Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

Geographical Information Science lies at the heart of much of the work of VISTA, extending between two-dimensional mapping and data basing, to complex modelling and visualisation. GIS provides the basis for integrating, interrogating and communicating complex and diverse datasets. VISTA staff have considerable experience and expertise in the application of GIS and its integration with other spatial technologies.

Recent GIS-based projects have included the Predictive Modelling of Archaeological Site Locations in Raised Mires, using palaeoenvironmental modelling to 'red-flag' areas of greater archaeological potential, whilst other projects have utilised GIS to map the future effects of climate change.



<< Laser Scanning | Remote Sensing >>

Explore Related Projects Below
   Climate Change


Modelling Archaeological Remains in the Light Of Potential Future Climate Change: The Application of Geographical Information Systems


 This research outlines the use of geographical information systems for predicting the possible implications of future climate change (as suggested by General Circulation Models) on the archaeological resource of selected parts of two major British river systems, the Trent and (Yorkshire) Ouse. The effects of future climatic change on the historic environment are likely to come from both natural ‘system’ response, such as increased bank erosion, as well as the human adaptive responses selected to manage the impacts of climate change. The models described in this paper allow predictions to be made and quantified about how selected natural and anthropogenic responses may impact upon the archaeological resource.  Such approaches, which are relatively rapid to implement and low cost, provide an important management tool for guiding policy makers and heritage managers in the face of changing climates.



   Immersive Visualisation of Historic Landscape


Immersive visualisation of archaeological survey using computer game software

The aim of this research is to explore the potential of computer game software to enhance the capacity to visualise archaeological survey data.


Archaeological survey usually records the physical form of monuments with an upstanding earthwork element. Visual representation of survey results varies from 2D paper mapping to 3D digital computer generated terrain models. However, the representation is usually static with no facility for viewer interaction, and little sense of scale with which to aid interpretation.


Computer game software has growing applications in imaginative reconstruction of cultural heritage sites and the creation of educational experiences, but has thus far rarely been applied to the visualisation of real survey data. Modern computer games such as FarCry and Crysis are based on complex, real-time three dimensional rendering engines able to visualise the complexity of landscape, vegetation and lighting with startling, near photorealistic clarity in real-time.


Our research employs the CryEngine, UDK and Unity 3D game engines to visualise survey data from a number of sources, including traditional topographic survey or monuments, airborne and terrestrial laser scanning, with the aims of creating highly realistic models of the landscape as is, which may be explored interactively “in-game”, by end users.


Immersive Archaeology



Virtual Fieldtrips for Archaeology


One of the difficulties of studying landscape archaeology by distance learning is that it is often hard to get out on fieldtrips and look critically at the landscape. To try and tackle this we are working on developing Virtual Fieldtrips to various archaeological sites and landscapes around the British Isles. This new initiative, funded by a grant from the College of Arts and Law Learning and Teaching fund, will use internet mapping and computer game technology to provide immersive, interactive three-dimensional landscapes to explore, explain and understand; as close as we can get to the real thing without muddy boots. At present e are working on a fieldtrip to the site of the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness in Scotland, others are on the way and will include the full range of British landscape archaeology, from prehistory to the 20th century


Virtual Field Trips


Persistence of Vision: Castles and their Landscapes


Late 20th and early 21st century castle studies have redefined the ways in which castles are understood, abandoning militaristic definitions or the military/domestic dichotomy of the past in favour of a view of castles linked intimately with the contemporary landscape of settlement of which they form a part and emphasising the symbolic significance of castles and their architecture. However, the impact of GIS on castle studies has been relatively slight to date. GIS and landscape archaeology has been dominated by the concept of vision and visibility expressed in the form of the viewshed, not least because it is relatively easy to calculate such indices – although their accuracy, meaning and the theoretical basis for their use may often be questionable.

This research seeks to advance the application of GIS to castle studies through exploration of the interaction between structure, space, visibility and power expressed in the relationship between two relatively minor earthwork castle in Nottinghamshire, at Laxton and Egmanton. Our research explores the visual landscape of these castles through a combination of traditional viewshed analysis and immersive pseudo three-dimensional visualisation, of landscape rather than simply monument.


Castles and Visualisation


   Spatial Analysis and Simulation of 20th Century Military Landscapes


Roof over Britain: Anti-aircraft Warfare 1939-45


Recent developments in the archaeological analysis of 20th century military landscapes have adapted geospatial techniques to develop concepts such as the fireshed to explore theoretical defensive landscapes. Our research proposed will use the sophisticated analysis and visualisation facilities provided by modern geospatial technologies to explore in three dimensional space the effectiveness of anti-aircraft artillery and the combat interaction between defensive artillery attacking aircraft with the aim of better understanding the strengths and limitations of the Second World War anti-aircraft defences of England. This research aims to develop computer based models describing the three-dimensional operational parameters and effectiveness of anti-aircraft artillery commonly used in the British Isles between 1939 and 1945. Examine and model individual raids, starting with the attack on Coventry in November 1940, a dramatic, well documented raid with a limited spatial extent, to combine three dimensional artillery models with data on the development and progress of raids, bombing patterns and destruction of ground targets, to attempt to determine the impact and effectiveness of anti-aircraft artillery on raiders. Examination and modelling of the interaction between anti-aircraft artillery and other aspects of the air defence of the British Isles such as radar and day and night fighter activity in a similar context to above.





Mapping the Risk of Encountering Buried Archaeology in Aggregate Landscapes


This research, funded by English Heritage, builds on a number of significant aggregate related projects funded in the Trent Valley under previous rounds of the ALSF. The significant corpus of archaeological knowledge gathered for this valley floor provides arguably the best (national) opportunity to develop and test a model for archaeological decision making with respect to risk and for the direct transfer of this knowledge to the minerals industry.


In simple terms, the project will build GIS-based spatial models which will allow a first level of understanding of the likely archaeological value of land parcels within the study area. The research will review attitudes to risk and risk management in relation to cultural heritage within the aggregates industry in order to identify appropriate metrics for quantifying and describing risk.


Research will work to develop a set of robust algorithms that are based on personal perceptions and empirical scientific data to quantify the archaeological risk at the level of individual land parcels. Models will be validated through feedback from stakeholders and project results will be disseminated to the wider stakeholder and academic community.


Mapping Risk


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