Beyond archaeological spatial datasets: Old Restrictions and New Opportunities in Archaeological Spatial Information

Chaired by G. Lock, this session aimed to discuss the epistemological, analytical and interpretative potential of spatial data in archaeological contexts related to current advances (theoretical and methodological) in space technology.

At present, progress in the process of capturing, managing and analyzing spatial data in archaeological contexts has been a real revolution in our discipline. Despite this, we must admit that the technology beyond the capability of formulating and resolving our spatial problems, and under these circumstances, it is not unusual to continue to apply outdated analytical routines and old approaches to these new resources. Therefore we are interested in current theoretical and methodological issues which are applied, successfully, to other spatial problems. In consequence, this session addressed three specific issues regarding the analysis and interpretation of archaeological datasets:

  • Management and use of time component in the collections of spatial data and, specifically, to contrast the real possibilities of the space-time cube in archeology contexts.
  • Out of spatiality: Data quality and material analysis, trying to give answers to questions like:  What should be the quality in the analysis of the spatial material to generate consistent information with the spatial problem investigated?  Would we go beyond the rated entity distributions on a surface?
  • The possibility of advances in Heuristic Approach as a way of solving certain archaeological spatial problems, and in particular referred to the Geostatistical Approach, Spatial Simulation Process and Analytical Visualization.

The use of space from an evolutionary perspective

This session was chaired by P. Spikins and focused on the use of landscape and the internal organization of habitats, camps, etc. which constitute a major theme in the studies of human evolution, since they tell us how humans interacted with space and how this relationship changed over time. This session aimed to cover some of the various analytical approaches applied to assess certain landmarks of evolution such as the colonization of new lands; the beginning of land use planning; the changes in dependence on ecological conditions; the manipulation of space; or the adaptation and internal structure of habitats.

 Moreover, this session also aimed to address the need of an integration of these questions in a holistic approach incorporating biology, subsistence strategies or technological provisioning, which could explain important issues about social and economic changes in the past.

People beyond the numbers: the anthropological implications of spatial analyses

The aim of this session, chaired by M. Llobera, was to discuss how human behavior had to be considered and introduced in spatial analyses, by considering the broad spectrum of choices available for any given human being or society, as well as the different ways in which spatial analyses results could be interpreted when considering behavioral variability.

The generalization of GIS, Virtual Reality and agent-based approaches entailed a big improvement in analyses focusing on the relationship between human beings and their space, thanks to the possibility of measuring and quantifying several human experiences such as visibility and perception, movement, communication, etc. On the other hand, the application of predictive models allows building different hypothetical scenarios, which makes possible to explore how changes in specific conditions (environmental, demographic, technological, architectural, etc.) could be related to human behavioral variability.

However, these approaches usually lack a previous, reflexive hypothesis on which factors could have contributed to human group decision-making processes, and consequently on which variables have to be considered when modeling human behavior, the weight of these variables, or their meaning (e.g. what a strategic location really means?). On the other hand, results of spatial analyses are often considered as an end product of research, without integrating those results into an anthropological and historical dissertation.

In consequence, the aim of this session was not to support inductive approaches to spatial analyses, but to discuss how human behavior had to be integrated in Spatial Archaeology from an anthropological perspective.