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Archeology and Landscapes

ALandscape Archeology is concerned with both the conscious and unconscious shaping of the land: with the processes or organizing space or altering the land for a particular purpose, be it religious, economic, social, political, cultural, or symbolic; with the unintended consequences of land use and alteration; with the role and symbolic content of landscape in its various contexts and its role in the construction of myth and history; and with the enactment and shaping of human behavior within the landscape.@

-Oxford Companion to Archeology

Although many times seen as separate from rural historic districts, or forgotten because they are often invisible, archeological resources may be an integral aspect of many landscapes. Archeological resources may

 
I. be related to an area of significance (ie, may provide additional and/or complementary information about an area);
 
II. provide depth to the understanding of the full human use of a particular place through time;
 
or
 
III. define the landscape and/or support additional areas of significance (ie, archeological resources might BE the landscape);

I. Archeological Resources as Complementary Information

Many landscape studies are interdisciplinary in design and implementation. Because evidence of land use is often preserved above and below ground, a comprehensive study of the landscape might include examining structures or above ground artifacts, historical documents, material objects, topographic features, living plants, and oral traditions, as well as archeological resources. Archaeologists who study the landscape to learn about a particular theme (for instance, community planning and development, industrial use of an area, or transportation) often employ methods and analytical techniques from anthropology, history, cultural geography, material culture studies, oral history, folklore, architectural history, landscape architecture, ethnobotany, and garden history.

What do landscape archaeologists look for? Physical evidence of land use over time. The types of evidence sought vary according to the scale and focus of a particular study. Significant features may include

  • physical evidence of earthmoving activity such as terracing or landfill practices,
  • vegetation patterns,
  • field systems,
  • evidence of manuring practices,
  • drainage ditches and fence lines,
  • tree planting holes or garden beds that appear as stains in the soil,
  • walkways, allées, and roads,
  • evidence of deforestation,
  • changes in yard surfaces or changes in land-use practices over time,
  • foundations,
  • depressions,
  • graves,
  • trash dumps, and
  • archeobotanical remains.

Some ways archeological evidence adds to our understanding of a landscape:

  • archaeological remains of early homesteading sites such as foundations, trash dumps, and archeobotanical remains, may illuminate the patterning of structures and settlement of the land;
  • archeological evidence of early trail systems in the form of distinct vegetation patterns might help us understand the ways in which an area was accessed and/or settled by Native American groups, settlers, and early explorers;
  • the above and below ground structural remains of railroads and canals may illustrate the evolution of technology (for instance, the engineering of trains, railroads, and canals through rugged mountainous terrains often involved technological innovations and transfers that became national standards) through above and below ground structural remains;
  • the above and below ground remains of industrial sites. This might involve examining how an industry distinctly modified the land and may contain the remains of several key components such as landforms, buildings, and structures, objects, and transportation networks.

 

II. Archeology, Landscapes, and Time

Archeological resources may provide evidence of human use of a particular landscape over thousands of years, tying communities, groups, families, and even individuals to particular places. For example,

  • Native American sacred landscapes, many of which have been used for hundreds and even thousands of years and are still used today as traditional cultural properties (TCP=s). Such a landscape might also include evidence of land use before contact with Europeans in the form of domestic camp sites, processing stations, trail systems leading between different types of sites (for instance from a domestic camp to a sacred site), and sacred areas.
  • The archeological resources of a watershed area may illustrate the use of particular resources or a geographic area through time. For example, the Native American use of an area as a corridor of human travel, trade or resource procurement, as well as EuroAmerican use of the same area which may include settlement, construction of dams and/or reservoirs and logging.

Adding time depth adds perspective to the interpretation and significance of particular resources. Often, archeology is the only way to examine time-depth in a landscape. Archeologists are trained to survey landscapes with both precontact and postcontact periods in mind and may be able to suggest resources that exist below the surface. Being able to Asee@ certain subsurface resources comes from experience in archeological survey and in knowing how precontact peoples lived. Archeologists may be able to pick out subtle changes in the landscape and provide ideas about what might be there that is not visible to the untrained eye. Without a firm grasp of this type of sequencing, we could not adequately deal with issues of behavioral process, evolution, and rates of change in past human cultures. Time depth allows for the development of cohesive chronologies for exploring regional, social and cultural evolution through time.

