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Comparative and introspective GIS : an analysis of cell-based GIS methods and their applications within landscape archaeology

Chapman, Henry, 1973


Henry, 1973 Chapman


S. (Stephen) Ellis


This thesis presents an assessment of cell-based GIS techniques and their applications within landscape archaeology. It highlights and addresses four main limitations within previous archaeological GIS research. Firstly, studies have traditionally been restricted to areas of high topographic variability. Secondly, there have been few truly comparative GIS studies within archaeology and so the value of methods remains uncertain. Thirdly, issues of resolution and its effects on the process and results of analyses require further assessment. Finally, the DEM is rarely considered as representing an archaeological feature itself, but rather as a surface over which archaeology is draped.

In response to these identified limitations two contrasting landscapes were studied, each using input-data obtained at both low and high resolutions from Ordnance Survey contours and high resolution GPS survey respectively. The first landscape was chosen for its topographic variability. It was centred on the Neolithic cursuses around the village of Rudston on the Yorkshire Wolds, East Yorkshire. For the second landscape a flatter, wetland area was chosen. This was focused upon the pair of Iron Age lowland enclosures on Sutton Common in the Humberhead Levels near the town of Askem, South Yorkshire. Each area measured I 0 x I 0 km, although the extents of the higher resolution surveys were much smaller, focusing on the specific archaeological monuments.

A range of GIS methods was applied systematically to each of the landscapes so that the results could be usefully compared. These methods included techniques of surface generation, surface representation, surface analysis and multiple surface analysis. The results were discussed comparatively and assessed introspectively within the themes of GIS methods and the applications of GIS within landscape archaeology. The latter was further subdivided between its principal themes of landscape interpretation and cultural resource management to provide a realistic assessment of the overall value of GIS tools to landscape archaeology.

The conclusions of this research highlight the wide range of possibilities that GIS provides to landscape archaeology. From a methodological perspective, the advantages and limitations of the various methods have been presented, particularly demonstrating how flatter landscapes may be studied successfully so long as surface data are collected at an appropriate resolution. Further, it has been demonstrated that both input-data and GIS techniques are transferable, enabling a wider range of potential results to be of use within archaeology than might at first be assumed.

Other conclusions have been made in terms of landscape archaeology. This thesis has demonstrated the great heuristic value of GIS and this has been expanded to incorporate narrative approaches from the social sciences, applying them to the abstract landscapes that GIS creates. It has also demonstrated the wide potential of GIS for identifying sites, for assessing their preservation, both above and below ground, and for the long-term monitoring of the buried environment.

This thesis has provided an assessment of cell-based GIS methods and has recommended ways in which their applications may be enhanced for the benefit of landscape archaeology.


Chapman, H. 1. (2000). Comparative and introspective GIS : an analysis of cell-based GIS methods and their applications within landscape archaeology. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Dec 15, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Geography
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Geography, The University of Hull
Award Date Aug 1, 2000


Thesis (66.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2000 Chapman, Henry, 1973-. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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