Dr. John Kantner, University of North Florida

Geographic Information Sciences

Geographic Information Science (GISci) is defined as the use and study of methods and tools for the capture, storage, distribution, analysis, display, and exploitation of geocoded information. It includes the theories and technologies that underlie Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies. Dr. Kantner has been using GIS in his archaeological research for over 10 years, and investigating and writing about the analytical tools used in GIS.

Dr. Kantner is involved with three archaeological studies employing GIS, all of which focus on the Chaco tradition of the US Southwest. Chaco-era road segments that are concentrated in the San Juan Basin of northern New Mexico—but that also are found well beyond this area—were once thought to be the remains of a vast transportation network that connected Puebloan communities into a redistributive economic network. Inspired by archaeologist John Roney's article challenging this interpretation, Dr. Kantner conducted a Kin Klizhin great house with tower kiva "cost-path" analysis in a GIS that modeled what such a network should look like and then compared it with the archaeological remains of these roads. The results suggested that the roads were ceremonial causeways rather than part of a transportation network.

With Georgia State University graduate student Ron Hobgood, Dr. Kantner also has explored the use of GIS-based viewshed analysis to aid in the interpretation of the mysterious Chacoan "tower kivas." Unlike the typical subterranean kiva found throughout Puebloan history, tower kivas are essentially three or four kivas stacked on top of one another and "towering" over the "great houses" of which they were a part. The viewshed analysis revealed that the tower kivas could not be seen from very far away, suggesting that they were not meant to be intervisible with one another. However, their height exaggerated the vertical dimension of great houses and made those ceremonial structures much more visible throughout the surrounding community.

The third GIS project is part of the Lobo Mesa Archaeological Project's detailed investigations of the Blue J community. Building on the work of Georgia State University graduate student Erin Hudson, Dr. Kantner is developing a GIS model of horticultural Blue J soils productivity in the Blue J community to determine how much food the inhabitants could have grown during each year of the area's paleoclimatic reconstruction. This can tell archaeologists how many people could have lived in Blue J without the need for imported food, and it also provides insight into any inequities in productivity that might have existed at various points in the community's history.

A current GISci project on which Dr. Kantner is working is assesing the algorithms available for conducting cost-surface and cost-path analyses. Numerous algorithms are available for this work, a few of which are built into GIS software and many more that can be programmed for use. Some are very simple, while others are exceedingly complex; some focus on the energetic costs of movement, while others minimize time. But none have been comprehensively evaluated and compared both with one another and with real-world data. Dr. Kantner is attempting to do just that.