As crows fly over the landscape, they can ignore roads, hills, streams and bog, intent only on the shortest route to their destination. Political boundaries have no meaning for them. Conversely, human communities and individuals construct roads and bridges to ease pedestrian travel. Society structures itself through the creation of boundaries, protecting and strengthening their identity through border controls, toll booths and customs officials. Travel in the human world is more convoluted than the flight of crows in the sky. Archaeological study of human landscapes seeks to reconstruct the social patterns of human movement. In order to do this, archaeologists must begin with the material patterning resulting from the travail of craftspeople, the movement of merchants, the activities of farmers, lords and priests. This patterning is fragmentary due to decompositional processes and the nature of archaeological recovery. It is static, having already been deposited through human action. Thus, it does not record the passage of farmers and cattle along a road or the clatter of wagon wheels over a bridge. However, while archaeologists may not be able to walk in the footsteps of the farmer or merchant, they can attempt to get beneath the Euclidean measurements of the crows' flight and closer to the travel practices of past peoples. This article investigates one way in which archaeological enquiry can study movement within the landscape, between town and village. It focuses specifically at how artefact patterns can inform archaeologists about communication between settlements.
Social, geographical and archaeological discourse has recently concentrated on human perception and interpretation of the landscape. This has stimulated debate on how people, both as individuals and collective societies, understand space and human action. Place and landscape are important concepts in social geography. They both construct and are constructed by social action. Concepts such as memory, social action and social transformation (Barratt 1987; 1999; Bender 1993; Ashmore and Knapp 1999; Ingold 1993) are linked to social action within places and landscapes, participating in the social understanding of those spaces. Space and social action are reflexive, each influencing the other.
It is not surprising that the issues highlighted by social geographers and archaeologists have been taken up by those also interested in computer applications, especially those employing GIS (Gaffney and van Leusen 1995; Llobera 1996; Wheatley 1993; Boaz and Uleberg 1995). Representation and interrogation of social phenomena has not been straightforward. Geographic Information System (GIS) practitioners have faced the difficulty of integrating such fuzzy concepts as social action and agency within the confines of a computer application which is not itself inherently cognitive. Indeed, it is much easier to talk about memory or gendered spaces than to represent and investigate them in GIS environments. The most successful integration of social theory and geographic software has been through viewshed and intervisibility applications where the environment and landscape can be displayed and interrogated using familiar methods of mapping and graphics (Llobera 1996; Yorston 1999; van Leusen 1999).
This article looks at one approach to the inclusion of cognitive data within maps and graphs via a GIS. It specifically targets artefactual data rather than monumental landscapes. The discussion below suggests one way of approaching aspects of the social cognition behind the artefact distributions. It focuses on how travel practices can be associated with artefact distributions by measuring the distances in hours rather than kilometres. The artefact distribution used in this paper is that of the Anglo-Scandinavian pottery from Lincolnshire (c. AD 850-1100) .
There are two basic difficulties with representing past social cognition in archaeological landscapes. The first deals with the way in which social phenomena can be represented graphically. A place or a persona can be described in writing with enough detail to capture the essence of who or what they are/were, as amply demonstrated by Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities (1974). Ingold illustrated in his detailed discussion of Breugel's The Harvesters (Ingold 1993) that art also conveys a great depth of information. However, it is difficult to map or graph a person's conception of a city or landscape. There is simply too much information which cannot be displayed in lines, points or polygons. Even if the vast amount of information captured on page or canvas could be displayed graphically, the result would be such a mess that it would be indecipherable.
Yet the baby cannot be thrown out with the bathwater. Archaeological enquiry cannot rest solely on verbal description and artistic endeavour, however important those communication mediums might be. Graphs and maps help isolate patterns in the mass of cultural data with which archaeologists work. They simplify data into a manageable number of components which can be comprehended by the researcher. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but a graph or map seeks to say it in less. Therefore, it is important to find ways in which social cognition can be mapped and graphed. It is equally relevant to understand that one map may not be able to convey the same information that a text or artistic medium is able to relay. This does not imply that the graph or map does not express its contents better or more concisely, but rather that different material needs to be conveyed through separate mediums.
The second difficulty is with the nature of archaeological data itself. The archaeological dataset is incomplete in that
These limitations should not be considered a deterrent to research. Indeed, the brilliance of archaeological enquiry is its ability to reconstruct social phenomena from the data patterns which archaeologists recover.
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Last updated: Wed Nov 13 2002