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The paradox of landscape

  • Robert Johnston


‘The paradox of landscape’ is that, in theory, landscape aspires to a totality of human experience, but in practice it suppresses the complexity of the human experience. By supposing a ‘landscape perspective’ in the past, archaeologists are imposing a modern view of the world. In consequence, more varied perspectives should be considered during any archaeological inquiry. This is not a criticism of the use of landscape as a term to distinguish the wider spatial relationships between places which exist in the present. What is suggested as being unjustifiable is the use of the ‘landscape perspective’ to orientate and contextualize past human experience. This critique is illustrated and complemented by a case-study examining prehistoric land enclosure in Britain.

Le paradoxe du paysage est qu', en théorie, la notion de paysage aspire à représenter la totalité de l'expérience humaine de l'espace, cependant, en pratique, elle supprime cette complexité. En attribuant une conscience du paysage aux hommes du passé, les archéologues imposent une vision moderne du monde. On devrait par conséquent tenir compte de perspectives plus variées dans les études archéologiques. Ceci ne constitue pas une critique de l'utilisation du terme ‘paysage’ pour définir des relations spatiales plus larges entre les lieux qui existent aujourd'hui. Mais on suggère qu'il est injustifié d'utiliser ce terme pour orienter et replacer dans son contexte les expériences humaines passées. Cette idée est illustrée par une étude de cas qui examine les limites parcellaires en Grande-Bretagne durant la préhistoire.


Das ‘Landschaftsparadox’ besteht darin daß Landschaft theoretisch nach einer Ganzheit menschlicens Briebns strebt, aber praktisch die Komplexität menschlichens Erlebens unterdrückt. Wenn Archäolog(inn)en eine. ‘Landschaftsperspektive’ für die Vergangenheit einnehmen, heißt das, ihr eine moderne Weltsicht aufzuzwingen. Während einer archäologischen Untersuchung sollten deshalb auch andersartige Perspektiven in Betracht gezogen werden. Dies ist keine Kritik am Gebrauch von ‘Landschaft’ als Begriff, der die weiteren räumlichen Beziehungen zwischen Plätzen bezeichnet, die in der Gegenwart existieren. Was hingegen für ungerechtfertigt gehalten wird, ist die Anwendung der ‘Landschaftsperspektive’, um menschliches Erleben in der Vergangenheit zu kontextualisieren. Diese Kritik wird illustriert und ergänzt durch eine Fallstudie über vorgeschichtliche Landeinfriedungen in Grossbritannien.



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The paradox of landscape

  • Robert Johnston


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