Mapping Caves: Telling the Story

Author(s): Holley Moyes

Year: 2017


Maps are symbols. While we often think of them as representations of the real world, they are in fact interpretations of the space no matter how accurately and precisely produced. Maps tell a story-YOUR story. Maps make an argument. No two people will map a space in exactly the same way and no two stories will be completely alike. While some researchers are primarily concerned about precision and accuracy in representation, others focus on more humanistic, sensory, or phenomenological elements. Caves are particularly difficult to represent because of their topographic complexity and differ significantly from built environments because their natural organization is not based on a social logic. These problems exist not only with caves but also with all complex spaces in both how to map and what to map. The 3-dimensionality of the space and how one experiences it exacerbates representational challenges, particularly when using Geographic Information Systems or other 2D or 2.5D programs. In this paper I discuss methods in cave mapping using examples from ancient Maya cave sites in Belize. I suggest that rather than thinking of archaeological maps as a form of scientific data creation, we envision them as telling a story of the cave.

Cite this Record

Mapping Caves: Telling the Story. Holley Moyes. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431204)


Caves Gis Mapping

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16780