Cityscapes without figures: geophysics, computing and the future of urban studies

Christopher F Gaffney, Vincent L Gaffney, W Neubauer, Eugene Ch'ng, H Goodchild, Philip Murgatroyd, G Sears, B Kirigin, A Milosovic, R White

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review


The title of this paper refers, obliquely, to Robin Osborne’s (1987) influential book on the Greek city and its countryside “Classical Landscape with Figures”. ' We start with this reference, in part because much of the content of this paper will refer to issues relating to the interpretation of archaeological land/cityscapes, but also because Osborne’s title contrasts the alluring figural representations often found on classical pottery with the frequent absence of people within the archaeological record itself. This may seem paradoxical to a reader who may be more familiar with exceptional urban finds, such as the human figures captured at death in the volcanic ash at Pompeii: and yet archaeologists, ultimately, depend on indirect or proxy evidence to recreate past societies and economies. For instance, it is readily apparent that much archaeological interpretation may be derived from the study of ceramics recovered from excavations: beyond simple technological statements the quality of ceramics may indicate status and the function of a vessel may suggest the economic role of a settlement. The source of such objects can also indicate social or trade networks, whilst decoration may even illustrate people and their actions. Yet, in the end, pots are not people and archaeology relies on a chain of theoretical speculation or experimental observation when it infers the nature of past societies from the artefacts that excavation uncovers
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLooking to the future, caring for the past
Subtitle of host publicationpreventive archaeology in theory and practice : proceedings of the 2013-2014 Erasmus IP summer schools in preventive archaeology: Evaluating sites and landscapes, methods and techniques for evaluating the archaeological value
EditorsFederica Boschi
Place of PublicationBologna
PublisherBononia University Press
ISBN (Print)9788869231735
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameDISCI : Dipartimento storia culture civiltà


  • Cityscapes
  • urban studies


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