At last an introductory textbook about GIS for archaeologists. This is what we've all been waiting for. Or is it?
Spatial technology and Archaeology is authored by two of the most respected UK academic archaeological GIS practitioners: Dr's David Wheatley and Mark Gillings. This book provides an introductory overview to GIS. The topics cover: GIS background, GIS data structures, data collection and conversion, spatial statistics, Archaeological modelling, CRM and future directions. These topics are all discussed within an archaeological framework that nods its head to the changes in archaeological theory over the past three decades. This is written in an engaging and not overly technical (although at times patronising) style. The 'usual suspects' are all well referenced making this an excellent introduction for the novice GIS user in the humanities.
However, all is not sweetness and light. The book alludes to but fails to address some very important issues. The vast majority of modelling applications and examples come from landscape applications. This is not a huge shock considering that the vast majority of academic and heritage management applications occur at the landscape level. Consequently one is struck by a point based approach to archaeological GIS analyses.
However, intrasite GIS applications have been skimmed over. Although Shepton Mallet is referenced, no reference has been made to the intrasite projects conducted by either the Landscape Research Centre at West Heslerton or Framework Archaeology at Perry Oaks to name but two UK examples. Particularly when Perry Oaks has attempted a theory driven excavation exercise supported by GIS in a contract environment. This is a serious ommission and continues to support the "over-riding landscape emphasis of the first wave of archaeological texts dealing with GIS" (p. 235). This was also a missed opportunity to deal with approaches to spatial and a-spatial data generalisation. It is difficult to rationalise how Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA) can occur if it "should always begin with the data itself, not a summary of it." (p.142) when the authors appear to advocate applying the approach to a summarised SMR dataset.
Furthermore, as a minor issue, some reference to Ian Masser and his work on structural and organisation impacts on GIS implementation would have improved the text.
In essence this book is an excellent introduction to what GIS is and what it can do in archaeology. As it currently stands it has no competition and should be considered as an essential text for all undergraduate archaeology courses and for those involved in any aspect of cultural resource management.