III. Archeological Landscapes

Landscape is a primary context for human behavior. The recognition of its importance as cultural artifact speaks to the importance of landscape to our understanding of both the past and the present. Archaeological landscapes (often nominated as districts or through MPS documents) are significant for several reasons:

  • archeology provides morphological and environmental data on earlier landscapes that are available no-where else;
  • landscape studies touch on many concerns of contemporary archeology, including issues of gender, ethnicity, multiculturalism, and the construction of the past, and;
  • landscape archeology can be closely linked to the interests of preservation groups and historical societies;

Archeologists have used a landscape approach for decades. Those studying precontact periods have long been interested in environmental studies, settlement patterns and interpretive approaches to the landscape, while archaeologists studying postcontact periods have excavated gardens since the 1930s for the purpose of restorations and reconstructions (for instance, the William Paca garden in Annapolis, Maryland). Since the 1970s and 1980s, however, archeologists have broadened the scope, breadth and theoretical perspectives of landscape archeology. While the formal gardens of the elite initially were the focus of postcontact archaeological landscape studies, today, landscape archeology considers the precontact period landscape, urban landscape, the agricultural or rural landscape, the industrial landscape, the battlefield, African-American landscapes, and the landscape at the point of contact between Native Americans and Europeans, among others.

Within North American postcontact archeology, the study of the landscape has coalesced into a distinct specialization particularly concerned with addressing the landscape as a culturally constructed artifact. Landscape archeologists who study this period endeavor to reconstruct and interpret the historical and cultural meaning of past landscapes from the time of contact between Europeans and Native Americas to the present day.

Landscape Archaeologists use a variety of techniques and methods to reconstruct environmental conditions and land-use:

  • Paleoethnobotany is used to recover and interpret the remains of long-vanished plants and trees.
  • Pollen analysis offers clues about earlier environments.
  • Phytoliths, pollen, and macrofloral remains may reveal what plants were grown or used on a site (for this reason, flotation and soil sampling are standard practices in landscape projects).
  • Tree coring and modern vegetation surveys are frequently used to discover modern survivals of historical plants, while casts of root cavities are used to identify tree species.
  • Chemical analysis of archaeological soils, such as phosphate and pH testing are used to reconstruct earlier soil conditions.
  • Geographical Information Systems and other computer simulations have the potential to help archaeologists recreate and visualize landscapes over time and space.

 

References Cited

Fagan, Brian M. (editor in chief)
1996 The Oxford Companion to Archeology. Oxford University Press, New York.

Selected Readings for Those Interested in Learning More about Landscape Studies in Archeology:

Adams, W.H.1990 Landscape Archeology, Landscape History, and the American Farmstead. Historical Archeology 24(4):92--101.

Andrezejewski, A.V. and A. Rachleff
1998 The Significance of Fragmentary Landscapes in Cultural Landscapes Preservation. Preservation of What, for Whom? 1998. Ithaca, N.Y., The National council for Preservation Education, 18--191.

Bender, B. (editor)
1993 Landscape: Politics and Perspectives, Berg, Providence.

Brown, M.R. and P. M. Samford
1990 Recent Evidence of Eighteenth-Century Gardening in Williamsburg, Virginia. In Earth Patterns: Essays in Landscape Archeology, edited by W.M. Kelso and R. Most, pp. 103--22. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Carson, C., N.F. Barka, W.M. Kelso, G.W. Stone, and D. Upton
1981 Impermanent Architecture in the Southern American Colonies. Winterthur Portfolio 16 (2/3):135--196.

Chapman, F.
1999 The Bighorn Medicine Wheel 1988-1999. CRM 22(3) 5--9.

Cheek, C.D. and D.J Seifert
1994 Neighborhoods and Household Types in Nineteenth-Century Washington, D.C., Fannie Hill and Mary McNamara in Hooker=s Division. In Historical Archeology of the Chesapeake, edited by P.A. Shackel and B.J. Little, , pp. 267--281. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Corbett, J., and N.R. Garcia
1994 Cultural Resources Management in Mexico. CRM 17(4):12--15.

Cressey, P.J. and J.F. Stephens
1982 The City-Site Approach to Urban Archeology. In Archeology of Urban American, The Search for Pattern and Process, edited by R.S. Dickens, Jr., pp. 41--62. Academic Press, New York.

