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2.2 GIS simulations of economic land use

Economic land use forms a particular expression of the complex, reciprocal relationships between people and environment. An environment is not abstract and separated from people but its physical properties are drawn into their experience (Ingold 1992, 51). It is this experience that is key for human action within, and categorisation of, environments, ultimately resulting in the socio-cultural construction of human landscapes. Land use forms part of that construction, and becomes therefore part of dwelling. More importantly, if land use is also considered a human choice and a subsequent action, it becomes inherently related to agency and taskscapes (Fig. 1).

Firstly, economic structures (leading to land use in practice) are not solely the result of environmental availability or pressure, but are especially linked to conscious decisions regarding specific perceptions of the landscape, combining environmental factors, socio-cultural action, history and previous experience. They combine structure and narrative at a specific moment in time; they represent agency (Fig. 1). This idea can be illustrated with some findings at the Neolithic site of Rendina (Basilicata, southern Italy, see Fig. 2). Even though 16 species of wild fauna were attested, this represented only 3% of the total fauna evidenced at the site. Although a wide variety of wild species was thus available, the inhabitants of Rendina clearly made a conscious choice not to include them in their diets, indicating potential cultural, social and temporal reasons involved (Cipolloni Sampò 1992, 340-41).

Secondly, economic land use is a human activity involving a number of (sometimes repetitive) tasks, which are executed over a specific timeframe and which unavoidably result in environmental patterns and hence specifically 'constructed' landscapes. Through time and use, such landscapes enter a particular narrative of a place and become divisible into different spheres of human understanding. Concepts of taboo, but also of memory, social reproduction and cultural identity are key for the definition of such spheres of perception. These become outcomes of, means for, and influences on human action; they become associated with taskscapes. In short, physical land-use patterns can be connected with, and discussed in reference to, taskscapes (Fig. 1).

To recapitulate: (a) economic structures are the result of conscious decisions made by humans, based on previous environmental situations, cultural conditions, perception, affordance, but especially agency; (b) these economic structures influence physical landscape patterns and (through time) the creation, maintenance and transformation of taskscapes. Thus, land-use patterning resulting from the application of specific economic models (a) reflects the conscious decisions made by the agents involved and (b) can be discussed in terms of potential taskscapes. This means, if one implements a range of economic choices within a diachronic GIS simulation of land use, the resulting spatial patterning should be interpreted as (a) snapshots of human agency, and (b) related to land-use taskscapes. Such GIS models present us with dwelling patterns (human action) at the intersection of utilised landscapes and perceived taskscapes (Fig. 1; sections 3.1, 3.4 and 3.6).

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