McCord Centre for Landscape


LoCuLanD: Long-term Cultural Landscape Development

Assessing the historic character of landscapes through integrated remote sensing, scientific dating and digital data analysis

Cultural landscapes are recognized as key elements in the common European heritage. Nevertheless, in many regions their development and the historic features that contribute to their character are not yet satisfactorily understood by scholars or landscape managers.

Landscape historians have attempted to integrate studies of archaeological and documentary sources with historical cartography, routinely using GIS (Geographical Information Systems) in the process. Methods including retrogressive analysis (to examine how successive phases have developed) and Historic Landscape Characterisation or HLC (to represent the dominant historic character of the present landscape) are widely used to address landscapes on the regional scale. However, to fully understand how cultural landscapes were formed over the long term, and how elements from earlier landscapes contributed to the heritage of later periods (up to the present day), better methods for identifying ancient landscape features and understanding the chronological relationships between them are needed.

This project aims to address these methodological shortcomings by integrating the results of new data sources with the more conventional approaches currently being adopted. In particular, it will combine analysis of newly-available remote sensing data (e.g. lidar) with data from targeted field survey using GPS, terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and geophysical surveying methods, as well as innovative field-profiling and sampling of earthwork features for chronometric analysis using OSL (optically stimulated luminescence).

Data will be collected for case study areas in Northumberland (UK), Cornwall (UK) and Coastal Flanders (BE). It will then be analysed in an integrative GIS environment. This should provide more insight into which remnants of the different developmental stages have remained present in the landscape and will result in a more thorough reconstruction of the landscapes’ long-term evolution, with a higher level of chronological detail, for an area beyond the micro-level of an archaeological excavation. In this way, the results will help improve the reliability of the HLC method and provide the basis for an innovative comparative study of cultural landscape change.