Home > Areas of Specialisation > Landscape Archaeology

Landscape Archaeology

By: Grahame Johnston - Updated: 4 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Landscape Archaeology Archaeologists

The concept of landscape archaeology is frequently used by archaeologists to describe an activity that is engaged by humans with their surrounding environment. For example: Subsistence or rituals involving interactivity with the natural topography.

Systems Not Scenes

When landscape archaeologists view a site they see systems and settings, intimately related to human life, and rather than observing the beauty of the countryside, the scene is studied primarily as a foundation to understand living and working. The reality of any landscape is understood in the symbolic, which is another way of saying that landscape archaeologists are examining ancient human culture.

Open to Interpretation

The remaining physical evidence of the landscape is open to varying degrees of interpretation. This is largely because human interaction with landscapes occur over time and the final result, examined by archaeologists, is a complex historical formation.

The forces and elements of weather cause chaos to the archaeological record. The further back in history the archaeologist attempts to deal with, the scarcer fossils, artefacts, and habitual evidence become. The modern challenge for the landscape archaeologist is how to go about reconstructing the human relationship with his ancient surrounding ecological environment with such few artefacts and so much alteration, by natural phenomena, limiting the evidence.

The difficulties are so acute when trying to study very early human landscape interaction that rather than search for symbolic explanations of the locations of archaeological features in the landscape, palaeoanthropologists and archaeologists prefer to concentrate on the functional, socio-economic probabilities, using a combination of results from previous studies, typological analysis of lithic artefacts, through micro-examination of damage exhibited on bone remains, and by examining distribution and clustering density patterns of bones and tools.

Low Density Artefacts

In regions where there was once a rich and plentiful supply of exploitable faunal resources people were likely to return periodically, according to animal migration habits if any, for planned hunting activities. In early sites of this nature there have been numerous finds of stone tools yet little indication of settlement on a permanent or even semi-permanent basis. It is hypothesized that the hunters travelled from a locality high in the raw materials needed to make tools. It is proposed that the same hunters left their weapons and tools at the hunting site, as tools were plentiful back in their base settlement.

These sites yield low densities of deposited artefacts and represent locations of relatively infrequent habitation or just areas where lithic resources were generally scarce.

Medium Density Artefacts

Sites with a medium density of tool or weapon artefacts is more likely to be the result of sporadic occupation due to the diversity of natural resources required for maintaining a settlement: fresh water, shelter, resources for cooking (fuel), and an adequate close food supply.

Let’s Move House

Humans are basically lazy individuals and early cultures shared this common characteristic. Archaeologists have introduced the term ‘economy of effort principle’ across landscape archaeological studies as a basis for predictive analysis. For example, if a good hunting or gathering ground is far away and requires expended effort to not only reach it but also return home again, lazy human will say, “Let’s move house.” Heavy natural resources, such as stone, can be an awkward material to transport. It is likely that settlements of one kind or another will eventually be established in or near to places of resources that are difficult to move.

Landscape archaeology is not merely limited to discovering the remnant settlements of early stone-tool people. It is a broad and encompassing science that can range from examining the spatial layout of the towns and settlements of the Dutch East India Company to rock art distribution across America or the pastoral advancements of food production in Europe.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Mick
    Re: Dating Techniques In Archaeology
    Business is booming! The stocks are up, and my marriage is all g. If you want free entry to my new theme park called Mc…
    13 February 2020
  • Sir Poindexter-Theod
    Re: Finding Archaeology Sites
    I have reasonable evidence to conclude that this article is of fraudulence and of disgraceful nature. This ain't sweet tea bruv, this…
    13 February 2020
  • Rat Man
    Re: Finding Archaeology Sites
    I have been a lawyer for the past 3 delirious years, yet I have now discovered mouldy cheese (Ancient Roman by the looks of it). What…
    13 February 2020
  • M. N. S. R
    Re: Academic Qualifications to Be An Archaeologist
    I am going to write my 12th board exam coming Feb. I'm very much interested in joining archeology directly…
    3 February 2020
  • Mickey
    Re: Pottery Experts
    I have a small pot that is believed to be from the Illyrian period. I would love to send a photo for an approximate appraisal, is this possible?
    31 January 2020
  • Alisa
    Re: Pottery Experts
    Please help me find out what this oldpott ry artifact is it pott ry please help me get it id ntifi Ed please
    27 January 2020
  • Pratik
    Re: Academic Qualifications to Be An Archaeologist
    I am doing b pharmacy can i become archaeology expert .
    24 January 2020
  • Judy
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    It has been my experience that the experts have what I call “textbook blindness”! They refuse to see or acknowledge the art literally carved in…
    20 January 2020
  • Will
    Re: Archaeology as a Hobby
    I am retired and my lady will be this July. We live near Oberlin College in NE. Ohio, USA. Are there any amateur archaeology individuals…
    19 January 2020
  • Ross
    Re: Early Footprints
    If this were true, the scientific community would be ALL OVER IT - I smell a big rat here
    13 January 2020