Sunday, April 01, 2007

Cultural Landscape

Sometimes you find yourself not just walking around the neighborhood or a place that looked interesting on a map, taking photos of rocks and stones, but actually observing the layers of an everchanging cultural landscape.
It’s a phrase that I came across somehow, cultural landscape, so I googled it and found:
“Cultural landscape is defined as the human-modified environment, including fields, houses, churches, highways, planted forests, and mines, as well as weeds and pollution.

A cultural landscape defined as:
"a geographic area, including both cultural and natural resources and the wildlife or domestic animals therein, associated with an historic event, activity, or person or exhibiting other cultural or aesthetic values."
In the USA, there are four general types of cultural landscapes, not mutually exclusive: historic sites, historic designed landscapes, historic vernacular landscapes, and ethnographic landscapes.
“The cultural landscape is fashioned from a natural landscape by a cultural group. Culture is the agent, the natural are the medium, the cultural landscape is the result. Under the influence of a given culture, itself changing through time, the landscape undergoes development, passing through phases and probably reaching ultimately the end of its cycle of development. With the introduction of a different, alien culture, a rejuvenation of the cultural landscape sets in, or a new landscape is superimposed on remnants of the old one” (Sauer’s, 1925).”

So what about all these photos of rocks and piles and rows and boulders that you find here and at “Rock Piles” - and all those links? Are we all just a bunch of lunatics or are we observers of “Ethnographic Landscapes?” That is, “…landscape(s) containing a variety of natural and cultural resources that associated people define as heritage resources. Examples are contemporary settlements, religious sacred sites and massive geological structures. Small plant communities, animals, subsistence and ceremonial grounds are often components.”

It’s not just limited to us, the amateurs; here’s a few things I came across:

Culture Contact Studies: Redefining the Relationship between Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology
Journal article by Kent G. Lightfoot; American Antiquity, Vol. 60, 1995

Archaeology is poised to play a pivotal role in the reconfiguration of historical anthropology in the United States. Ideally suited for studying long-term change that transcends the boundary between prehistory and history, archaeology provides a common baseline for comparing the recent past to the deep past. A strong grounding in prehistory is critical for understanding the full magnitude of European exploration and colonization. We now recognize that Native American societies were undergoing cultural transformations before their first face-to-face contact with Europeans (Deetz 1991:5-6; Wilson and Rogers 1993a: 6). Prior to any written observations, many native societies were already responding to the widespread exchange of European goods (Trigger 1981:11-13), the rapid spread of alien plants and animals (Crosby 1986:145-194), and the assault of virulent epidemics (Dobyns 1983:25-26; Dunnell 1991; Perttula 1991:514-515; Ramenofsky 1987:173-175; Upham 1986). The implication is clear - any historical anthropological study that attempts to understand the long-term implications of culture contact must consider the archaeology of pre-contact contexts. Without this prehistoric perspective, one cannot undertake comparative analyses of cultural transformations that took place before, during, and after European contact and colonialism.

Developing a research design that explicitly addresses the identification of ethnographic landscapes is one of the greatest challenges of landscape research. Since they constitute social and symbolic constructions of the Natural environment, ethnographic landscapes do not cur-respond necessarily to material evidence of land and resource use as do archaeological or historic landscapes (Pendery, 1998). This phenomenon is particularly true among American Indian tribes and Euro-American communities whose traditional life ways did not significantly modify the land in a permanent, or an archaeologically obvious, manner. Reliable identification of ethnographic resources, consequently, requires cooperation between the cultural groups and federal agencies of a particular land management project… Our informants have found the maps to be a stimulating and satisfying vehicle for describing their landscapes… Ethnographic landscape work entails working on-site and closely with the people of the landscape. Our methodology, therefore, is guided by the following objectives:
1. To let Indian people evaluate the sites or resources first-hand.
2. To furnish as much background information on the site as possible (e.g. maps, archaeological reports, photographs) to assist them in their evaluation.
3. To provide a standardized instrument for data collection that reflects their concerns, their areas of knowledge, and that matches their ability with the English language.
4. To give them the opportunity to speak freely by including open-ended response opportunities in the interviews.
5. To develop a system of data recording that captures, to the greatest extent possible, all comments and recommendations, consequently, facilitating further analysis and reporting tasks.
The site visit, involving tribal elders, is the most important aspect of data collection because seeing what is being studied is a mnemonic stimulus for assessing specific resources (Stoffle et al., 1990a). Respondents often recognize familiar landscape features and biotic communities, recall oral histories, and relate resources to traditional practices more thoroughly than if questioned off-site. Our respondents were encouraged to set their own pace and take as much time as they felt was necessary before beginning the interviews.

Earthmovers of the Amazon by Charles C. Mann

“Although these still unnamed peoples abandoned their earthworks between 1400 and 1700 C.E., Erickson says, they permanently transformed regional ecosystems, creating “a richly patterned and humanized landscape” that is “one of the most remarkable human achievements on the continent.””

Cultivated Landscapes of Native North America. William E. Doolittle. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. XV and 463 pp., maps, diagrams, photos, and index. $55.00 paper (ISBN: 0-19-823429-1).
“Doolittle's book is notable on two fronts, not only is it encyclopedic in its description of former agricultural systems of North America, it is also an insightful treatise on how to conduct historic research on sometimes (quite literally) ephemeral land use patterns. Through Doolittle's careful historicism we learn how best to reconstruct past landforms…

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