Landscape in Archaeological field research, interpretation and explanation.


Archaeological fieldwork traditionally focused on sites, and much geoarchaeological work still does.With the advent of interest in regional settlement patterns, environmental reconstruction, and site formation processes, however, the nature and evolution of regional landscapes became prominent topics in both archaeological and geoarchaeological research (e.g., Butzer, 1971, 1982; Renfrew, 1976). Because soils are important components of landscapes and because their genesis
is intimately linked to and reflects the evolution of landscapes, soils are keys to reconstructing landscapes and their evolution. The record of landscape stability is archaeologically significant because archaeological debris should be associated with stable landscapes because of the likely human preference for stable surfaces and the likelihood for the concentration and preservation of artifacts and features on stable surfaces relative to aggrading or eroding ones . Moreover, an understanding of pedogenesis on and pedogenic relationships across a landscape is an important complement to the traditional geoarchaeological emphases on the more dynamic geomorphic processes of sedimentation and erosion.Wells (2001, p. 108) correctly observes that,“Without an appreciation of landscape evolution and geomorphic change, the potential for misinterpretation
of archaeological survey data is immense.” Indeed, her statement can be broadened to include most, if not all, types of archaeological field data. The notion of “landscape” has been important in archaeology for decades, and “landscape archaeology” has been an explicit theme since at least the 1960s (Roberts, 1987), generating a sizeable literature (e.g.,Wagstaff, 1987; Cherry et al.,
1991; Rossignol and Wandsnider, 1992; Barker, 1995;Ashmore and Knapp, 1999). In most of that literature, the term “landscape” is used in a very broad sense, including cultural landscapes. Knapp and Ashmore (1999, p. 1) group what theycall “archaeological thinking about the nature of landscape” into three general categories: a “minimalist” view of landscape as the backdrop against which archaeological remains are plotted; an economic and political perspective of landscapes
as provider of resource, refuge, and risks “that both impel and impact on human actions and situations” (1999, p.1); and “socio-symbolic notions of landscapes as an entity that exists by virtue of its being perceived, experienced, and contextualized by people” (1999, p. 1). In this chapter and indeed throughout this volume, the term is used in a literal, geomorphic sense, probably falling into the both the “minimalist” and “economic political” categories of Knapp and Ashmore (1999).They,however, seem to underestimate or overlook the concept of the landscape
as a dynamic component of the physical, natural environment, as a record of that environment and of environmental changes, and as an important influence on site formation processes. The landscape is indeed a “backdrop” for archaeological debris; a very important one whose processes and evolution must be understood to understand how a site evolved both during and after occupation.
Notes and References.
1.Vance T. Holliday. SOILS IN ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH.  2004
2.Butzer, K.W., 1971. Environment and Archaeology. 2nd ed. Aldine, Chicago.3.Butzer, K. W., 1982. Archaeology as Human Ecology. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge.
4.Renfrew, C., 1976. Archaeology and the earth sciences. In Geoarchaeology (D. A.
Davidson and M. L. Shackley, Eds.), pp. 1–5.Westview Press, Boulder, Colo.
Wells, L. E., 2001. A geomorphological approach to reconstructing archaeological settlement
patterns based on surficial artifact distribution: Replacing humans on the landscape.
In Earth Sciences and Archaeology (P. Goldberg, V. T. Holliday, and C. R.
Ferring, Eds.), pp. 107–141. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York.
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