2.0 Studying the landscape

Though archaeologists have talked about landscape for many years, it has been predominantly in relation to the environment (e.g. Evans et al. 1975). Other disciplines such as geography, however, began to explore the idea that the landscape may be more fundamental to people's experience of everyday places (Gregory and Walford 1989; Meinig 1979; Seamon and Mugerauer 1989; Tuan 1977). Drawing on these ideas, archaeologists began to examine in more detail the role of the landscape in the context of individual sites or regions.

Over the past decade, a series of books and articles have been published exploring the importance of the landscape to people in the past (Ashmore and Knapp 1999; Bender 1992; 1993a; 1993b; Nash 1997; Tilley 1994). This increased interest in the landscape has led to the publication of a number of case studies examining the importance of the landscape to different people in different areas (Cosgrove 1993; Hubert 1994; Kuchler 1993; Sundstrom 1996). Many of these have been predominantly anthropological in nature (e.g. Bender 1993c; Carmichael et al. 1994; Hirsch and O'Hanlon 1995), while others have examined modern-day perceptions of place (Bender 1998).

Problems with landscape studies

A critique of the Welsh case studies in A phenomenology of landscape (Tilley 1994) has already been provided by Fleming (1999), but many difficulties remain for archaeologists studying and communicating ideas about landscape. It remains extremely difficult to represent the experience of landscape in the form of traditional academic writing accompanied by line illustrations or black and white photographs. In A phenomenology of landscape, Tilley describes a walk along the Dorset cursus which is presented with a series of maps and black and white photographs taken en route. Although this represents one of the most comprehensive examinations of walking along the Dorset cursus, the presentation of these concepts in book format fails to convey adequately either a sense of place, or Tilley's own experience of his journey through the landscape. The monochrome photographs do not clearly illustrate the points made in the text and instead give a rather abstract perspective. This combination of text and visuals simply do not convey the full range of the author's experiences to the reader. This is a problem that is faced by many landscape archaeologists. How do we enable the reader to get a 'feel' for the landscapes we are describing?


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Last updated: Tue Aug 8 2000