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Landscape(s) of Time

One of the goals of our paper for the Modern Greek Studies Association meeting was to experiment some with the notion of landscape. We juxtapose four different ways of thinking about the place called Lakka Skoutara. By contrasting various methods for documenting Lakka Skoutara — ranging from intensive pedestrian survey to formation process archaeology and oral history — we sought to problematize the link between method and place in the Greek countryside. In particular, we focused on how different methods and perspectives produced meaning on different chronological scales and appealed in the conclusion to folks like Braudel and his fellow Annalistes who sought to document history with a similar sensitivity to scale.

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One issue that I am struggling with is whether to consider the notion of landscape as the space that encompasses all possible methods, interpretations, time scales, and meanings. Or, on the other hand, whether methods, interpretations, and time produce different landscapes which can be juxtaposed and compared as discrete entities. If the former, the landscape becomes a place where different regimes of knowledge interact. The physical reality of place becomes the common ground for these different ways of understanding our environment and history. Landscape archaeology represents the study of the landscape as a place where different ways of understanding the lived environment interact and overlap.

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If it is the latter, we allow for the physical place of archaeological work to dissolve or even collapse into notions of landscape that vary as much physically as methodologically. Thus landscapes have different physical, experiential, and epistemological realities that have little common ground. In this assessment landscape archaeology becomes the work of documenting the various landscapes present (as much as this is possible) and creating the conditions necessary for them to share the space of the archaeological document.   

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This may just represent a tiny crisis in terminology, but it may also represent something larger. The way that I am thinking about it, the former appraisal of landscape makes it possible for individuals to comprehend and live in a landscape that relies upon various discrete disciplines, methods, regimes, and experiences to create meaning. If the latter, I wonder if the idea of landscape becomes so highly individualized that they can only intersect within the realm of archaeological documents (both in the sense of real, dirty-nails, archaeology as well as the more Foucauldian variety).

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Categories: Survey Archaeology
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