Landscape, Experience and GIS: Exploring the Potential for Methodological Dialogue

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34 Citations (Scopus)


Over the last 15 years, an interest in perceptions and experiences of landscape has emerged as in important area of archaeological research. Experiential landscape archaeology ultimately owes its background to the concerns raised as part of the post-processual critique, as well as a range of phenomenological philosophies and social theories emphasising the importance of human experience in our understanding of the past. Current archaeological practice provides two contrasting methods for investigating this type of landscape experience. One approach is rooted in the analysis of subject-centred field observations, inspired more directly by phenomenological arguments or positions. The other has emerged out of the application of Geographical Information Systems (hereafter GIS) and the increasing ability of this technology (or practitioners of this technology more specifically) to model human scales of geographical space and elements of human experience. Despite a number of shared objectives, there remains very little productive discourse between the respective advocates of these positions. In light of which, this paper is a specific attempt to communicate across this perceived boundary. The paper begins by discussing some of the dominant critiques of each approach, highlighting how recent, and largely unrecognised, developments have begun to address many of these concerns. An example of an experimental and reflexive methodology is then presented, alongside a case study archaeological landscape in the Outer Hebrides. I will discuss what this combined methodology reveals about the individual approaches and will analyse the usefulness and application of the specific practices involved in this research. In conclusion, I will examine what this research contributes to ongoing debates about the roles of GIS and subject-centred landscape archaeology within the broader discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-525
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2012


  • Experience
  • GIS
  • Iron Age
  • Landscape
  • Phenomenology


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