For 20 years visibility analysis has been one of the most popular archaeological applications of geographical information systems (GIS) for interpretive purposes. In 2003 Lake and Woodman provided a detailed account of the various forms that GIS-based visibility analysis had taken up to that time. They argued that such analyses could be divided into those that were predominantly informal, statistical, or humanistic and, furthermore, that this tripartite division recapitulated-albeit over a compressed timescale-theoretically driven developments in non-GIS visibility studies. Nearly 10 years on it is probably safe to say that all three forms of GIS-based “viewshed analysis” have lost their novelty value. Thus informal viewshed analyses, those that lack statistical or theoretical sophistication and adopt a largely common-sense approach to inference (Lake and Woodman, 2003), are no longer found in methodological literature but are scattered through the relevant subject literature. More interesting is the lack of evidence that more sophisticated statistical or humanistic analyses routinely contribute to archaeological explanation/ interpretation (but see Gillings, 2009, for a recent exception). We suspect that the increasing use of multicore processors-and the power of modern desktop computers more generally-will lead to a resurgence of interest in GIS-based visibility analysis. To see why such resurgence might occur, we revisit the distinction between statistical and humanistic GIS-based visibility analyses
Computational Approaches to Archaeological Spaces by Andrew Bevan and Mark Lake, Eds., 213-242 © 2013 Left Coast Press, Inc. All rights reserved.