Cressey, P.J., J.F. Stephens, S.J. Shephard, and B.H. Magid
1982 The Core-Periphery Relationship and the Archaeological Record in Alexandria, Virginia. In Archeology of Urban American, The Search for Pattern and Process, edited by R.S. Dickens, Jr., pp. 143--174. Academic Press, New York.

Delle, J.
1998 Archeology of Social Space, Analyzing Coffee Plantations in Jamaica=s Blue Mountains. Plenum Press, New York.

1994 A Spatial Analysis of Sugar Plantations on St. Eustatius, Netherlands Antilles. In Spatial Patterning in Historical Archeology: Selected Studies of Settlement, edited by D.W. Linebaugh and G.G. Robinson, pp. 33--62. King and Queen Press, Williamsburg.

Dickens, Jr., R.S. (editor)
1982 Archeology of Urban America, The Search for Pattern and Process. Academic Press, New York.

Ellwood. B.B.
1990 Electrical Resistivity Surveys in Two Historical Cemeteries in Northeast Texas: A Method for Delineating Unidentified Burial Shafts. Historical Archeology (24(3):91--98.

Ernstein, J.
1998 Shifting Land Use, Shifting Values, and The Reinvention of Annapolis. In Annapolis Pasts, Historical Archeology in Annapolis, Maryland, edited by P.A. Shackel, P.R. Mullins, and M.S. Warner, pp. 147--168. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Evans, Michael.
1998 Voices of Sacred Geography. Minnesota Common Ground. 17(2/3):64--69.

Fiero, K.
1998 A Legacy in Danger. Minnesota Common Ground. (2/3):2--31.

Fitts, R. K.
1996 The Landscapes of Northern Bondage. Historical Archeology 30(2):54--73.

Hardesty, D.L.
1990 Evaluating Site Significance in Historical Mining Districts. Historical Archeology 24(2):42--51.

Hardesty, D.L. and B.J. Little
2000 Assessing Site Significance, A Guide for Archaeologists and Historians. Alta Mira Press, New York.

Heath, B. and A. Bennett
2000 AThe little Spots allow=d them@: The Archaeological Study of African-American Yards. Historical Archeology 34(2):38--55.

Hofstra, W.R. and C.R. Geir
1999 Beyond the Great Blue Mountain: Historical Archeology and 18th Century Settlement in Virginia West of the Blue Ridge. In The Archeology of 18th-Century Virginia, edited by T.R. Reinhart, pp. 209--240. Spectrum Press, Richmond, Virginia.

Hood, J.E.
1996 Social Relations and the Cultural Landscape. In Landscape Archeology: Reading and Interpreting the American Historical Landscape, edited by R. Yamin and K.B. Metheny, pp. 121--146. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Hudgins, C.L.
1990 Robert AKing@ Carter and the Landscape of Tidewater Virginia in the Eighteenth Century. In Earth Patterns: Essays in Landscape Archeology, edited by W.M. Kelso and R. Most, pp. 59--70. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Jones, K.
1996 Ecological Approaches to the Stabilization of Civil War Earthworks. CRM 19(1):15--19.

Jopling, Hannah
1998 Remembered Communities: Gott=s Court and Hell Point in Annapolis, Maryland, 1900--1950. In Annapolis Pasts, Historical Archeology in Annapolis, Maryland, edited by P.A. Shackel, P.R. Mullins, and M.S. Warner, pp. 49--68. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Kelso, G.K.
1993 Pollen-Record Information Processes, Interdisciplinary Archeology and Land Use by Mill Workers and Managers: The Boott Mills Corporation, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1836B1942. Historical Archeology 27(1):70--94.

Kelso, W.
1992 Big Things Remembered: Anglo-Virginian Houses, Armorial Devices and the Impact of Common Sense. In The Art and Mystery of Historical Archeology: Essays in Honor of Jim Deetz, edited by A. Yentsch and M.C. Beaudry, pp. 127--145. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

1990 Landscape Archeology at Thomas Jefferson=s Monticello. In Earth Patterns, Essays in Landscape Archeology, edited by W.M. Kelso and R. Most, pp. 7--22. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

1989 Why Are You Digging Way Out Here? The Role of Landscape Archeology. Courier 34(8):20--22.

1984 Landscape Archeology: A Key to Virginia=s Cultivated Past. In, British and American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century, edited by R.P. Maccubbin and Peter Martin, pp 159--169.

