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Introduction to Spatial Techniques and Technologies - 10 credits (HS2418)

Course description

A theory and practical module in which students learn about, gain practical skills in, and implement spatial techniques and technologies applicable to archaeological and ancient historical research. The module introduces students to key ways of using selected tools and computer applications in the collection, presentation and interpretation of spatial data. Students will learn the basic principles behind mapping and coordinate systems, the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and the Global Positioning System (GPS), and will gain skills in the use of hardware and computer applications pertinent to each.

The aims of the course are:

  • To introduce students to the basic concepts of spatial techniques
  • To introduce students to the range of computer applications available for the presentation and interpretation of spatial archaeological/ancient historical data
  • To provide students with hands-on experience in the use of spatial technologies
  • To equip students with the practical skills required to successfully incorporate spatial techniques and technologies in research

Students produce a portfolio of work demonstrating skills in the use of selected spatial techniques and technologies. Spatial data relevant to archaeological/ancient historical research will be collected that will benefit from the use of computer-based spatial tools. Students will be expected to demonstrate that they can locate appropriate data, evaluate its reliability, use appropriate computer-based applications and integrate these to come to relevant conclusions in their portfolio.

Credits: 10

Availability of module: Alternate (odd) years. Autumn Semester

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: N/A

Tutor: Dr Steve Mills

Limited numbers: 23

Teaching Methods

Ten 1 hour sessions divided into lectures and workshops introduce students to the main conceptual issues of spatial techniques and technologies.


Assessment takes the form of a portfolio demonstrating proficiency in the use of selected spatial techniques and technologies. The portfolio constitutes 100% to the final mark.

Summary of course content

  • Introduction to spatial techniques and technologies
  • Understanding co-ordinate systems and map projections
  • What is the Global Positioning System (GPS)?
  • Using a GPS practical class
  • What is a Geographical Information System (GIS)?
  • Introduction to ArcGIS
  • Inputting digital geo-spatial data into a GIS project
  • Creating simple maps
  • Integrating geo-spatial data (terrestrial maps, GPS data, (pre)historic data sets)
  • Project workshop

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are attainable through a combination of formal teaching and private study.  At the end of the course students will be expected:

  • Understand the principles, range and application of spatial techniques
  • Understand the range of tools available for applying spatial methods
  • Gain proficiency in the use of spatial technologies
  • Evaluate spatial data of variable quality and source
  • Apply spatial techniques and technologies in research
  • Communicate ideas and arguments effectively using spatial techniques and technologies
  • Formulate and justify their own arguments incorporating spatial methods
  • Posses a range of information technology resources to assist with spatial data retrieval
  • Organise their own study methods and workload
  • Work as part of a team in workshop discussions

Suggested book purchases


Suggested preparatory reading

Conolly, J. and Lake, M. 2006. Geographical Information Systems in archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

English Heritage. Where on Earth are we? The Global Positioning System in archaeological survey. Available online at:

Ordnance Survey. 2006.  A guide to co-ordinate systems in Great Britain. Available online at:

Wheatley, M. and Gillings, M. 2002. Spatial technology and archaeology: The archaeological applications of GIS. London: Taylor and Francis.