University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Landscape networks. The spatial reflection of past and present processes.
Luis Antonio Sevillano Perea

Last modified: 2012-03-21


In the last decades, archaeology, as many other Social Sciences disciplines, has witnessed the delineation of a new judgment about the engagement between the people and the environment in which they lived. From this innovative viewpoint the concept of the human and the non-human facts and their relationship have changed. The connection between the people and the world is determined by their previous relationship with the environment. Thus material components and social practices are mutually reinforcing. An individual or collective behavior is not completely understood if we forget the material features of its context.
Terms such as “procesual plus” (Hegmon 2003; 2005) or “symmetric archaeology” (Webmoor et al. 2005) are good examples of the renewed approach (revalorization) of the physical aspects of the archaeological record without abandoning the potentialities of the interpretative archaeology and the perception of the archaeological entities.
Landscape archaeology can also adopt this position. The agrarian landscape is a complex reality where many facts have acted to create the compounded environment we study. Our main interest is to understand how past societies interacted with the land in order to create the present landscape. It is obvious that each collectivity is constrained by the physical features of the environment in which they live. However we must recall that the materiality of the natural context is just one agent (as is the individual or the collective behavior) in the network that built up the current landscape. The meaning of these tangible elements “is at least partly determined by its material qualities” (Jones 2004: 328). Those features and properties can be measured and quantified matching with the positive sciences position. It is a necessary requisite to simultaneously consider how the landscape is socially and culturally generated, while also paying attention to its physical and mechanical properties.
We can apply this hypothesis to the agrarian landscapes. One of the main objectives of this kind of work is to delineate the temporal and spatial networks that link these tangible entities with the social behavior of past cultures. Some scientific analysis, legacy of natural sciences, could help us to set up patterns of the material aspect of the landscape.
The technological innovations reached in the last decades are useful tools to conjoin both aims, especially considering its potentialities for the (statistical, cartographical…) representation of this mixed statement. Until recent years, the GIS (as many other techniques) has failed to recreate all worries of either the natural or social sciences. Nevertheless there have been some efforts to address this fault (Re-presenting GIS Edited by Fisher et al. 2005).
Within the agrarian landscape archaeology approach, we consider that these innovations and mixed techniques must lead us to an improvement of our analytical method. At the same time, it must lead us to have a closer control of the surface archaeological document construction and the influence of the survey techniques employed.


Landscape Archaeology, archaeological surface survey, materiality