Kelso, W. and R. Most (editors)
1990 Earth Patterns: Essays in Landscape Archeology. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

King, J.A.
1996 AThe Transient Nature of All Things Sublunary@: Romanticism, History, and Ruins in Nineteenth-Century Southern Maryland. In Landscape Archeology, Reading and Interpreting the American Historical Landscape, edited by R. Yamin and K.B. Metheny, pp. 249--272. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Krakow, J. L.
1993 Identifying and Evaluating Historic Corridors and Trails. CRM 16(11):14,20.

Kryder-Reid, E.
1998 The Archeology of Vision in Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake Gardens. In Annapolis Pasts, Historical Archeology in Annapolis, Maryland, pp. 268--290, edited by P. A. Shackel, P. R. Mullins, and M. S. Warner. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

1994 As is the Gardener, So is the Garden@: The Archeology of Landscape as Myth. In Historical Archeology of the Chesapeake, edited by P.A. Shackel and B.J. Little, pp. 131--148. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Leone, M.P.
1987 Rule by Ostentation: The Relationship between Space and Sight in 18th Century Landscape Architecture in the Chesapeake Region of Maryland. In Method and Theory for Activity Area Research, edited by S. Kent, pp. 604--633. Columbia University Press, New York.

1984 Interpreting Ideology in Historical Archeology: The William Paca Garden In Annapolis, Maryland. In Ideology, Power, and Prehistory, edited by D. Miller and C. Tilley, pp. 25--35. Cambridge University Press, London.

Leone, M.P., and P.A. Shackel
1990 Plane and Solid Geometry in Colonial Gardens in Annapolis, Maryland. In Earth Patterns, Essays in Landscape Archeology, edited by W.M. Kelso and R. Most, pp. 153--168. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Leone, M. P. and S. D. Hurray
1998 Seeing: The Power of Town Planning in the Chesapeake. Historical Archeology. 32(4): 34--62.

Leone, M. P., J. H. Ernstein, E. Kryder-Read, and P. A. Shackel
1989 Power Gardens of Annapolis. Archeology 42(2):34--37.

Leone, M.P., J. Stabler, and A.M. Burlaga
1998 A Street Plan for Heirarchy in Annapolis: An Analysis of State Circle as Geometric Form. In Annapolis Pasts, Historical Archeology in Annapolis, Maryland, edited by P.A. Shackel, P.R. Mullins, and M.S. Warner, pp. 291--306 University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Lightfoot, D.R. and F.W. Eddy
1995 The Construction and Configuration of Anasazi Pebble-Mulch Gardens in the Northern Rio Grande. American Antiquity 60(3):459--470.

Little, B. J.
1998 Cultural Landscapes of Printers and the AHeav=n-Taught Art@ in Annapolis, Maryland. In Annapolis Pasts, Historical Archeology in Annapolis, Maryland, pp. 225--243, edited by P. A. Shackel, P. R. Mullins, and M. S. Warner. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Matero, F.
1997 Managing Change: Conservation of Surface Finishes at Mesa Verde=s Cliff Dwellings. CRM (20(10):39--42.

McDaniel, J.M, and M.M. Gregory
1999 Archaeological Contributions to the Study of 19th Century Western Virginia Settlement. In The Archeology of 19th Century Virginia, edited by J.H. Sprinkle and T.R. Reinhart, pp. 11--52. Spectrum Press, Richmond, Virginia.

McKee, L.W.
1996 The Archeology of Rachel=s Garden. In Landscape Archeology: Reading and Interpreting the American Historical Landscape, edited by R. Yamin and K.B. Metheny, pp. 70--90. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Milbauer, J.A.
1997 Material Culture. Material Culture (29(3):19--28.

Miller, H.M.
1994 The Country=s House Site: An Archaeological Study of a Seventeenth-Century Domestic Landscape. In Historical Archeology of the Chesapeake, edited by P.A. Shackel and B.J. Little, pp. 65--83. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

1988 Baroque Cities in the Wilderness; Archeology and Urban Development in the Colonial Chesapeake. Historical Archeology. 22 (2):57--73

Miller, N.F. and K.L. Gleason (editors)
1994 The Archeology of Garden and Field. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Neiman, F.D.
1993 Temporal Patterning in House Plans From the 17th Century Chesapeake. In The Archeology of 17th-Century Virginia, edited by T.R. Reinhart, and D. J. Pogue. Special Publication 30 of the Archaeological Society of Virginia, and the Council of Virginia Archaeologists, Deetz Press, Richmond, Virginia.

