Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ceremonial Landscape

Two aerial photographs [ top left and right] of the changing geographical context at Rancho Los Alamitos taken a half century apart, from expansive farm lands to suburban subdivision— is eminently clear. This dramatic change to the property’s context will have an effect on future planning and treatment recommendations. (Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation)

When archaeologists can’t quite understand something they (or somebody else) has found, it becomes “Ceremonial,” regardless of whether or not that “Ceremony” might be known. The only result I got looking for a definition of Ceremonial Landscape this morning is:

Ceremonial Stone Landscape from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"Ceremonial Stone Landscapes is the term used by USET, United Southern and Eastern Tribes, Inc.[1], a non-profit, inter-tribal organization of American Indians, for certain stone work sites in eastern North America. Elements often found at these sites include dry stone walls, rock piles (sometimes referred to as cairns), stone chambers, unusually-shaped boulders, split boulders with stones inserted in the split, and boulders propped up off the ground with smaller rocks. While neither the age of these sites nor the idea of their creation by indigenous peoples has been accepted generally, interest in the sites is increasing. This interest is generated in part by USET's Resolution #2007:037 [2], entitled Sacred Ceremonial Stone Landscapes Found in the Ancestral Territories of United Southern and Eastern Tribes, Inc. Member Tribes.”

Easier to find is the definition of Cultural Landscapes:

“Cultural Landscapes have been defined by the World Heritage Committee as distinct geographical areas or properties uniquely "..represent[ing] the combined work of nature and of man..".[2]

The World Heritage Committee has identified and adopted three categories of cultural landscape, ranging from (i) those landscapes most deliberately 'shaped' by people, through (ii) full range of 'combined' works, to (iii) those least evidently 'shaped' by people (yet highly valued). The three categories extracted from the Committee's Operational Guidelines, are as follows[3]:

(i) "a landscape designed and created intentionally by man"; (like Central Park in NYC or your local Walmart)

(ii) an "organically evolved landscape" which may be a "relict (or fossil) landscape" or a "continuing landscape";

(iii) an "associative cultural landscape" which may be valued because of the "religious, artistic or cultural associations of the natural element"

So I guess what I really spent a lot of time looking at and wondering about is an “associative cultural landscape” or at least the remains of one type of Associated Cultural Landscape called an Ethnographic Landscape (a landscape 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.) sticking out of the layers of successive cultural landscapes that sort of surround it or have made use of it in some instances, as in the case of “stone walls.”

So here is what the World Heritage Committee has to say:

"The Associative Cultural Landscape is a type that is linked to cultural traditions. The inclusion of such landscapes on the World Heritage List is justifiable by virtue of the powerful religious, artistic or cultural associations of the natural element rather than material cultural evidence, which may be insignificant or even absent. The associative cultural landscape is the physical place where intangible aspects of cultural heritage are embodied.

Examples of each type of cultural landscape are inscribed on the World Heritage List. Since 1992, with the acceptance of these definitions and the ability to inscribe cultural landscapes, there have been 60 cultural landscapes of outstanding universal value to all of humanity inscribed as a shared global heritage. Cultural landscapes are places of heritage value. Geologically diverse cultural landscapes are a rich array of local, regional and global heritage resources. For example:

• Sacred groves in Ghana that foster traditional medicine and preserve biodiversity date to early peoples

• Seashore villages that express the interdependence of the sea and the community in ways of life, craft, work, settlement pattern, land uses and scale example—Norway? Nova Scotia

• Egyptian and Chinese tomb site planning, layout , earth forms and structures are ancient designed landscape

• Modern gardens of globally important landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx date to the twentieth century

• The sacred mountain of the New Zealand Maori peoples is associated with spiritual beliefs"

Detailed Documentation of a Cultural Landscape

A single landscape architect may begin with a specific historic landscape for a preservation project or in response to a threat. The completion of a detailed inventory form may follow the international form prepared by the ICOMOS IFLA International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes (see right). There are also inventory forms from several countries that may be of use for inventory planning (see right). The location, name and history of the landscape are gathered along with details of the existing conditions, ownership, access and legal protection.

The historic character of the landscape, and the degree to which that character is evident today, guides the research and documentation of the inventory, and contributes to assessment and planning for the future. In developing an inventory we seek to perceive and document the full range of resources that comprise the landscape. A useful approach is to follow a comprehensive landscape character-defining features check list as a guide.

This list directs attention to each aspect of the physical landscape:

• Land Uses, Patterns, Clusters

• Natural Systems

• Spatial Organization

• Visual Relationships

• Topography, Surface Drainage

• Vegetation

• Circulation Systems

• Water Features, Natural and Constructed

• Non-Habitable Landscape Structures and Buildings

• Spatial Character of Habitable Structures

• Vocabulary of Site Furnishings and Objects

The tangible, character-defining features of the landscape, noted in this listing, should be explored in the archival research, historic period narratives, fieldwork addressing existing conditions, and exploration and selection of preservation interventions. Rediscovering, in detail, the historic character of the landscape guides the consideration of the future.

