Archaeological GIS Lab

The Archaeological GIS Laboratory (Athena LArcGIS), which recently started operating at the Athena Research Center, aims to provide a new hub for the study of the cultural landscape and human-environment interaction. The establishment of the Laboratory is the result of the long engagement (2002 – today) of the Athena Research Center in Xanthi with the application of GIS technology in recording archaeological data through different archaeological mapping techniques, geospatial databases, photogrammetry and archaeometry techniques.

This engagement goes hand in hand with the increasingly systematic application of Geographic Information Systems in Archaeology not only as a means to understand the dynamic evolution of ancient settlements and landscapes but also as credible tools for the systematic recording, correlation and analysis of the excavation data.

Towards this direction, the Laboratory will provide archaeologists, historians and cultural heritage practitioners with all the necessary tools for high resolution documentation and mapping – analysis of archaeological sites and landscapes based on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) while at a research level, it will try to highlight the enormous potential of implementing GIS capabilities and use them to address specific archaeological problems through new approaches.

However, the establishment of the Laboratory aspires to work in another direction. Despite the widespread use of GIS in archaeological practice, the archaeological community has not yet fully come to terms with the idea of this technology as an integral part of archaeological education. As a result, “digital archeology” continues to be a specialized field of expertise (often by people unrelated to academic and field archeology) and the development and dissemination of digital tools for specific archaeological purposes is often considered of secondary importance.

Thus the Laboratory aims to fill this gap between the relatively small “archaeotechnological” community and general archeology through education. To strengthen and shape the education of archaeologists in the use of digital spatial analysis as a tool for better data organization and analytical tool through actions – seminars – courses adapted to the real needs (practical and theoretical) of the archaeological process.

Fluvial Landscapes of Thrace

Settlements are not developed through an empty abstract and neutral space but, similarly to other human built features and networks, were greatly influenced by environmental and cultural variables. Natural geography, landscape and ecological factors shaped the dynamics of human settlement. Especially in the area of Aegean Thrace the presence of rivers seems to have played a determinant role in the habitation patterns and the development of settlements in an area where different cultural contexts coexisted. Although relatively short and too small for navigation, the valleys of these rivers were important corridors of communication, invasion and trade between the coastal Aegean zone and the interior of the Balkans. In a region where mountains are omnipresent, arable land is mostly restricted along these river valleys or in small alluvial coastal plains. Scope of this research paper is to track through spatial technology the long-term shifts in settlement patterns along the course of the rivers (Nestos, Hebros) that cross the coastal Thrace.

Map of alluvial soils and floods

In order to do so we aim to address a number of issues –research questions

1.How and when did settlement change along the drainage?

2.How does that relate to changes in water(eg floods)and land management(eg arable/non arable land)?

3.Why did these changes occur or what is the cultural context behind these changes?

Via Egnatia, soil distribution and settlements

GeoSpatial technology in the form of open access GIS software in combination with geological and hydrological evidence will be employed as a tool (a research platform) that will allow us to contextualizethe relationship between site/settlement and environment and detect changes in settlement patterns over an extended period of time. 

Vasilis Evangelidis – Despoina Tsiafakis

River Kosynthos, near Athena RC