Nowak, T..R.
1993 Techniques of Identifying and Evaluating Corridors and Trails: Archaeological Property Types as Contributing Elements. CRM 16(11):12--13.

Paynter, R.
1990 Afro-Americans in the Massachusetts Historical Landscape. In The Politics of the Past, edited by Peter Gathercole and David Lowenthal, pp. 49--73. One World Archeology No. 12. Unwin Hyman, Boston.

Pendery, S.R.
1998 Intersection of Interest. Minnesota Common Ground 3(2/3):54.

Pogue, D.
1996 Giant in the Earth: George Washington, Landscape Designer. In Landscape Archeology: Reading and Interpreting the American Historical Landscape, edited by R. Yamin and K.B. Metheny, pp. 52--69. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Pulsipher, L. M.
1990 They Have Saturdays and Sundays to Feed Themselves. Expedition (The University Museum Magazine of Archeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania). 32(2):24--33.

Reeves, M.B.
1998 Views of a Changing Landscape: An Archeological and Historical Investigation of Sudley Post Office (44PW294), Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia. Occasional Report No. 14, Regional Archeology Program, National Park Service, edited by Stephen R. Potter.

Rotman, D.L. and M.S. Nassaney
1997 Class, Gender, and the Built Environment; Deriving Social Relations from the Cultural Landscapes in Southwest Michigan. Historical Archeology 31(2):42--62.

Sanford, D.
1990 The Gardens at Germanna, Virginia. In Earth Patterns: Essays in Landscape Archeology, edited by W.M. Kelso and R. Most, pp. 43--58. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Schoenwetter, J.
1990 A Method for the Application of Pollen Analysis in Landscape Archeology. In Earth Patterns, Essays in Landscape Archeology, edited by W.M. Kelso and R. Most, pp. 277--296. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Schoenwetter, J. and J.W. Hohmann
1997 Reconstruction at the Founding Settlement of Las Vegas, Nevada. Historical Archeology 31(4):41--58.

Shackel, P.A.
1994a Town Plans and Everyday Material Culture: An Archeology of Social Relations in Colonial Maryland=s Capital Cities. In Historical Archeology of the Chesapeake, edited by P.A. Shackel and B.J. Little, pp. 85--96. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

1994b Memorializing Landscapes and the Civil War in Harpers Ferry. In Look to the Earth, Historical Archeology and the American Civil War, edited by C.R. Geier, Jr, and S.E. Winter, pp. 256--270. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Shackel, P. A. (editor)
2001 Contested Memories and the Making of the American Landscape, in press. Ms. 1999.

Smith, S.D.
1990 Site Survey as a Method for Determining Historic Site Significance. Historical Archeology (24)2:34--41.

Strangstad, L.
1990 A Graveyard Preservation Primer. Association for State and Local History. Nashville, Tennessee.

Travis, T.
1994 Canyon de Chelly National Monument: Interpreting a Dynamic Cultural System. CRM 17(7):19--22.

Upton, D.
1990 Imagining the Early Virginia Landscape. In Earth Patterns, Essays in Landscape Archeology, edited by W.M. Kelso and R. Most, pp. 71--86. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Wagner, G.E.
1990 Charcoal, Isotopes, and Shell Hoes: Reconstructing a 12th Century Native American Garden. Expedition (the University Museum Magazine of Archeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania) 32(2):34--43.

Wagstaff, J.M. (editor)
1987 Landscape and Culture: Geographical and Archaeological Perspectives.

Waters, M. and D.D. Kuehn
1996 The Geoarcheology of Place: The Effect of Geological Processes on the Preservation and Interpretation of the Archaeological Record. American Antiquity 61(3):483--497.

Weber, C.A., E.A.Comer, L.E. Akerson, and G. Norman
1990 Mount Clare: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Restoration of a Georgian Landscape. In Earth Patterns: Essays in Landscape Archeology, edited by W.M. Kelso and R. Most, pp. 135--152. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Wilson, J.S.
1990 We=ve Got Thousands of These! What Makes an Historic Farmstead Significant? Historical Archeology 24:23--33.

Yamin, R. and K. B. Metheny (editors)
1996 Landscape Archeology: Reading and Interpreting the American Historical Landscape. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

 

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