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Understanding by the Lines We Map: Material Boundaries and the Social Interpretation of Archaeological Built Space

Vis, Benjamin (2017) Understanding by the Lines We Map: Material Boundaries and the Social Interpretation of Archaeological Built Space. In: Siart, Christoph and Forbriger, Markus and Bubenzer, Olaf, eds. Digital Geoarchaeology: New Techniques for Interdisciplinary Human-Environmental Research. Natural Science in Archaeology . Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-25314-5. E-ISBN 978-3-319-25316-9. (In press) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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End users of archaeological maps are restricted in what they know about the data they are using. Mapped information is regularly used for visualisation and spatial analysis in GIS to aid interpretation. Precisely how, then, can digital spatial data best support social interpretation? Boundaries are introduced as a heuristic device to work through a series of critical observations and theoretical concepts that enable an understanding and restructuring of spatial data for social interpretation. Establishing a firm foundation for this restructuring is important to nurture a critical awareness of how archaeology can contribute to the ‘new territory’ of GIS approaches. While this chapter focuses on the example of built environment maps — which helps to formulate pertinent questions and to demonstrate the research process — the arguments remain valid for archaeology as social science broadly conceived. First, I will explore some limitations associated with reading built environment survey maps as an end user and reflect on conjecturing information for spatial analyses. These observations suggest that working with spatial source data demands a deep understanding of the physical information behind archaeological evidence. Second, I will introduce the notion of interpretive data as a rendition of spatial data conveying material evidence on what matters socially about physical information. This defines a human centrist remit for social interpretation which is made explicit through the concepts of material presence and agential intra-actions. Third, I determine what social interpretation of the built environment entails by adopting an inhabitant’s perspective and arguing the integrity of spatial analytical synchronicity in social archaeology. Finally, the chapter culminates by showing how, going forward, rigorous evidentiary understanding of spatial data grounded by an elaborate theoretical framework enables a distinct GIS approach dubbed ‘interpretive GIS’.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: archaeological evidence; spatial theory and methods; interpretive GIS; built environment; material boundaries
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > Classical and Archaeological Studies
Depositing User: Benjamin Vis
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2017 09:03 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 18:56 UTC
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