team seemed to conquer.  This is an ongoing project that looks promising with the new GIS database collection.
Johnson, Ian and Andres Wilson. The TimeMap Project: Developing Time-Based GIS Display for Cultural Data. California: Journal of GIS in Archaeology, V1:124-135, April (2003). Published by ESRI.
    Another interesting article from Johnson and Wilson describing their TimeMap project funded through an Australian Research Council SPIRT, The Museum of Sydney and ESRI-Australia.  This project, in the beginning focused on 3 issues: finding  1) a way to record time-based cultural features, 2)  a way to connect a display for time-based maps, 3) how to render a map-based animation to project time depth.  This method was accomplished by an interface between TMView to TimeMap using compatible data sets.  The authors explained how the project was expanded to be able to incorporate a central metadata clearinghouse for their search capabilities.  The first step of this TimeMap project was to develop a method for recording time-related features based on Vector GIS. They called this a “snapshot transition model”.  TimeMap and TMView were the two GIS processes used in this method.  ESRI's MapObjects extension and all other query tools were used in making a data viewer. All datasets used in this project were produced into different map layers, making attribute tables including temporal information.  When doing this they could then relate certain objects to its time, hence making a TimeMap.
    The second area of research was in animation of the map.  The authors discuss the process of “tweening”: generating intermediate frames between two images to make it look like they evolve from one image into another. The first attempts were done “with Houdini running on an SGI workstation: (Johnson and Wilson, 2003) It was explained how this GIS animation was turned into AVI files. Other formats used were Shockwave Flash and Flash player.  This project also was used to incorporate the history of Sydney and was installed at the Museum of Sydney in 2000. The authors conclude this article with information relating to the ECAI Metadata Clearinghouse including the importance of defining this metadata so it could be used properly. The definition of Windows GUI tools were also defined. These tools were: map registration, metadata creation “wizard”, metadata editor, data pump and clearinghouse access.  The project information has been increasing download size and was creating a problem with the servers, therefore it was decided to build a middle tier server using CORBA protocols. The authors are hoping this next tier would give them more room to expand the information for different languages.
By Esther Foley - Geo 565
NOTE: This Bibliography was part of  a GEO 565 Class Assignment
in Geographic Information Systems and Science at Oregon State University.
Comments are welcome. My Contact information is on my “About Me Page”