Cultural Landscapes

Lesley Head

in The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199218714
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

Cultural Landscapes

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  • Archaeology
  • History and Theory of Archaeology
  • Landscape Archaeology



This article explores the idea of cultural landscapes. The term ‘cultural landscape’ is widely recognized as a description of a region of the earth that has been transformed by human action. This article explores the history of the idea of cultural landscapes, focusing on two dichotomies. The first is the dichotomy between materiality and symbolism; from highly material beginnings in the early twentieth century, the second is the dichotomy between nature and culture, concepts treated as oppositional for much of this history. It then examines some of the geographic differences, with particular attention to Australian and Scandinavian examples. The next section explores what happens when the cultural landscape idea itself becomes materialized, in the form of land and heritage management frameworks. The final section presents a recent critique of the cultural landscape concept and asks whether it is possible to go beyond the dichotomies, and whether the concept retains any usefulness.

Keywords: landscapes; cultural landscapes; materiality; symbolism; nature; culture

Article.  5614 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; History and Theory of Archaeology ; Landscape Archaeology

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