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I will start on project in archaeology where I'll have to start using GIS. I only tried using ArcGIS a while ago but for the rest i have no experience.

What platform would you suggest I start on? I'm looking for something that has analysis tools I need for archaeology (least cost route, line of sight..) and it doesn't take ages to learn how to use it. I would prefer open source, but that isn't mandatory (university has licenses). More important is how steep is the learning curve for the software?

Thank you for help.

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Please provide of full list of tools you need. That's the only way to determine which tool is suitable. – underdark Mar 13 '13 at 11:27
Possible starting point: QGIS for Archaeologists… – underdark Mar 13 '13 at 11:27
Some additional resources: Esri case studies:; a book available at Amazon (aimed at students and professional archaeologists) which examines issues such as spatial databases, data acquisition, spatial analysis, and techniques of visualization -… – Chethan S. Mar 13 '13 at 12:00

Portable GIS has been created by an archaeologist for her archaeology work.

The most current version is Portable GIS Version 3.1 (December 3rd 2012)

The major plus for this package is that it can be used from a USB stick out in the field as well as in the office.

Full Credit goes to Archaeogeek (


Desktop GIS packages QGIS (with GRASS plugin and QGIS Server) version 1.8

FWTools (GDAL and OGR toolkit)

Apache2 and Php5

PostgreSQL (version 9.0)/Postgis (version 1.5)

Mapserver 5.6 and 6, OpenLayers.

Python 2.7 with GDAL 1.9 libraries

Loader- for loading gml such as Ordnance Survey Mastermap into a PostgreSQL Database

Utilities- portable firefox, pdf reader and text editor

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You requirements (least cost route, line of sight) are quite common in GIS, and I think most of the GIS platforms provide such tools. You just need to search for a while to find the suitable platform have these tools, though I'd suggest to use QGIS (open source) or ArcGIS (proprietary).

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One place to start looking might be OA Digital ( and their parent organization Oxford Archeology have quite some experience working with open source, mostly with gvSIG where Benjamin Ducke have been quite active.

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ArcGIS has a plethora of documentation and classes, online and at-site (free and costly) available. Consider that the premium route, current industry standard, with open source developments picking up their pace behind them. QGIS is open source with a good amount of documentation and user participation. It's made strong progress in recent years. consider this the open source standard with lots of momentum. And I'm hearing more and more about gvSIG, another open source project, java based. There is a mobile side under development. I'd consider this QGIS's chief competition. And there are still other open source alternatives.

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