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.
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