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Title: Virtual cultural landscapes: Geospatial visualizations of past environments

Recent advances in spatial and remote sensing technology have led to new methods in archaeological site identification and reconstruction, allowing archaeologists to investigate landscapes and sites on multiple scales. These remotely conducted surveys create virtual cultural landscapes and seascapes that archaeologists and the public interact with and experience, often better than traditional maps. Our study examines landscape reconstruction and archaeological site classifications from a phenomenological and human behavioural ecology (HBE) perspective. HBE aims to reconstruct how humans interacted with these places as part of their active and passive decision making. Through temporal reconstructions, archaeologists and others can experience and interpret past landscapes and subtle changes in cultural land‐ and seascapes. Here, we evaluate the use of remotely sensed data (lidar, satellite imagery, sonar, radar, etc.) for developing virtual cultural landscapes while also incorporating Indigenous perspectives. Our study compares two vastly different landscapes and perspectives: a seascape in coastal Alaska, USA, and a neotropical jungle in Belize, Central America. By incorporating ethnographic accounts, oral histories, Indigenous traditional knowledge and community engagement, archaeologists can develop new tools to understand decisions made in the past, especially pertaining to settlement selection and resource procurement. These virtual reconstructions become cognitive images of a possible place that the observer experiences. Virtual cultural landscapes allow archaeologists to reproduce landscapes that may otherwise be invisible and present them to different publics. These processes elucidate how landscapes changed over time based on human behaviours while simultaneously allowing archaeologists to engage with Indigenous communities and the public in the protection of prehistoric and historic sites and sacred spaces through cultural heritage management.

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Award ID(s):
0827305 0803353
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Archaeological Prospection
Medium: X Size: p. 379-401
p. 379-401
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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