L. Landscape Archaeology Through Modern Eyes

Organizer: Simone Paturel, Newcastle University

Saturday, May 7th
1:30 – 3:30
Slusser Room


A phenomenology of landscape (Tilley 1994) has fundamentally re-orientated much of landscape archaeology from a functionalist approach, which sought to explain landscapes through their use by human agents as a resource to one focused on lived experience or as Ingold (1992) termed it, ‘a dwelling perspective’. In this view, perception and experience of landscape are central to the phenomenological method and our understanding of the past. The phenomenological approach involves gathering detailed descriptions of landscapes and material culture through direct observation (e.g. Tilley 1994: 173-196).  However, the perception of the modern archaeologist is unique and not shared. Our view of landscape is clearly patterned by our own experience and seen through ‘modern eyes’. Does this present a problem for landscape archaeology? Ingold (1992) argues that ‘the practice of archaeology is itself a form of dwelling’ and that ‘the knowledge born of this practice is thus on a par with that which comes from the practical activity of the native dweller’, yet we must seek to understand how to bridge the two experiences. I invite papers that explore this embedded temporal ‘tension’ in landscape archaeology.


Sagas and Such: Writing the Landscape

Elisabeth Ward, University of California, Berkeley, lissi@berkeley.edu

Modern perspectives on the landscape are influenced by such things as aerial photography, video games, and economic resource policy. I am interested in understanding how an early medieval European community might have understood their landscape. In this paper, I will present several written documents from the medieval period that feature bodies moving through space, both real and imagined, as a way to understand what sorts of orientations, trajectories, and movements dominate. I will argue that these documents not only reflect landscape understandings, but that writing, as a technology, influenced Scandinavian medieval peoples to perceive their landscape in a particular way.

Roman Baalbek & the Bekaa Valley: A Landscape of Conversion?

Simone Paturel, Newcastle University, simonepaturel@gmail.com

In the Hellenistic Period, the Bekaa valley contained little religious architecture, yet by the end of the third century it contained a large number of Roman temples and was dominated by the religious city of Heliopolis. The landscape had been transformed, but can we also say that it had been ‘converted’ in a religious sense? Most studies of religious conversion have focused on conversion to Christianity or other World Religions in a modern context. This paper explores how the concept of conversion can be meaningfully applied to ancient pantheistic religion and how landscape can be interpreted in terms of religious conversion.

The Temporal “Tension” in Landscape Archaeology

Andrew Green, independent scholar, greandrew@googlemail.com

Modern archaeologists, especially those using phenomenological approaches, engage directly with the landscape in the present moment through personal experience of the landscape and material culture. This experience gained in the present is used to illuminate past experience of the same landscape. Drawing on the work of Paul Ricoeur and others, this paper explores this implicit tension between ancient and modern perceptions of landscape. The paper asks to what degree and in what ways can experience of landscape in the “here and now” provide meaningful insight into the past?

Conceptualizing Cultural Landscapes: The Politics of Multivocality.

Ludomir Lozny, Hunter College, CUNY, llozny@hunter.cuny.edu

Anthropologists are interested in how “being-in-place” articulates, hence the concept of culture. I argue that as ethnically bounded politics decline, the concept of landscape rather than culture becomes the critical focus. Knowledge of landscape is a consequence of experience constituted by cultural and social structure. Landscape is multivocal, for it bears the meanings that researchers create in addition to whatever meanings other people may have. Because some of these meanings are preferred over others, landscape becomes a site of power struggles. Philosophers could retrieve a sense of landscape, but can anthropologists do the same? I use data from Central Pyrenees to address this question.

Archaeological Landscapes of the Northern Balkans: Influence of Contemporary Political Practices

Rajna Sosic Klindzic, University of Zagreb, rsosic@ffzg.hr

The Northern Balkans is an area with a very long history defined by conflicts. Once (sometimes even today) called a border zone between “East” and “West“ civilization, this area was a contact zone between two great empires, then consecutively fragmented and changed in the period of time of less than 100 years. This fragmentation occurred parallel with the development of archaeology in this part of the world. Through this paper I will try to explore how these variable yet strict new and old borders influenced interpretations of space and land use in the prehistory of the area, especially in terms such as “influences,” “trade,” “contact,” and “import.”