6 Reconstruction, animation and absence: Landscape biography

One of the modern directions in past landscape research is compiling landscape biographies. It originates mostly from the UK, but there are some examples from other countries, too (e.g., Kolen and Witte, 2006). In fact, many works that analyze a landscape in several time periods can be defined as landscape biographies, and many of those have been mentioned already above (e.g., Spek, 2004; Rippon, 2012*). Another work worth mentioning is Avebury: the biography of a Landscape by Pollard and Reynolds (2002), where the authors discuss an English landscape through time, and by using different methods manage to create quite a lively picture of this landscape and its changes. This book represents a past landscape analysis from the viewpoints of settlement and social archaeology, human and natural geography and geology. The phenomenological side is not well represented in this book, and this is, probably, why it is lacking the livelihood in this reconstruction.

When past landscapes are concerned, there is always something absent from them. And what is absent can be interpreted in several ways. For example, when there is a stone grave in the landscape of the Bronze Age, but no actual cultural layer of a settlement site, it is only possible to assume where the people who used the grave lived and what kind of rituals were conducted on the grave. The further back in time we go, the more is absent, and has to be filled in with the researcher’s interpretation and knowledge, which is also an interesting subject of research (see, e.g., Bender et al., 2007). Therefore, landscape can also be defined as a series of tensions between the observer and the observed, interior and exterior, the invisible and the visible set in motion (Wylie, 2007, 2009). And this is why landscape reconstructions are always subjective, but the subjectivity itself actually animates them.

A life-story of a person is also considered a biography, but this narrative is full of emotions, alive and dynamic. A landscape biography should also include this dynamics, only then it becomes truly worthy of representing a past landscape.

  Go to previous page Scroll to top Go to next page