Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 495–509 | Cite as

Life on a Pixel: Challenges in the Development of Digital Methods Within an “Interpretive” Landscape Archaeology Framework



This paper provides a personal account of the challenges of developing digital methods within an interpretive landscape archaeology framework. It reviews current criticisms leveled against the use of model-based tools, e.g., GIS-based, within this framework. Currently, the absence of, or distance between, methods and theory is considered to be an important limitation when adopting such orientation. This gap is largely due to the particular nature of the theoretical sources informing this framework. This paper suggests the need for middle ground/bridging concepts, i.e., concepts that enable the instantiation within concrete archaeological contexts of various aspects discussed within an interpretative framework, as a way to shorten this gap. It also highlights the importance of the nature of representations when applying digital methods and their key role when producing new archaeological information. Finally, it attempts to elevate the role that model-based methods and simulations can play within an interpretive landscape framework, and to insist on the development of new middle ground solutions (methods and concepts) when existing tools do not meet our theoretical challenges.


Landscape archaeology Interpretive archaeology GIS Models Simulations Methodology 



I would like to thank Prof. Don Grayson for providing comments on an earlier draft and making me reflect a bit harder about my own ideas and beliefs. I would also like to thank the anonymous referees who provided useful comments on how to improve this article. Any remaining mistakes or errors are most definitely mine.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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