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Title: The basics of least cost analysis for archaeological applications

Here we report that Least Cost Analysis (LCA) is a geospatially focused quantitative approach that can help archaeologists better understand how people may have moved across a landscape. At its core is the assumption that humans make decisions about movement as fully rational actors with complete knowledge of the landscape, attempting to minimize the cost of that movement as they travel from one location to another. LCA is most often used to construct a small number of hypothetical routes between locations of interest and, when used effectively, can even lead to the creation of entire transportation networks. Desktop GIS software packages, both commercial and open source, make running LCA relatively straightforward, but that does not necessarily mean that the output is informative or accurate. The following tutorial is designed to expose the reader to the foundational steps required to complete an LCA workflow, along with the scientific rationale behind each step and how to avoid potential pitfalls that one might run into along the way. Finally, relevant literature is cited throughout the tutorial in order to provide context for the technical methods that underpin available tools, to suggest various ways that LCA can be used to solve archaeological problems, andmore » to show the art of the possible.« less
  1. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Advances in Archaeological Practice
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 3; Journal Issue: 4; Journal ID: ISSN 2326-3768
Soceity for American Archaeology - Ingenta
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
58 GEOSCIENCES; Least Cost Analysis; LCA; routes
OSTI Identifier: