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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Anthropology

Landscapes, Spatial Analysis and GIS

Archaeology is particularly well suited to the study of and reconstruction of past cultural landscapes.  At Syracuse we have been involved in a wide range of studies that examine and explore spatial analysis through the use of detailed site mapping, remote sensing, and GIS.  Our studies range from contexts that explore details of spatial organization and material use within individual households, arrays of house sites and features at the community level, all the way up to large-scale regional studies that explore changing cultural landscapes.  Our studies have also utilized GIS and large scale regional assessment of archaeological site files and distribution data to assess cultural resource management strategies. Recent studies have included detailed analysis of internal differentiation of material patterns found in association with walled and terraced urban house sites on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; mapping and plotting of structures and features on Bunce Island in Sierra Leone; and detailed analysis farmsteads landscapes in Central New York; and explored island-wide changes in land use to identify settings in which people of African descent were able to acquire land on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.   In examining past landscapes we make extensive use of historic maps and documentation.  For example a thorough reexamination of documents and maps related to the initial settlement and pre-sugar plantation era on Barbados, brought into focus the detailed spatial information provided by an the 1646 Hapcott Map (John Carter Brown Library, Brown University) and GIS (ArcGIS) plotting of information on this map allowed us to identify the location of the initial "Fort Plantation" settlement site, which is now part of Trents Plantation, Barbados.

Studies of the past cultural landscapes and detailed spatial analyses of structures, features, and artifact distribution patterns provide a means of graphically depicting past lifeways and explaining changes that occur over time in the use of space which are expressions of changes in cultural expressions of life and living conditions at a site and between sites.  Syracuse has an excellent map library and faculty in geography (Maxwell School) teach courses in GIS and remote sensing.