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Quantifying Land Use in Past Societies from Cultural Practice and Archaeological Data

1
Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
2
ARVE Research Sàrl, 1009 Pully, Switzerland
3
Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, 752 36 Uppsala, Sweden
4
Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, 07745 Jena, Germany
5
Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 November 2017 / Revised: 5 January 2018 / Accepted: 11 January 2018 / Published: 16 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Anthropogenic Biomes)
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Abstract

Quantitative reconstructions of past land use facilitate comparisons between livelihoods in space and time. However, comparison between different types of land use strategies is challenging as land use has a multitude of expressions and intensities. The quantitative method presented here facilitates the exploration and synthetization of uneven archaeological and textual evidence from past societies. The approach quantifies the area required for habitation, agriculture, arboriculture, pasturage, and fuel supply, based on a combination of archaeological, historical, ethnographic and modern evidence from the relevant geographical region. It is designed to stimulate discussion and can be used to test a wide range of hypotheses regarding local and regional economies, ancient trade and redistribution, and the resilience and/or vulnerability of past societies to environmental change. The method also helps identify where our gaps in knowledge are in understanding past human–environment interaction, the ecological footprint of past cultures and their influence on the landscape in a transparent and quantitative manner. The present article focuses especially on the impact of dietary estimates and crop yield estimates, two main elements in calculating land use in past societies due to their uncertainty as well as their significant impact on calculations. By employing archaeological data, including botanical, zoological and isotopic evidence, alongside available textual sources, this method seeks to improve land use and land cover change models by increasing their representativeness and accuracy. View Full-Text
Keywords: agriculture; pasture; woodlot; population; subsistence; land use; archaeology agriculture; pasture; woodlot; population; subsistence; land use; archaeology
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Hughes, R.E.; Weiberg, E.; Bonnier, A.; Finné, M.; Kaplan, J.O. Quantifying Land Use in Past Societies from Cultural Practice and Archaeological Data. Land 2018, 7, 9.

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