Anthropology GIS and Archaeology
Edward Gonzalez-Tennant
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0270


Geographic (sometimes geographical or spatial) information systems (GIS) refer to hardware, software, and practices relating to the collection, management, and analysis of geospatial data. A large body of literature exists regarding archaeological GIS due to the discipline’s relatively early adoption in the 1980s. Archaeological uses of GIS relate to interests regarding the interdependence among geographic space, human culture, and various natural phenomena. GIS provides new forms of analyses that are either too difficult or even impossible without the aid of computers. Archaeologists’ interest in theoretical topics associated with interpretation and methodology continues to animate considerable discussion bringing archaeological GIS closer to GIScience, which moves beyond technical instruction to engage deeper conceptual aspects. Many of these aspects relate to particularly sections in this article. Early archaeological GIS interests focus on topics such as inventory, mapping inter- and intra-site distributions, and the prediction of new site locations. Today, archaeological GIS continues to explore these and emerging topics, such as the use of GIS to manage and interpret remotely sensed, visualization, and information science. The application of GIS remains one of the fastest growing areas of disciplinary specialization for archaeology and is central to cultural resources management work around the world. This bibliography groups archaeological GIS on the basis of use. This includes categories such as inventory, geospatial analyses, data visualization (e.g., mapmaking), and so forth. Some sections include subsections, as in the case of geospatial analysis where the literature continues to rapidly expand. Sources are placed into the most relevant section based on focus or best fit in relation to the overall literature on archaeological GIS.


The journals cited here represent key journals for archaeological GIS. They include theoretical articles where GIS is part of more conceptual discussions (e.g., American Antiquity) as well as technical discussions oriented toward sharing methodological knowledge (e.g., Advances in Archaeological Practice). American Antiquity is a premier journal of North American archaeology that publishes theoretically informed articles, reports, and comments, and it is an important journal for examining the incorporation of GIS within more conceptual discussions. Antiquity includes articles focusing on the application of archaeological GIS technologies. Similarly, the global focus of World Archaeology presents emerging practices applicable to a wide range of projects. Historical Archaeology, with its focus on colonialism and the New World, routinely includes articles with GIS components. The International Journal of Historical Archaeology has a greater geographic reach but publishes fewer archaeological GIS articles. Archaeological Prospection focuses on remotely sensed data, which is typically handled with GIS and therefore resulting in a number of relevant articles. A trio of journals—Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, Journal of Archaeological Research, and Journal of Archaeological Science—provide scores of articles adopting archaeological GIS practices to a range of contexts. The more recent Advances in Archaeological Practice is a digital/online journal showcasing emerging methodologies and associated technologies.

  • Advances in Archaeological Practice. 2014–.

    A fully digital journal catering to short, hands-on discussions of archaeological method. The journal’s focus on practice is far-ranging and already includes several GIS-focused articles.

  • American Antiquity. 1935–.

    One of two flagship journals published by the Society for American Archaeology. This journal’s focus on method and theory in North America results in several articles and/or reports each year with a GIS component or focus.

  • Antiquity. 1927–.

    This journal was initially intended for professional, avocational, and lay audiences. It is owned by the Antiquity Trust, a registered charity based at the Department of Archaeology at Durham University. Articles focus on prehistoric contexts, and an interest in methodology results in numerous GIS-focused contributions.

  • Archaeological Prospection. 1996–.

    This journal’s global scope and focus on remotely sensed data results in numerous discussions of archaeological GIS. Specifically, the analysis, management, and presentation of such data using various GIS software are regularly featured.

  • Historical Archaeology. 1967–.

    The principal journal of the Society for Historical Archaeology. Although initially focused on North America, it has become more global in recent decades. The handful of GIS-related articles in this journal present a unique perspective regarding archaeological GIS, including possible intersections for prehistoric archaeologists.

  • International Journal of Historical Archaeology. 1997–.

    Provides a global venue for archaeological studies related to the emergence of the modern global system. Topics relate to European colonialism, the rise of capitalism, and social inequality. Numerous articles discuss the unique considerations required of archaeologists who work with artifacts, documents, and oral histories when interpreting archaeological landscapes and other geospatial phenomena.

  • Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. 1994–.

    A highly rated journal focusing on articles engaging theoretical and methodological questions. GIS-based articles cut across all of archaeology’s subdisciplines. Relevant articles in this journal address central conceptual issues regarding the use of geospatial technologies in archaeology. Several important general overviews have appeared in this journal and will likely continue to do so.

  • Journal of Archaeological Research. 1993–.

    Publishes research summaries on a wide range of topics and geographical areas and includes articles addressing current best practices in the discipline. Several important summary articles reviewing archaeological GIS have appeared over the years, and more recent articles continue to provide useful case studies.

  • Journal of Archaeological Science. 1974–.

    This journal’s focus on innovative science produces articles advocating for advanced uses of archaeological GIS. This includes several important contributions from the 1990s that still influence studies to this day.

  • Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology. 2018–.

    The open-access journal of the Computer Applications & Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) International. Its focus is on digital applications with archaeology. The journal is published throughout the year in an online format. The journal’s editorial board specifically targets articles on 3D modeling, geospatial analysis, remote sensing, databases, the semantic web, simulation modeling, network analysis, and digital reconstructions of the past.

  • Journal of Field Archaeology. 1974–.

    In addition to articles discussing best practices related to field-based methods, articles dealing with heritage and ethics as well as significant methodological contributions regularly appear. Dozens of GIS-based articles challenge other archaeologists to integrate GIS within broader workflows addressing the ethical and applied aspects of this and related technologies.

  • World Archaeology. 1969–.

    This journal covers a wide range of subject areas and is global in scope. Themed issues regularly focus on archaeological science and related methodologies. This journal’s concern with the intersection of method and theory means many articles provide deeper conceptual contexts for the application of technologies like GIS.

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