Application of geographic information technologies to historical landscape reconstruction and military terrain analysis of an American Revolution Battlefield: Preservation potential of historic lands in urbanized settings, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Through funding from the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program, geographic information technologies were employed to create a high resolution, spatially accurate representation of the 1775 landscape of Boston's Inner Harbor and to conduct a geospatial and temporal assessment of the location, extent, and preservation potential of an American Revolutionary War battlefield and its associated cultural resources. Geographic information technologies provide the tools and methodologies to accurately create digital representations of historical landscapes. These tools enable the visualization and geospatial analysis of landscapes and significant historical events, greatly enhancing the understanding of temporal and spatial interactions between these events and the physical landscape upon which they occurred. Data sources include historical bibliographic and cartographic records, high resolution orthophotographs, constant value raster grids, and LIDAR data. A military terrain model was created utilizing American Battlefield Protection Program's KOCOA system categories, in order to identify defining features of the battlefield. KOCOA is an acronym which stands for Key terrain, Obstacles, Cover and Concealment, Observation and Fields of Fire, and Avenues of Advancement and Withdrawal. The KOCOA analysis provides an established method for identifying critical defining features of the battle and determining the influence of the landscape on the ephemeral battle events. The base map was created utilizing U. S. Navy Coast Survey maps dating from the mid-19th century. A digital elevation model was created to represent the 1775 topography, utilizing LIDAR data and constant value raster layers. The military terrain analysis provided valuable insights into battlefield events and decisions. Defining features of the battle were also identified and mapped. A detailed Environmental Systems Research Institute's ArcGIS Citation Data Model was used to link landscape and KOCOA features to the historical sources they were derived from. A comprehensive source table was created as part of this effort. The results of this investigation have provided a high resolution dataset of Boston's historical landscape during the time of the American Revolution. The geospatial analysis will aid in the development of long-range management strategies for the Chelsea Creek Battlefield and facilitate the assessment of threats to cultural resources posed by both anthropogenic activities and environmental change. The methodologies and interdisciplinary approach will also be applicable to other investigations seeking to recreate historical landscapes within a geographic information system. (C) 2012 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.


  • Christopher V. Maio
  • David Tenenbaum
  • Craig J. Brown
  • Victor T. Mastone
  • Allen M. Gontz
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography


  • American Revolution, Chelsea Creek, GIS, Landscape reconstruction, Boston, KOCOA, Urbanization, Geography, Preservation potential
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-331
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch