Visibility

Through the development of GIS in the 1990s the possibilities for analysing visibility in a landscape increased. With the use of GIS it became possible to analyse large amounts of data quickly and there was an increase in papers based on different types of visibility calculations (e.g. line of sight, viewshed, multiple viewshed and cumulative viewshed) - see for example, Haas & Creamer (1993), Gaffney & Stančič (1991), Gaffney & van Leusen (1995), Lock & Harris (1996), Persson & Sjögren (2001:197ff), Sjögren (2003), von Hakwitz (2009), Wheatley (1995, 1996), Baldwin (1998), Llobera (2007 & 2006).

Originally there was perhaps too strong a belief in the possibilities of visibility analysis or, as Wheatley & Gillings (2000:12) state, “…in a sense that if you throw enough accumulated viewsheds at a problem it is bound to go away”. Today several papers discuss both opportunities and difficulties with GIS and visibility studies, such as Kvamme (1999), Wheatley & Gillings (2000), Lock (2000) Llobera (2007) and Axelsson (2010a).

When discussing visibility one will always in some way touch upon questions regarding perception and how seeing can be culturally determined. There are studies that argue that archaeology is perhaps too “visually-oriented” and, in many cases based on western perceptions (Axelsson [2010: chapter 6-7], Axelsson & May [2008]).How a landscape is perceived is not determined solely by what is seen or not seen – our other senses play an equal role here. A great number of viewsheds will never solely solve an archaeological problem but can contribute significantly to the discussion of prehistoric landscapes.