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This page first made public: Aug 17, 2010

Viewshed Analysis

Scott White, Fort Lewis College


This GIS lab exercise investigates the use of the ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension tools to construct a viewshed of the Chaco Canyon area in New Mexico.


Type and level of course
advanced level GIS course

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
Basic use of ArcMap and map layout skills. Familiarity with the use of the Spatial Analsyst toolbar.

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ArcGIS ArcView v.9.3.1
ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
3-4 hours


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
Students construct a viewshed analysis of the Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, area using point locations of ruins as the observers and targets.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
understand and explain the concept of terrain analysis
understand and explain the concept of viewshed analysis

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
terrain analysis, understanding a hypothesis concerning Ancestral Puebloans (Anasaszi) and their structures, interpretation of a viewshed product

Description of the activity/assignment

This GIS lab exercise investigates the use of the ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension tools to construct a viewshed of the Chaco Canyon area in New Mexico. Students will build a simple point location map of several ruins in Chaco Canyon. Assuming that some of the cliff-top ruins were used as lookout towers, viewshed analysis is applied to see if this was possible.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students are assessed through (1) examaination of the resulting viewshed maps and (2) cartographic presentation of the results.
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