ARCH41340 GIS, Cultural Heritage and Spatial Thinking

Academic Year 2023/2024

Studying the past, or dealing with heritage, will require you to think spatially and to critically evaluate spatial information. Space can be considered as the glue that holds our understanding of the past together. It is the one piece of information that is common to most, if not all, evidence that we have. This module introduces you to a series of concepts and techniques that will allow you to both manage and explore heritage data spatially.

From a practical perspective spatial information in Archaeology, and many other disciplines, is most commonly considered in terms of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and this module will have a focus on introducing you to, and giving hands on experience of, these and related technologies. Although this is a module that focuses on heritage it may suit other postgraduate students who require an introduction to spatial methods as part of their research.

The module caters for both ArcGIS and QGIS software.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. Demonstrate a practical understanding of the fundamentals of GIS
2. Appreciate the potential for more advanced analytical steps in GIS
3. Appreciate the place of GIS in the context of broader spatial concepts
4. Evaluate and discriminate between key types of spatial data and their use
5. Critically assess the use of spatial methods used in heritage research & management

Indicative Module Content:

WEEK 1: Core skills 1: Creating your first “map”
WEEK 2: Core skills 2: Data sources, constructing queries and basic SQL
WEEK 3: GIS Analysis 1: Location, proximity and relationships
WEEK 4: GIS Analysis 2: Extracting, combining & creating summary statistics
WEEK 5: GIS Analysis 3: Visibility
WEEK 6: GIS Analysis 4: Movement I
WEEK 7: GIS Analysis 4: Movement II
FIELDWORK BREAK: Use this time to work on your project and ask questions – the lab will be available
WEEK 8: Core skills 3: GIS Automation Model building – how to automate a sequence in GIS
WEEK 9: GIS Analysis 5: Dipping our toes into a little bit of statistics
WEEK 10: Reserved for project work
WEEK 11: Reserved for project work
WEEK 12: Reserved for project work

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Computer Aided Lab


Online Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is taught through practical engagement with the topic, face to face and online materials and group work. There is a strong component of problem based learning. The second assessment can be tailored to align with the student's own research. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Portfolio: Portfolio completed through the trimester Week 10 n/a Graded No


Project: A GIS project: this can be a critical review, a proof of concept, with indicative practical outcomes, or might be a smaller more complete piece of GIS research. It can be tailored to your own research Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

UCD School of Archaeology uses standard feedback for all modules - now using Brightspace Rubrics. Feedback will also contains feed forward details - this will help you think about how you could improve your approach in future assignments.