A GIS of affordances: Movement and visibility at a planned colonial town in highland Peru

Publication date: Available online 12 June 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science
Author(s): Steven A. Wernke, Lauren E. Kohut, Abel Traslaviña
Archaeological GIS is moving towards increasingly detailed, embodied, multidimensional simulations and analyses of human experience in the past. Most of the emerging GIS research synthesizing spatial modeling and subject-centered approaches has been concerned with practices and perceptions of landscape. This paper tightens the analytical focus to the more intimate scale of a single settlement, combining models of movement and visual experience within a planned colonial town in highland Peru. Such a rendering is important, since controlling movement and visual experience were central to the colonial project that built this and other such towns in the Viceroyalty of Peru. This study centers on an exceptionally well-preserved, relict planned colonial town in highland Peru to investigate affordances of movement and visibility within it. Several GIS-based simulations and analytical techniques are brought together, including drone-based high resolution three dimensional modeling, spatial network analysis, walking models, and cumulative viewshed analysis, to simulate aggregate visual experience as people moved through the town. The results are suggestive of how the layout of the town specifically routed transit to facilitate the visual prominence of the church and original Inka plaza of the reducción, as well as the prominence of indigenous elite households. Both continuities and discontinuities of movement and visual experience relative to Inkaic and Spanish colonial spaces are evident. By extension, this paper also provides a pathway for quantitative and reproducible modeling of site-scale movement and visual affordances as dimensions of subject and community formation in other global contexts.