This chapter summarises the state of the art in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in archaeology. Starting from an examination of methods and techniques for the acquisition and the processing of geospatial data, the chapter makes a review of the main theoretical strands that influenced the discussion and the application of GIS-based methods through the years. Even though most of the concepts and terms introduced here do not constitute a novelty per se, their description is an essential step for clarifying current limitations and biases related to the representation of data in most of the currently available GIS software packages.

The chapter will provide a brief overview of GIS in archaeology, with a special focus on the role played by spatial analysis and quantitative methods used to promote a heuristic approach to the study of archaeological landscapes and sites. It is divided into two parts: one providing a general review of the methods developed so far and the other focusing on a description of the limitations associated with the current data models in archaeology.

A few sub/sections illustrate aspects of GIS data representations that are particularly relevant and engage the issues of scale and resolution. One section is focused on data models, describing existing data standards shared by different GIS software packages. Under the “Current limitations” section, geometrical and procedural issues are described to better introduce the reader to commonly faced problems in GIS data analysis.