Imagined Landscapes: Edges of the (Un)Known

Authored by: Lynette Russell

Handbook of Landscape Archaeology

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781598742947
eBook ISBN: 9781315427737
Adobe ISBN: 9781315427720


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Connections to landscapes often rely on entirely imagined relationships, particularly when these represent locations that are spatially or chronologically remote or detached from those with which we are most familiar. Ancient Greeks and Romans imagined that beyond the edges of their known world, there was a land frequented by grotesque, monster-like Barbarians who behaved in crude and aberrant ways (cf. McNiven and Russell 2005). During the Renaissance of Europe, the yetto-be-discovered “New World” was figured to be populated with hideous and deformed versions of humanity in an invented and imagined landscape. Such visions of fantastic landscapes are not simply a thing of times past; they continue into the present. The latest trend in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 1 based on Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films, is a series of Lord of the Rings tours in which thousands of tourists visit the film locations. All of these imaginary places also exist as geographic features and as part of Maori and Pakeha historical landscapes. Similar tourist ventures in Papua New Guinea include Kokoda Track tours that offer school groups the opportunity to relive and imagine key moments in World War II history and to create in young Australians a sense of national pride and palpable national spirit. In this latter venture, the cultural landscapes of the Papua New Guineans are overlain with an imagined war-scape. For archaeologists, a number of issues arise: how to interpret, to present, and to conserve a landscape or sites that have cultural values that are “of the mind,” and how to accommodate the concerns of people who believe they have a relationship with that landscape that is not empirically demonstrable (cf. Everson and Williamson 1998).

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