The intangible values and meanings of a cultural landscape should also be documented and understood. These values may include:

• Location for festivals

• Setting for traditional music, dance, performance

• Route of pilgrimage

• Setting for worship

• Place of memory of past events

• Place of traditional practices

• Gathering place for native plants

• Gathering place for craft materials

• Traditional place for experience at a special time of year

In the USA, here is a link to “the” guidelines, prefaced by this little bit:

Cultural landscapes are composed of a collection of features which are organized in space. They include small-scale features such as individual fountains or statuary, as well as patterns of fields and forest which define the spatial character of the landscape.

Individual features in the landscape should never be viewed in isolation, but in relationship to the landscape as a whole. Each situation may vary, and some features may often be more important than others. For example, circulation (roads, parkways, drives, trails, walks, paths, parking areas, and canals) may be an important historic element in one landscape, while in another it may have little if any significance.

Overall, it is the arrangement and the interrelationship of these character-defining features as they existed during the period of significance that is most critical to consider prior to treatment. As such, landscape features should always be assessed as they relate to the property as a whole. Thus, spatial organization and land patterns are always listed first in each section of the Guidelines.

Organizational Elements of the Landscape

Spatial Organization and Land Patterns refers to the three-dimensional organization and patterns of spaces in a landscape, like the arrangement of rooms in a house. Spatial organization is created by the landscape’s cultural and natural features. Some form visual links or barriers (such as fences and hedgerows); others create spaces and visual connections in the landscape (such as topography and open water). The organization of such features defines and creates spaces in the landscape and often is closely related to land use. Both the functional and visual relationship between spaces is integral to the historic character of a property. In addition, it is important to recognize that spatial relationships may change over time due to a variety of factors, including: environmental impacts (e.g. drought, flood), plant growth and succession, and changes in land use or technology.

Character-Defining Features of the Landscape

There are many character-defining features that collectively contribute to the historic character of a cultural landscape. These are as follows:

Topography, the shape of the ground plane and its height or depth, is a character-defining feature of the landscape. Topography may occur naturally or as a result of human manipulation. For example, topographic features may contribute to the creation of outdoor spaces, serve a functional purpose, or provide visual interest.

Vegetation features may be individual plants, as in the case of a specimen tree, or groups of plants such as a hedge, allee, agricultural field, planting bed, or a naturally-occurring plant community or habitat. Vegetation includes evergreen or deciduous trees, shrubs, and ground covers, and both woody and herbaceous plants. Vegetation may derive its significance from historical associations, horticultural or genetic value, or aesthetic or functional qualities. It is a primary dynamic component of the landscape’s character; therefore, the treatment of cultural landscapes must recognize the continual process of germination, growth, seasonal change, aging, decay, and death of plants. The character of individual plants is derived from habit, form, color, texture, bloom, fruit, fragrance, scale and context.

Circulation features may include, roads, parkways, drives, trails, walks, paths, parking areas, and canals. Such features may occur individually or be linked to form networks or systems. The character of circulation features is defined by factors such as alignment, width, surface and edge treatment, grade, materials, and infrastructure.

Water features may be aesthetic as well as functional components of the landscape. They may be linked to the natural hydrologic system or may be fed artificially; their associated water supply, drainage, and mechanical systems are important components. Water features include fountains, pools, cascades, irrigation systems, ponds, lakes, streams, and aqueducts. The characteristics of water features and reflective qualities; and associated plant and animal life, as well as water quality. Special consideration may be required due to the seasonal changes in water such as variations in water table, precipitation, and freezing.

Structures, site furnishings, and objects may contribute to a landscape’s significance and historic character. Structures are non-habitable, constructed features, unlike buildings which have walls and roofs and are generally habitable. Structures may be significant individually or they may simply contribute to the historic character of the landscape. They may include walls, terraces, arbors, gazebos, follies, tennis courts, playground equipment, greenhouses, cold frames, steps, bridges, and dams. The placement and arrangement of buildings and structures are important to the character of the landscape; these guidelines emphasize the relationship between buildings, structures, and other features which comprise the historic landscape. For additional and specific guidance related to the treatment of historic buildings, please consult the Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring and Reconstructing Historic Buildings.

Site furnishings and objects generally are small-scale elements in the landscape that may be functional, decorative, or both. They can include benches, lights, signs, drinking fountains, trash receptacles, fences, tree grates, clocks, flagpoles, sculpture, monuments, memorials, planters, and urns. They may be movable, used seasonally, or permanently installed. Site furnishings and objects occur as singular items, in groups of similar or identical features, or as part of a system (e.g. signage). They may be designed or built for a specific site, available though a catalog, or created as vernacular pieces associated with a particular region or cultural group. They may be significant in their own right, for example, as works of art or as the work of an important designer.

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