Geospatial Big Data and archaeology: Prospects and problems too great to ignore

Publication date: Available online 11 July 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science
Author(s): Mark D. McCoy
As spatial technology has evolved and become integrated in to archaeology, we face a new set of challenges posed by the sheer size and complexity of data we use and produce. In this paper I discuss the prospects and problems of Geospatial Big Data (GBD) – broadly defined as data sets with locational information that exceed the capacity of widely available hardware, software, and/or human resources. While the datasets we create today remain within available resources, we nonetheless face the same challenges as many other fields that use and create GBD, especially in apprehensions over data quality and privacy. After reviewing the kinds of archaeological geospatial data currently available I discuss the near future of GBD in writing culture histories, making decisions, and visualizing the past. I use a case study from New Zealand to argue for the value of taking a data quantity-in-use approach to GBD and requiring applications of GBD in archaeology be regularly accompanied by a Standalone Quality Report.