The Lay of the Land; Approaches to Landscape Archaeology

Session Hosting Format: 
in-person session
Saturday, May 6, 2023 - 9:00am to 12:00pm
Kluskap A
  • Benjamin, Kucher, University of Alberta; Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology
  • Lyndsay Dagg, University of Alberta; Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology
Contact Email: 
Session Description (300 word max): 

Landscape is a vital part of any community. They affect and are affected by culture and those who live in them. Thus they are also a vital area of study for any archaeologist trying to understand a community. In 1982 Lewis Binford published “The Archaeology of Place” where he argued for the importance of understanding the relationships among places. Now, 40 years later, understanding the relationships between people and places is still just as important despite the methods used to do this changing greatly. Researchers have borrowed technologies from other fields including Geology and Geography and applied them to archaeological research. Archaeologists have a large array of tools at their disposal; Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with Multi-spectral and LiDAR sensors, and Magnetic Radiometry to name a few. It is through these technologies that we want to explore how the sub-discipline of landscape archaeology has and continues to develop. Using “a landscape approach provides cultural–historical frameworks to evaluate and interpret diverse observations about spatial and temporal variability in the structure and organization of material traces” (Anschuetz et al 2001). How then, are these theoretical frameworks, methods and technologies challenging our understanding of the complex nature of existing relationships between people, places, and material?

Anschuetz, Kurt F., Richard H. Wilshusen, and Cherie L. Scheick. 2001. ‘An Archaeology of Landscapes: Perspectives and Directions’. Journal of Archaeological Research 9 (2): 157–211.
Binford, Lewis R. 1982. ‘The Archaeology of Place’. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 1 (1): 5–31.

09:00 AM: Surrealistic Landscapes and Poetic Imaginaries of Archaeological Objects
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Francisco Rivera - Universidad Católica del Norte, University of Toronto

Since the late nineteenth century, the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile has been a space of geopolitical tension, asymmetrical socioeconomic power, and a territory for mining extractivism by Canadian companies. The knowledge of its natural and cultural resources was assembled by scientific expeditions defining and configuring what we understand as a "desert," a peripheral empty and arid space ready to be occupied, domesticated, and exploited. The irruption and expansion of capitalist extractivism created a particular idea of landscape and reconfigured its socio-political contours. Archaeological expeditions and collectors actively participated in this "becoming desert" process. This paper takes as an example copper mining hammers hosted at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to show how they represent the Atacama Desert as an extractive territory. I propose the notion of "surrealistic landscapes," and I use the poetry of the Chilean Canadian poet Ludwig Zeller to highlight the surreal condition of archaeological sites and their artifacts hosted in Canadian museums. As part of an exiled heritage, they constantly feed the archaeological imagination of the world's most arid desert.

09:20 AM: In a forest, or on a beach? Archaeological prospection on the hypertidal coast of Minas Basin
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Wesley Weatherbee - Saint Mary's University

The hypertidal Minas Basin provides a fascinating landscape for archaeological prospection. Research at Oak Point has identified where preserved landscapes lie below the modern salt marsh; however, relying only on surface collected diagnostic artifacts and geomorphology yields date ranges broad enough to place any occupation within two ecosystems: a forested landscape, or a beach. The implications of these different ecological landscapes will have impacts on what activities were undertaken at the site, and potentially how people adapted to rapidly rising sea levels during the mid-Holocene. This presentation will address how the landscape at Oak Point has changed since deglaciation, the methods used to illustrate this, and how future research intends to clarify whether this site was deposited in a forest, or on a beach.

09:40 AM: Predictive model design for Southern Quebec Paleohistory: A case study using Saint-Jean River watershed
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Simon Paquin - Artéfact Urbain Inc. & Université de Montréal
  • Marie-Anne Paradis - Artéfact Urbain Inc.
  • Ariane Burke - Université de Montréal

Evaluating and mapping the archaeological potential of Canadian lands through topography, hydrology, historical maps, and archives are important components of every large-scale development or archaeological study. Predictive modelling is a useful tool to enrich such studies and was developed in the United States to evaluate the buried heritage of American national parks. Far from being a foolproof method, the advantage of predictive modelling is the transparency and explicit reasoning behind the presented model outputs. The method is seldom used in Quebec despite the large array of available environmental data online. In collaboration with Temiscouata National Park (Sépaq), we produced a machine learning predictive model for paleohistoric occupations and settlements for the Saint-Jean River watershed in Southern Quebec. This first model act as a proof of concept for the approach on Quebec lands, with the aim of developing the tool further for other Quebec regions and to add an additional trick to the CRM and landscape management toolkit.

10:00 AM: Soil Chemical Studies Across Multiple Landscapes
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Beatrice Fletcher - McMaster University

Characterizing human interactions with landscapes can take on multiple forms. Over the past few years, I have been interested in characterizing the anthropogenic chemical signatures left in the wake of a variety of activities at Indigenous contexts across what is now known as Southern Ontario. Applying Itrax core scanning, a non-destructive method of XRF analysis that requires relatively small sample sizes, I have generated data for small habitation sites, areas of ephemeral use, and intensely occupied Iroquoian Village contexts. By comparing the relative degree and form of anthropogenic chemical enrichment across these varied contexts, we can comment on the types of enrichment seen in Southern Ontario in comparison to other contexts. I also suggest soil chemical studies as a viable path forwards that may provide insight into the nature of human occupation in the past and dovetail effectively with other minimally invasive approaches that value site preservation while still pursuing narratives concerning human-landscape interaction.