Accessibility statement

Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

Module Code: ARC00034I-A

Module leader: Helen Goodchild


  • To introduce students to the practicalities and problems of working with digital data sets
  • To encourage a critical approach to the use of GIS within archaeology
  • To give students an awareness of how to acquire digital datasets or create them from scratch
  • To familiarise students with the range of applications that can be carried out using computer applications and spatial analysis

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Discuss the range of issues that concern digital data and its applications
  • Critically evaluate publications on computer applications in archaeology
  • Be aware of good practice within GIS
  • Download datasets and perform a range of basic analyses of spatial data within a GIS
  • Appreciate the importance of consistency, time-keeping, and good record keeping in data analysis

Further information

This module builds on the basic introduction to GIS delivered in the first year. Throughout the term you will develop your skills in critiquing publications that incorporate digital techniques (as students will produce a GIS report as part of the team project, it is important that you understand good practice). You will have a number of practical classes that will cover training in the use of GIS. Teaching will alternate between classroom-based seminars and discussions, and computer lab classes.

The formative assessment will involve a critique of a GIS technique, which will prepare you for the summative assessment at the end of the module.  Students will be encouraged to keep a lab notebook to document analyses and workflows.


This module provides practical training in a technique that has widespread use in many sectors, including environmental, engineering, urban planning, and even crime analysis. The software we use is the industry standard. It will also give you the opportunity to develop the following skills:

  • Self-management: it is of vital importance that you learn the practical skills this term so you can apply them next term to your team project. You will need to manage your time well and spend about 10 hours a week in independent study.
  • Communication: GIS is an often misunderstood aspect of archaeology, and so it is vital that you learn to communicate the results of your work effectively. You should therefore be familiarising yourself with the literature and how it is presented as well as developing your written and verbal communication skills.
  • Team working: Whilst the team project will focus this aspect next term, it is important that you begin to work with others and think about how to lead, and follow, effectively.
  • Problem-solving: this module offers many challenges, not only in dealing with problem data sets, but also in making decisions about that data is analysed and presented. You will need to be able to evaluate information from a range of sources.
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: you may be considering case studies from an international context within this module. You should also appreciate the ethical issues involved.
  • Application of IT: this is fundamental to this project, and will require not only the use of a GIS package, but also a range of word-processing, graphics and spreadsheet packages for the analysis and presentation of your work.
  • Application of numeracy: You will be analysing complex datasets and thinking about how to interpret data.