Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Experiencing the landscape/Maastikku Kogedes

Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Experiencing the landscape/Maastikku Kogedes

Article excerpt


To be human is to be place-bound in a fundamental way (Tilley 2004, 25)

The connections between people and their surrounding landscape have been different in different places and times. In the past, as amongst present traditional tribes, it was probably more intimate and deeper. The landscape was treated as an animated whole and people communicated with it. Originally even hostile landscape was humanized and socialized through social practices (Tacon 2000, 50). All that might have left some marks on landscape, but not necessarily. At the same time these relations between the people and the landscape affected people's mental worlds, their mental map. Although landscape is a physical entity, it is socially constructed in the minds of people and these mental images and cognitive constructions are controlled by people (Children & Nash 1997, 1). So its importance for the settlers was (and is) not only economical, but also mental.

People have always and everywhere explained their surroundings for themselves, whether it is landscape as a whole or some of its elements. These explanations and reasons for searching them have probably emerged from the sense of place and landscape experience and from personal connectedness with it, no matter if it comes directly or through the ancestors. Especially in the latter case, an oral tradition, connected with some places in the landscape has played an important part (c.f. e.g. Tacon 2000, 50). Landscape is the only real thing that connects people of different periods--the same landscapes that are inhabited today were often inhabited also millenniums ago. Undoubtedly past landscapes differed from those of the present but the prominent landscape features remain the same. Changes have taken place: once forested areas may now be open, a number of bodies of water have disappeared or turned into bogs, rivers may have changed their course, but the main features still exist.

The study of the landscape use has long traditions in Estonian archaeology. In essence, attention has been paid to the surrounding nature of almost every excavated object. True enough, it was not brought out separately in earlier period, but indirectly even these early studies give at least some idea of the landscape where some object was found, or that was used for some purpose. A large number of such works exist, the oldest of them date to the end of the 19th century (e.g. Grewingk 1884). In the first half of the 20th century, more attention was paid to the past natural environment (e.g. Indreko 1934; Vassar 1938), later years brought even more exact studies of the influence the natural environment had upon the ancient human settlement (e.g. Moora 1966; 1972; 1998; Lang 1996; 2000; Kruska 1999; 2001; 2003; Magi 2002; 2004). As an addition, different layers of meaning of the landscape have been studied (Lang 1999; Vedru 2002). A profound analysis of landscape studies in Estonian archaeology can be found in the article written by Valter Lang (Lang 2006).

All these works have focused on different aspects of the relations between man and landscape, the most important of these has been landscape as an environment for living. This approach is also used in the present article because the landscape experience is affected mostly by nature, but additionally other layers of meaning of the landscape are considered. Most important of them is the sense of place. Which places were valued in different periods and why? How was the attitude towards places expressed?

More and more attention has been paid to the recent landscape studies carried out in micro-scale (Bender 2001). It means more detailed analysis in local (natural) environment and enables to detect nuances that could stay unnoticed otherwise. The meaning of micro-scale can differ according to the size of the study area. In the present work it means a detailed study of the landscape. Questions considering the use of landscape and thereby also the sense of place can find answers if the small details of landscape are studied. …

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