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Spatially Integrated Social Science: Chapter 16
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Geographical Approaches for Reconstructing Past Human Behavior from Prehistoric Roadways
John Kantner

Roadways were the ties that bound ancient societies together, for they facilitated economic interaction, symbolized social and political ties, and reflected the worldviews of the people who constructed them. Archaeologists therefore have much to gain from the analysis of road systems created by past societies. This study begins with a discussion of geographical approaches used by archaeologists to examine prehistoric roadways, with a special emphasis on the utility of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in these analyses. The 1000-year-old roads of the Chaco Anasazi of the southwestern United States provide a case study illustrating how spatial analytical techniques for studying road networks strengthen our reconstructions of past regional behavior. Scholars debate the function of these Chacoan roadways, with some archaeologists claiming they facilitated exchange, others arguing that they served local social and political roles, and still other researchers contending that the roads were regional representations of Chacoan cosmology. To evaluate these hypotheses, results of a GIS-facilitated cost-path analysis are described. This analysis demonstrates that Chaco Anasazi roadways did not facilitate regional economic interactions, and that they instead reflected a concern with cosmology as well as local sociopolitical landscapes. The case study illustrates the importance of spatial analytical approaches for addressing archaeological problems.


Figure 16.4

Figure 16.5

Figure 16.6


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