M. ERDRICH1 / Rowin J. VAN LANEN2 / Benno C. RIDDERHOF3
(1Institute for Historical, Literary and Cultural Studies, Radboud, Nijmegen / 2Department of Cultural Archaeology Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam / 3Department of Ancient studies, Cultural Archaeology and Classical languages Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
The aim of this paper is to focus on the positive role GIS (in combination with social-economical models) can play in the modelling of an historical landscape, in this case the Eifel region.
In recent years GIS has made an unmistakable impression in historical and archaeological research. GIS permits researchers to present understandable and colorful maps without the need of explaining the mathematical background of the analysis. This makes GIS a powerful but also dangerous tool to present complex spatial data to the layman or the general public. Recent discussion on the implementation of GIS in historical landscape research, especially in predictive modelling, has been limited to how cultural dynamics should be incorporated in quantitative data. In general the discussion limits itself to the observation that qualitative data should be transformed to quantitative relations. Is it even possible to measure cultural dynamics, let alone make them quantitative in nature? Is the landscape itself not dynamic and subjected to spatio-temporal variables? Before archaeologists are able to comprehend or answer these questions, they must determine the influence of the landscape on historical civilizations and, vice versa. These questions and the associated discussion are not easy to answer. This paper analyzes through an explorative example (Eifel), what the possibilities and dangers are of using GIS as a tool or as analysis in the evaluation of an historical landscape.
The Eifel region characterized itself in the Roman period by extensive stone quarrying. Reflecting the interaction between culture and landscape. It will be explored what role stone quarries played in the historical development of the region and what their influence was on the landscape itself. Through implementing social-economical models originating from the evolutionary economical perspective and biophysical models from predictive modelling on the area, it is possible to identify patterns and choke points in the historical development of the region and the models themselves. Not one of these models gives a universal answer but combining them allows to come closer to understanding historical relations. Making GIS a perfect tool to perform an analysis and identifying patterns, but also making clear that understanding the historical development of the region is decisive to use this tool adequately. Only then is it possible to value landscape and economical variables for historical development of the region as objectively as possible.
Keywords: Quantitative vs. Qualitative relations, GIS and understanding, Dynamical landscape, GIS a tool or analysis, or both?