Skip to content
Main menu hidden.

GIS for Landscape & Environmental Archaeology, 15 Credits

Swedish name: GIS för landskaps- och miljöarkeologi

This syllabus is valid: 2021-06-14 and until further notice

Course code: 1AR080

Credit points: 15

Education level: Second cycle

Main Field of Study and progress level: Landscape Archaeology: Second cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
Environmental Archaeology: Second cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements

Grading scale: VG Pass with distinction, G Pass, U Fail

Established by: Faculty director of studies, Faculty of arts, 2021-09-21


The course introduces the student to GIS (geographical information systems) for landscape and environmental archaeology. The course gives the student the opportunity to learn to use geographical databases and a number of different analysis and visualization techniques, as well as how they can be interpreted and evaluated. Landscape and environmental archaeological data have geographical, chronological and human dimensions that lay the foundation for understanding previous human activity, landscapes and environments. Analysing these dimensions requires an understanding of how data can be handled and evaluated and how they are related.

The course is based on a combination of thematic introductory lectures and practical reviews with subsequent seminars in groups and in addition individual, practical work. The work is based on case studies with a focus on landscape and environmental archaeology studies. Materials for case studies are obtained from published scientific articles and reports, various projects at the department and the Environmental Archaeological Laboratory (including SEAD - strategic environmental archaeological database), other archaeological and environmental archaeological databases, various digital map services and geodatabases; also data that the student has produced himself. This work forms the basis for further learning and it is used by the student to present results and form the basis for group discussions. The student gets to learn how data and results can be presented in different ways, also through digital cartography. The student may also use and evaluate different forms of data visualization.

Expected learning outcomes

For a passing grade the student must be able to:
Knowledge and Understanding:
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the different types of geodata sources used in GIS.
  • Demonstrate a good understanding of how to extract, organize and prepare data for producing maps and models within the GIS platform.
  • Demonstrate a good understanding of the application of GIS for landscape and environmental archaeology. 
Skills and Abilities:
  • Use GIS software to produce maps for the visualization of data and for publication purposes.
  • Use GIS and related software to solve problems in landscape and environmental archaeology.
  • Design basic databases with landscape and environmental data that can be analysed and visualised via GIS. 
Perceptiveness and Reasoning:
  • Analyse, draw conclusions from and present spatial-temporal environmental archaeological data using GIS.
  • Synthesize relevant data of different but related origin.
  • Critically assess data quality, -precision and accuracy.
  • Identify the links between different datasets and be able to determine the most suitable methods for data integration and output.
  • Critically evaluate published maps and spatial data analyses.

Required Knowledge

A Bachelor's degree or equivalent first-cycle qualification comprising of at least 180 ECTS or a corresponding qualification from an internationally recognized university. Specific entry requirements are 90 ECTS in any of the following subjects, Archaeology, Environmental Archaeology, Geography, Geology, History, Anthropology, Classics, Biological and/or environmental sciences, or an equivalent/ related subject. Proficiency in English equivalent to Swedish upper secondary course English B/6.

Form of instruction

Instruction includes lectures, practical classes, group work and seminars. The lectures and seminars are designed to provide a broad range of examples from Swedish and international contexts in order to acquaint the student with the complexities of the data that we generate when studying natural and anthropogenic landscapes.
The student will be expected to demonstrate a level of critical thinking, analytic skills and interpersonal abilities commensurate with advanced studies. The ability to work independently as well as an integral part of a group or team is emphasized.

The student is expected to have access to a computer, but access to a computer is also available at Humlab if necessary. A learning platform is used to manage teaching materials and course layouts, and a number of different online-based data sources are used.

Examination modes

The examination includes the following components:
  • Active oral seminar participation in groups 1,5 hp (U, G)
  • Individual weekly presentation in written and graphic form of data and maps generated with an outline of methods used 8 hp (U, G)
  • An individual final report that in written and graphic form synthesizes the practical elements of the course and which provides an overview of method and theory in landscape and/or environmental archaeology studies 5,5 hp (U, G, VG)
The student is assessed individually on the three parts of the course and is graded according to the grading scale VG (pass), G (pass) and U (fail). For the entire course, one of the grades VG, G and U is given. To get the grade G on the entire course, at least grade G is required on all three parts; for grade VG on the entire course, VG on the individual final report as well as G on the other parts is required.
The degree and quality of seminar participation must be considered to have been at a satisfactory level for the course to be considered completed and for course grades to be set. Assessment criteria and documentation methods for individual work initiatives are presented by the examiner at the start of the course.
For students who have not passed the regular examination, a re-examination is organised within two months of the regular examination, and another within one year, this is known as a collection examination.
Students who have twice failed a test for a course or part of a course have the right, at the next re-examination opportunity to request from the head of education at the Faculty of Humanities that another examiner be appointed to determine grades, unless there are special reasons to the contrary.
Deviations from the examination form of the syllabus can be made for a student who has decisions on pedagogical support due to identified needs. Individual adaptation of the examination form should be considered based on the student's needs. The examination form is adapted within the expected study results of the syllabus. At the request of the student, the teacher responsible for the course, in consultation with the examiner, shall promptly decide on the adapted form of examination. The decision must then be communicated to the student.
In the event that the syllabus expires or undergoes major changes, students are guaranteed at least three examination opportunities (including the regular examination) according to the regulations of the syllabus on which the student was originally registered, for a maximum period of two years from the end of the previous syllabus or if the course has been discontinued.

Other regulations

In a degree, this course may not be combined with any other course that has a similar content. In case of uncertainty, the student should consult the Director of Studies at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Umeå University.


Valid from: 2021 week 24

Key literature will be engaged with during seminars, some introductory texts include:

Galati, S.R. 2006. Geographical Information Systems Demystified. London: ARTTECH House. Graser, A. 2016. Learning QGIS (3rd Edition). Birmingham: Pakt Publishing Ltd. Scianna, A. and B. Villa. 2011. GIS Applications in Archaeology. Archeologia e Calcolatori 22:337-363.

Articles will be added to the course literature. The scientific articles used in the course are updated regularly to represent this rapidly developing subject area.