Geographic Visualization in Archaeology

Publication: Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, Vol. 24, No. 3

Author: Neha Gupta & Rodolphe Devillers

Date of Publication: September 2017

PDF File: Gupta-and-Devillers-2017-Geographic-Visualization-in-Archaeology.pdf



Archaeologists are often considered frontrunners in employing spatial approaches within the social sciences and humanities, including geospatial technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) that are now routinely used in archaeology. Since the late 1980s, GIS has mainly been used to support data collection and management as well as spatial analysis and modeling. While fruitful, these efforts have arguably neglected the potential contribution of advanced visualization methods to the generation of broader archaeological knowledge. This paper reviews the use of GIS in archaeology from a geographic visualization (geovisual) perspective and examines how these methods can broaden the scope of archaeological research in an era of more user-friendly cyber-infrastructures. Like most computational databases, GIS do not easily support temporal data. This limitation is particularly problematic in archaeology because processes and events are best understood in space and time. To deal with such shortcomings in existing tools, archaeologists often end up having to reduce the diversity and complexity of archaeological phenomena. Recent developments in geographic visualization begin to address some of these issues and are pertinent in the globalized world as archaeologists amass vast new bodies of georeferenced information and work towards integrating them with traditional archaeological data. Greater effort in developing geovisualization and geovisual analytics appropriate for archaeological data can create opportunities to visualize, navigate, and assess different sources of information within the larger archaeological community, thus enhancing possibilities for collaborative research and new forms of critical inquiry.