Session 10 – Landscape Archaeology

Session 10 focussed on landscape archaeology and how the approaches from this can contribute to our understanding of the archaeology of the urban landscape.

Notes from Nicole’s lecture:

Focus of this session

  • That field doesn’t look very urban!
  • City and Country
  • The Transient City
  • Reading the landscape
  • Documenting the Landscape

Next session

  • How we have documented the landscape in the past using maps and plans
  • How we can use these documents to learn about urban archaeology

What does landscape archaeology do?

  1. Looks at larger context, identifying models of settlement area structures.
  2. Looks at settlement remains that are not identifiable by traditional means. i.e. no physical remains.
  3. Uses non-destructive methods of data analysis.

Landscape archaeology considers both:

  • Natural environment
  • Social environment

How do archaeologists view landscape?

  • They look at the land.

–      What is at the edge or beyond the excavation.

  • The look at The Land.

–      Thinking about how people in the past understood the landscape. A way of seeing the land, transforming the study of the land into ‘land-scape’.

— Johnson, M. 2007. Ideas of Landscape, Blackwell Publishing: London

Approaches to landscape archaeology

  • Multiple!

–      Quantitative Spatial Analysis

  • GIS
  • Predictive modelling

–      The soil

  • Bioarchaeology / Pollen analysis / Faunal analysis / Soil sampling

–      Archival data


  • Examples of what reading the landscape can tell us about archaeology.
  • Humans have always tried to understand the land

Example of rock art as a way to try to control the landscape

  • Bronze Age
  • Early Bronze Age

Example of Farming gets serious.

  • Fencing (of a sort).
  • Dartmoor and Exmoor
    – Moor Reaves

Example of Roman Roads

  • Reflect both

–      Political picture of mid-1st century AD Iron Age Britain

–      AND

–      Romans’ need to supply
the army efficiently.

Example of Medieval landscapes

  • Medieval partitioning of landscape was tied into the way society was structured.
  • Land partitioning supported by documentation.
  • Not just administrative, but also relating to power and authority.
  • Also in this period, there were attempts to develop knowledge around geography. The Church mediated much of this.

Example of Deserted Medieval Villages

  • Enclosure – from arable to pasture.
  • Some say: Development of rural capitalism.
  • Resistance through modification of landscape:

–      Levellers – took their name from levelling of hedges and ditches.

  • Wharram Percy – English Heritage

Example of 16-17th Centuries

  • Linking of land and social order:

1. Latin and Greek

–      Poems:

  • Milton’s Horatio at his farm
  • led to interest in farm management
  • led to increase in agricultural innovation

— see Thirsk, 1992. Making a Fresh Start

2. Gutenberg Press

–      Bible in the household

–      Access to the landscape and religious and political READINGS of the landscape:

  • The Garden of Eden
  • The Promised Land
  • The wilderness

— see Hill, 1993. The English Bible and the 17th Century Revolution

  • Divide between loyalty to the ‘monarch’ and loyalty to the ‘nation’.

–      See the Ditchley Portrait.

–      Later King Charles tried for treachery in the name of the nation.

Example of Henry VIII and Country Houses

  • Most built during reign of Henry VIII.
  • Last ‘castle’ was Thornbury (built 1511-21), but purely domestic.
  • Compton Wynyates (1510), Warwickshire. Built on site of Compton Superior.
  • More important than the house is the park.

Example of 18th Century

  • More and bigger parks.
  • Wimpole, Cambridgeshire and Earl of Dorcehster’s mansion built on abbey’s ruins.

–      Both had a village moved (Budby and Milton Abbas)

Urban landscapes?

  • In England over 90% of the population live in 8.3% of the total land area.
  • So 91.7% of England is still rural.

— Rowley, 2006.

  • Within the urban landscape there are signs of continuous human activity.
  • And within the 91.7% we can find signs of human activity.
  • The landscape as a palimpsest of human activity.

— Hoskins, 1955

After the lecture, we walked to the centre of Highfield Campus and looked down into the river valley. Using four maps from 1870 up until 1980, we looked at how the landscape had changed and discovered that the campus had been allotments, and also a brick quarry, explaining the unusual terrain.

On returning to the classroom, Gareth talked through some ways to survey the landscape. We’ll be building on this part of the session in Session 11, when we look at Maps and Archaeology. So many of the tools noted below will be described in more detail when we next meet.

Part 1 of this session dealt with:

  • Introduction to landscape archaeology
  • What constitutes landscape? i.e. natural/human agricultural/built
  • Theoretical approaches to landscape archaeology

Getting the Lay of the Land

  • Recording the Archaeological Landscape
  • Part 1 of 2

Spatial Data and Archaeology

Disclaimer: This is not specifically urban!

  1. A brief history of spatial data in archaeology
  2. Types of Spatial Data and How they are Captured
  3. Mapping and Surveying – How to
  4. Using Spatial Data…

Survey and Archaeology

  • Renaissance Maps and Taxation
  • The Ordnance Survey
  • Aerial Photographs
  • Space Age Techniques

Topographic Survey

  • The origins of modern landscape archaeology
  • More next week!

Topographic Survey How does it work?

  • GPS

Aerial/Satellite Photography

  • Pioneered in the 1910s
  • OGS Crawford
  • Huge archives of material

Satellite Imagery

  • High Coverage and Cheap (sort of)
  • Resolution issues for archaeology.
  • Geo-Sat 1 has a resolution of 0.41m pp

Vertical or Oblique?

  • Vertical (Above)
  • Oblique (Right)

Sources of Aerial Imagery

You may be interested in this short film, produced by the Ordnance Survey, that outlines the entire process of creating an OS map, in the 1960s: