Landscape Research Group Workshop
10.00-17.00, 18th February 2006
Birley Room, Dawson Building
The Department of Archaeology supports an active and varied range of staff with innovative field and research projects designed to investigate both environmental and ideational aspects of past landscapes.
We combine studies of physical and cultural landscape formation processes with key questions intended to assess the impact of human societies on the landscape, the emergence of social complexity, the creation of imperial landscapes, urban-rural relations, the cultural construction of landscape and the morphology of urban and sacred landscapes.
Our research includes the development of new field and analytical techniques, as well as the development of original landscape theory and interpretation and we have major projects funded by AHRC, English Heritage and the Leverhulme Trust in the North Atlantic, UK, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, Egypt, the Middle East and Southern Asia. With chronological interests extending from early hunter-gatherer landscapes through to the post-medieval period, our group has attracted a significant postgraduate community.
With the twin aims of outlining the diversity of members’ existing landscape research and to identify unifying themes which might shape future directions, we are holding a workshop focused on concepts of hierarchies and hinterlands.
New light in dark places: towards a cultural study of underground landscape and environment
Dr. Robin SkeatesThis paper focuses on natural and artificial caves and underground systems used by humans between prehistory and the present. It considers them as a particular form of landscape and environment, which, like other types of archaeological site, have been interpreted with reference to the concepts of hierarchies and hinterlands. In this paper, I wish to challenge these concepts, drawing upon recent cultural and sensory approaches to the study of landscape, environment and caves. These enable four new research goals to be established for future studies of the underworld: 1) to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the cultural transformation of caves over a range of historical periods and regions; 2) to re-conceptualise and explore the physical materiality of a range of caves in terms of human experience and perception; 3) to deepen our understanding of the diverse cultural meanings and values that have been ascribed to, and framed by, caves; and 4) to deepen our understanding of the ways in which caves have served as both a source, and subject, of power and authority in a range of cultural contexts. By pursuing these goals, we may finally succeed in leaving behind the enduring traditions of cave archaeology and archaeological classification.
Static settlement versus dynamic river systems in the Nile delta
Dr. Penny WilsonThe Nile delta gives the impression of being a green body with veins of blue blood running through it and that the people who lived there were parasites at the whim of variable flooding and an inconstant mistress. Archaeological and survey work in the western delta will be discussed
within the context of vertical settlement movement at Saïs, the ‘management’ of settlement patterns and river channels and the implications for understanding the ‘choice’ of place for human inhabitation in northern Egypt. How compatible is the human parasite with natural earth landscapes?
Laying claim to the hinterland: case studies from western Syria
Dr. Graham PhilipArchaeological survey indicates that settlement in the Upper Orontes Valley consists of a relatively dense core of occupation focused upon the river, surrounded by two contrasting hinterlands. That to the east of the river consists of Pleistocene marls, that to the west, a basalt landscape. Each of these shows distinctive and variable evidence for human activity. This paper takes a diachronic perspective on the archaeological evidence for the occupation of hinterland space, and attempts to set this in the context of changing political and economic structures.
The city structures the landscape; landscape structures the city
Prof. Tony WilkinsonAs Paul Wheatley has asserted the city configures the region around it, but equally we can see the city as being partly the product of its region and surrounding landscape. Here I discuss the use of data derived from the archaeological landscape to show how settlements and ultimately the city can actively structure their surrounding landscapes. Topics include: field scatters, hollow ways (both local and inter-regional), land use zones as well as satellite communities and settlement patterns. The topic is treated in terms of increasing scale from villages, through towns and cities, political capitals such as those of the Neo-Assyrian capitals, and finally major religious centres. As an alternative I will also examine what might be called "network driven" landscapes in which the network (canals, channels or routes) configures the landscape and settlement pattern. This would be intended as an open-ended paper to stimulate discussion and further research rather than one providing concrete conclusions.
Searching for a 'village moment'
Dr. Chris GerrardDuring the 1990s a ten-year landscape project tackled the question of village origins at Shapwick in Somerset through an integrated archaeological, topographical, historical and ecological study. This
short talk will examine the many techniques applied to the Shapwick landscape and briefly consider the results of that work. Is there really a 'village moment' when the origins of Shapwick's rural settlement can be identified? If so, what forces were at work to motivate a shift from dispersed to nucleated settlement forms and who might have been responsible? Among the themes considered are the role of authority, the power of the image of landscape and settlement movement over time.