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Geographic Information Systems for Archaeologists and Ancient Historians - 10 credits (HS2419)

Course description

A practical based module in which students develop skills in and implement Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in archaeology and ancient history projects. A GIS is a system of computer software, hardware and data to help manipulate, analyse and present information that is tied to a spatial location. The module enables students to develop skills in the presentation, interpretation and analysis of spatial data.  Topics covered include: GIS spatial theories and models;  GIS project design; creating and editing spatial data; spatial analyses; georeferencing images and hot linking to other data sources; and creating three dimensional models.

Students select an area of study that will benefit from careful selection and integration of archaeological/ancient historical spatial data in a Geographical Information System. Typically, the focus of research will be close to something already under study by the student so that the majority of their work for this course will be the use of GIS. Students will be expected to demonstrate that they can locate appropriate spatial data, evaluate its reliability, use GIS appropriately and integrate these to come to relevant archaeological/ancient historical conclusions in a GIS project. To enlist on this course students should already be familiar with the basic principals and use of GIS.


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

Credits: 10

Availability of module: Alternate (even) years. Spring 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 advance students' understanding and use of GIS.


Assessment takes the form of a written project (with electronic files on a CD-R) in an area of individual interest demonstrating proficiency in the use of Geographical Information Systems in archaeological and/or ancient historical research.  The project  constitutes 100% of the total mark.

Summary of course content

  • Introduction to ArcGIS and its functionality
  • Setting up an ArcGIS project - ArcCatalog
  • Creating and basic editing of spatial data
  • Geoprocessing -more advanced editing and spatial analyses
  • ArcGIS extensions -3D Analyst
  • Using images, georeferencing and hot linking to other data sources
  • GIS and spatial theory and the importance of metadata
  • Project workshops

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 main principles and applications of GIS
  • Understand the range of GIS tools available
  • Gain proficiency in the use of GIS
  • Evaluate spatial data of variable quality and source
  • Apply GIS in research
  • Communicate ideas and arguments effectively using GIS
  • Formulate and justify their own arguments incorporating GIS
  • 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

Booth, B. 2001. Getting started with ArcGis. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press.

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

Gillings, M.and Wise, A. (eds) 1998. GIS Guide to good practice. Arts and Humanitites Data Service. Available online at:

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