These analyses have identified, in brief, the following patterns at different scales and in different geographic regions:
At the continental scale, maps of climate are generally latitudinally banded, maps of terrain and soils/geology are irregularly patterned, and maps of vegetation and ecoregions are intermediate between these two types (and show particular evidence of banding in the west and north, and irregular patchiness in the south and east).
As we move from continental to regional scales, there is an increase in the influence of terrain patterns, and a corresponding decrease in the amount of visible latitudinal banding in all four areas. In west Africa, the increase is relatively small, affecting only some of those variables classed as 'intermediate' at the larger scale. In south and central Africa it is larger (affecting some aspects of the climatic maps too), and in east Africa it is very substantial, with almost all regional maps dominated by features associated with the East African Rift Valley. The effects of the physical landscape seem to be associated particularly with both tectonic and coastal features.
Moving down a second scale, to the local (5x5 degree) level, has the same effect: the amount of latitudinal banding decreases and the amount of irregular patterning, influenced by terrain, increases. In south Africa, this has the effect of reinstating some latitudinal banding, though this time associated with coastal strip topographies not climate; in west Africa, the Cameroon line comes to dominate maps of intermediately patterned variables and even to affect the distribution of microclimates; in central Africa the existing (minor) variation in terrain roughness and altitude seem to impact patterns in climatic and biological variables; and east Africa remains topographically dominated.
This suggests that 'landscape' patterns can indeed be discerned at various scales in current African environments, and can be categorised (relatively) simply. These patterns change in largely predictable ways as one moves from larger to smaller scales, with regional character acting to modify the degree of change but not the overall type. These results have implications for our abilities to understand and reconstruct palaeolandscapes, discussed below.
Internet Archaeology is an open access journal. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.