skip to main content

Attention:

The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Title: Virtual cultural landscapes: Geospatial visualizations of past environments
Abstract

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.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
0827305 0803353
NSF-PAR ID:
10388117
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Archaeological Prospection
Volume:
28
Issue:
3
ISSN:
1075-2196
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: p. 379-401
Size(s):
["p. 379-401"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Background

    Understanding pre-1850s fire history and its effect on forest structure can provide insights useful for fire managers in developing plans to moderate fire hazards in the face of forecasted climate change. While climate clearly plays a substantial role in California wildfires, traditional use of fire by Indigenous people also affected fire history and forest structure in the Sierra Nevada. Disentangling the effects of human versus climatically-induced fire on Sierran forests from paleoecological records has historically proved challenging, but here we use pollen-based forest structure reconstructions and comparative paleoclimatic-vegetation response modeling to identify periods of human impact over the last 1300 years at Markwood Meadow, Sierra National Forest.

    Results

    We find strong evidence for anthropogenic fires at Markwood Meadow ca. 1550 – 1750 C.E., contemporaneous with archaeological evidence for fundamental shifts in Indigenous lifeways. When we compare our findings to five other paleoecological sites in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, we find evidence for contemporaneous anthropogenic effects on forest structure across a broad swath of cismontane central California. This is significant because it implies that late 19th and early twentieth century forest structure – the structure that land managers most often seek to emulate – was in part the result anthropogenic fire and precolonial resource management.

    Conclusion

    We consequently suggest that modern management strategies consider (1) further incorporating traditional ecological knowledge fire practices in consultation with local tribal groups, and (2) using pollen-based reconstructions to track how forest composition compares to pre-1850 C.E. conditions rather than the novel forest states encountered in the late 20th and early twenty-first centuries. These strategies could help mitigate the effects of forecast climate change and associated megafires on forests and on socio-ecological systems in a more comprehensive manner.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract For much of modern human history (roughly the last 200,000 years), global sea levels have been lower than present. As such, it is hardly surprising that archaeologists increasingly are looking to submarine environments to address some of their most pressing questions. While underwater archaeology is most commonly associated with shipwrecks, the search for submerged prehistoric sites presents an entirely different set of challenges, even though many of the same technologies are used. For Great Lakes archaeologists, the problem is how best to adapt the range of available seafloor mapping and testing techniques to the problem of identifying prehistoric sites, while operating with smaller vessels and the limited budgets available to “normal” archaeology. In this paper, we briefly describe the approach we have developed at the University of Michigan for identifying 9,000-year-old caribou hunting sites beneath Lake Huron. The research employs a layered research design integrating sonars, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and scuba divers at progressively finer scales to discover and investigate these important new archaeological sites. 
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Archaeological and paleoecological evidence shows that by 10,000 BCE, all human societies employed varying degrees of ecologically transformative land use practices, including burning, hunting, species propagation, domestication, cultivation, and others that have left long-term legacies across the terrestrial biosphere. Yet, a lingering paradigm among natural scientists, conservationists, and policymakers is that human transformation of terrestrial nature is mostly recent and inherently destructive. Here, we use the most up-to-date, spatially explicit global reconstruction of historical human populations and land use to show that this paradigm is likely wrong. Even 12,000 y ago, nearly three quarters of Earth’s land was inhabited and therefore shaped by human societies, including more than 95% of temperate and 90% of tropical woodlands. Lands now characterized as “natural,” “intact,” and “wild” generally exhibit long histories of use, as do protected areas and Indigenous lands, and current global patterns of vertebrate species richness and key biodiversity areas are more strongly associated with past patterns of land use than with present ones in regional landscapes now characterized as natural. The current biodiversity crisis can seldom be explained by the loss of uninhabited wildlands, resulting instead from the appropriation, colonization, and intensifying use of the biodiverse cultural landscapes long shaped and sustained by prior societies. Recognizing this deep cultural connection with biodiversity will therefore be essential to resolve the crisis. 
    more » « less
  4. Although shell middens and mounds often occupy the same intertidal spaces as coastal wetlands, biophysical interactions between these cultural features and wetlands are under-investigated. To this end, our geoarchaeological and zooarchaeological research at three coastal archaeological sites within the Tampa Bay Estuary, USA, sought to understand the interactions between shell-bearing sites, sea-level rise, storms, and migrating wetland habitats. Percussion core transects document the accretion of mangrove peat atop intact shell midden, illustrating the ability of mangrove forests to encroach shell midden and preserve cultural material below. Landward wetland deposits are thicker and muddier than those along the seaward margin of the sites, suggesting that shell-bearing sites attenuate wave energy much like other shoreline stabilization structures. Differences in sedimentology, stratigraphy, and invertebrate species compositions highlight the variability in storm impacts between sites. Storm-driven depositional events are identified by medium-to-fine sand beds with high densities of fragmented shell and small intertidal zone snails. Geospatial analyses indicate that wetland encroachment is already occurring at 247 archaeological sites within the Tampa Bay Estuary. Approximately 100 additional archaeological sites currently located in upland habitats may provide topographic relief for migrating coastal wetlands in the future. We contend that shell middens and mounds constructed by Indigenous peoples are important components within estuarine mosaics, as they have been for millennia. We advocate for further collaboration between archaeologists and estuary managers and the inclusion of descendant communities to co-manage the future of their past. 
    more » « less
  5. This paper contributes to recent studies exploring the longue durée of human impacts on island landscapes, the impacts of climate and other environmental changes on human communities, and the interaction of human societies and their environments at different spatial and temporal scales. In particular, the paper addresses Iceland during the medieval period (with a secondary, comparative focus on Norse Greenland) and discusses episodes where environmental and climatic changes have appeared to cross key thresholds for agricultural productivity. The paper draws upon international, interdisciplinary research in the North Atlantic region led by the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) and the Nordic Network for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies (NIES) in the Circumpolar Networks program of the Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE). By interlinking analyses of historically grounded literature with archaeological studies and environmental science, valuable new perspectives can emerge on how these past societies may have understood and coped with such impacts. As climate and other environmental changes do not operate in isolation, vulnerabilities created by socioeconomic factors also beg consideration. The paper illustrates the benefits of an integrated environmental-studies approach that draws on data, methodologies and analytical tools of environmental humanities, social sciences, and geosciences to better understand long-term human ecodynamics and changing human-landscape-environment interactions through time. One key goal is to apply previously unused data and concerted expertise to illuminate human responses to past changes; a secondary aim is to consider how lessons derived from these cases may be applicable to environmental threats and socioecological risks in the future, especially as understood in light of the New Human Condition, the concept transposed from Hannah Arendt's influential framing of the human condition that is foregrounded in the present special issue. This conception admits human agency's role in altering the conditions for life on earth, in large measure negatively, while acknowledging the potential of this self-same agency, if effectively harnessed and properly directed, to sustain essential planetary conditions through a salutary transformation of human perception, understanding and remedial action. The paper concludes that more long-term historical analyses of cultures and environments need to be undertaken at various scales. Past cases do not offer perfect analogues for the future, but they can contribute to a better understanding of how resilience and vulnerability occur, as well as how they may be compromised or mitigated. 
    more » « less