7 Conclusion

Now it is time to turn back to the example made in the introduction – the room in Paris that was closed for 70 years. It is a snapshot – a museum-like saved landscape. It is certainly not like going back in time on a time machine, which is probably the dream of many past landscape researchers, but an old withered photograph. Yes, it is probably quite authentic, for the room was untouched for all this time, but it lacks life, and this is what should be an aim of past landscape research.

Many directions of past landscape research have been discussed in this article: from the comprehensive perspective of settlement archaeology, research of historic land-use systems and path dependency to the more personal view of phenomenological archaeology. Landscape is a meshwork that includes different individual and collective life-stories and encompasses long periods of time. The reconstructions of past landscape should focus on transformations in social, ideological and religious spheres to see the reasons behind changes in physical landscape. Those transformations can be large-scale and impersonal, but may have been triggered by or compiled from individual lives of the members of societies. In other words, people matter, because landscape as such is formed in the human mind and does not exist out of it.

Nowadays researchers are trying to combine different methods to encompass longer time periods in different landscapes and to reach closer to past reality. Landscape biography is at the moment the most important methodology of looking back in time, and it is used in different countries in slightly variable ways (see, e.g., Roymans et al., 2010 in the Netherlands; Rippon, 2012 in the UK). Researchers are even trying to combine very different methods like GIS-modelling and phenomenology (e.g., Graves McEwan, 2012), the purpose of such attempts is to check the results of different methodologies in order to improve both methods. Interdisciplinarity is practically unavoidable in past landscape research at the time when the discussion between arts and sciences becomes more and more common in order to achieve the best results.

Let this article be finished with a thought of why past landscapes should be studied at all. As landscape is formed out of individual identities, it also works vice versa – without knowing where we come from or understanding what brought us to the present – or why – we cannot pronounce on the future (Sylwan, 2011, 10).

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