Spatial thinking in archaeology: Is GIS the answer?

Publication date: Available online 17 June 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science
Author(s): Gary Lock, John Pouncett
Being human embodies understandings of space and spatial relationships which are embedded within the material world and are underpinned by complex frameworks of knowledge and experience. Just as this applied to people living in the past, so it applies to those of us concerned with trying to understand those past lives through the archaeological record. Most, if not all, archaeological material has a spatial component and it is not surprising, therefore, that spatial thinking has been central within archaeological endeavour since the beginnings of the discipline. Specific forms of spatial thinking have changed with developing theory and methods and with changing analytical and technological opportunities resulting in the rich variety of approaches available to us today. Within this development, the rapid adoption of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology since the early 1990s has had a major impact on archaeology and related disciplines and its use is now almost taken for granted. Although the use of GIS in archaeology has always been, and still is contentious at the theoretical level, the attractions of the technology are usually seen to outweigh any restrictions or disadvantages. In this paper we situate the use of GIS, including the papers in this volume, within the wider arena of spatial thinking in archaeology in an attempt to assess the impact that this technology has had on how we think spatially.