Spatial Analysis and GIS

I am currently active in four areas of spatial analysis in archaeology and historical anthropology:

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Robotic Applications in Archaeological Mapping

Field testing the Aurora Flight Sciences Skate

I am currently collaborating with VU Engineer Julie Adams (Computer Science and Electrical Engineering) to develop a rapid, portable, rugged, inexpensive, and high resolution 3D archaeological mapping system through the use of semiautonomous aerial vehicles.  The goal of the project is to produce an open source semiautonomous system that does not require specialists to operate, with the capability to rapidly document large areas (e.g. approximately 25 hectares in 13 minutes of flight time) with high resolution low altitude aerial photography.  Using Structure from Motion software, the resulting imagery is automatically mosaicked and orthorectified, with output in a variety of 2D and 3D formats to GIS/CAD software.  For further information, see In the Media.

In-field (Mobile) GIS
V.U. student Pablo Darelli entering data in ArcPad

My current research, involving excavations at an colonial era settlements, integrates in-field GIS (using ESRI ArcPad, handheld computers, and tablet PCs) in a near-paperless data entry and management system (see this article). The project uses reflectorless total stations, photomapping, and other techniques for high-fidelity, high-resolution three-dimensional mapping and proveniencing.  I am also a collaborator with the Federated Archaeological Information Management System project, a large international project (P.I.: Shawn Ross, University of New South Wales) developing a cross-platform, open source data registry, management, and archiving system for archaeology.

Ancient Landscapes and Land Use
Least cost paths walking simulation to abandoned agricultural fields
Least cost paths walking simulation to abandoned agricultural fields
Many key aspects of Andean social organization are related to cultural conceptions and practices involving adaptation to and transformation of the landscape. Spanish colonial administration left us comparably paltry cartographic registries of how Andean communities and landscapes were organized. But we needn’t despair in our inability to reconstruct spatiality from other classes of textual documentation. Through creative use of Geographical Information Systems, spatial structures and relationships otherwise opaque in straight textual analysis can be excavated from Spanish colonial documentation. I have used GIS to spatialize information on land use recorded in a variety of Spanish colonial documents.  Much of this research reconstructs colonial land use patterning by matching toponyms used to locate agricultural fields, boundaries, and settlements in the documents with their modern counterparts.  Using these locations as the basic data, a variety of reconstructions of kin- and community-based land use patterns from the 16th and 17th centuries can be reconstructed (see related articles 1, 2).

Spatial Network Analysis
Network_Obs_Power
Late prehispanic and colonial settlements in the highland Andes are generally well-preserved, affording easy access to analysis of networks of interaction within them.  I am engaged in a projects reconstructing the spatial organization of an early mission settlement and a planned colonial town (reducción) in highland Peru (see current research).  These projects aid in understanding how Spanish concepts of urban order articulated with, and transformed, Andean village life, thereby producing new kinds of communities (e.g., this article).

The Spatial Analysis Research LabI am the founding director of the Vanderbilt University Spatial Analysis Research Lab (SARL), an advanced facility for GIS and Remote Sensing analysis.  SARL was founded through a Vanderbilt University Infrastructure grant, in collaboration with V.U. colleagues Francisco Estrada Belli (Anthropology), William Fowler (Anthropology), Pierre Colas (Anthropology), and Jennifer Lena (Sociology).
The SARL facility, located in Garland Hall (Room 010), houses six workstations and a server with mass storage, connected via gigabit LAN.  There is also a large HDTV connected to the workstations for collaborative work and presentations.  It is a self-serve facility for advanced users.  For more information, see the SARL website.  SARL is supported of the College of Arts and Sciences. SARL (and its website) has been operational since December, 2007.