Mapping the Political Landscape: Toward a GIS Analysis of Environmental and Social Difference

Steve Kosiba, Andrew M. Bauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


This paper employs geographic information systems (GIS) to analyze the relationship between environmental context and social inequality. Using recent archaeological data from the political center of the Inka Empire (Cuzco, Peru), it investigates how material and spatial boundaries embed social differences within the environment at both local and regional scales. In doing so, the paper moves beyond conventional archaeological GIS approaches that treat the environment as a unitary phenomenon. It develops a methodological and theoretical framework for the examination of a political landscape-the distinct spaces and materials that differentially shape people's social experience and perception of their environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-101
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Adam Smith, Alan Kolata, Kathleen Morrison, Royal Ghazal, Maureen Marshall, Alan Greene, Michelle Lelièvre, Rebecca Graff, and Meredith McGuire for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. We also appreciate the insightful comments of three anonymous reviewers. Brian Bauer, Alan Covey, Luis Cuba Peña, Vicentina Galiano Blanco, and Graham Hannegan provided invaluable advice throughout the Wat’a Archaeological Project. The Paqpayoq map was drawn in part by Axel Aráoz Silva, with important corrections provided by Yeshica Amado Galiano. A Fulbright-Hays fellowship and a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant provided funding for the Wat’a Archaeological Project. The University of Chicago’s Committee on Southern Asian Studies and the Department of Anthropology provided travel support for the delivery of an early version of this paper at the Society for American Archaeology’s 71st annual meeting. The ASTER data used in this study are a product of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).


  • GIS
  • Inka
  • Landscape
  • Social inequality


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