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Article
Energetically Optimal Travel across Terrain: Visualizations and a New Metric of Geographic Distance with Archaeological Applications
SPIE Proceedings: San Jose, CA
  • Brian M. Wood, Harvard University
  • Zoë J. Wood, California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo
Publication Date
1-16-2006
Abstract
We present a visualization and computation tool for modeling the caloric cost of pedestrian travel across three dimensional terrains. This tool is being used in ongoing archaeological research that analyzes how costs of locomotion affect the spatial distribution of trails and artifacts across archaeological landscapes. Throughout human history, traveling by foot has been the most common form of transportation, and therefore analyses of pedestrian travel costs are important for understanding prehistoric patterns of resource acquisition, migration, trade, and political interaction. Traditionally, archaeologists have measured geographic proximity based on "as the crow flies" distance. We propose new methods for terrain visualization and analysis based on measuring paths of least caloric expense, calculated using well established metabolic equations. Our approach provides a human centered metric of geographic closeness, and overcomes significant limitations of available Geographic Information System (GIS) software. We demonstrate such path computations and visualizations applied to archaeological research questions. Our system includes tools to visualize: energetic cost surfaces, comparisons of the elevation profiles of shortest paths versus least cost paths, and the display of paths of least caloric effort on Digital Elevation Models (DEMs). These analysis tools can be applied to calculate and visualize 1) likely locations of prehistoric trails and 2) expected ratios of raw material types to be recovered at archaeological sites.
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Publisher statement
One print or electronic copy may be made for personal use only. Systematic reproduction and distribution, duplication of any material in this paper for a fee or for commercial purposes, or modification of the content of the paper are prohibited.
Citation Information
Brian M. Wood and Zoë J. Wood. "Energetically Optimal Travel across Terrain: Visualizations and a New Metric of Geographic Distance with Archaeological Applications" SPIE Proceedings: San Jose, CA Vol. 6060 (2006)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/zwood/13/