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Caddo Archeology Journal

Abstract

In this article I present a theoretical framework for understanding Caddoan mounds in the central Arkansas River drainage and the implications they may hold for the social structure and environmental adaptations of the people who made them. The power and efficiency of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) modeling now allows for large-scale, computationally intensive spatial analysis simply not possible before. Questions of landscape organization or spatial relationships that previously would have taken months or even years to answer can now be solved in a matter of minutes with GIS and related technologies, given the appropriate datasets. Quite importantly, though, such analyses must first be placed in context and theory if they are to be meaningful additions to our understanding of the past.

While it is conventional to refer to “GIS analysis” (and I use the term in this article), it is important to keep in mind that data manipulations alone are not analysis. GIS, along with statistical software and related computer technologies, are tools of spatial analysis just as shovels and trowels are tools of excavation. Such tools can organize and reveal information if they are employed carefully, but the tools themselves have no agency and cannot interpret anything on their own. The terms “GIS analysis” or “GIS interpretation” are therefore somewhat misnomers, just as “trowel analysis” or “trowel interpretation” would be. It is not the GIS, or any component of it, that does the analysis or interpretation; it simply manipulates spatial data. We interpret these manipulations based upon theoretical background, previous research, and the questions we wish to answer.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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