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Historic Landscape Archaeology: Approaches, Methods and Beneficiaries

Master tools and methods in landscape archaeology to help protect and promote historic landscapes and cultural heritage.

886 enrolled on this course

The historic landscape of Rocca Pendice Colli Euganei, Italy.

Historic Landscape Archaeology: Approaches, Methods and Beneficiaries

886 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Intermediate level

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  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours
  • 100% online

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    $244.99 for one whole yearLearn more

Understand historic landscapes through the lens of archaeology

All over the world, historic landscapes are vanishing due to rapid climatic, economic, and demographic changes. But an awareness of the need to identify and protect these landscapes is also on the rise.

On this four-week course from the University of Padova, you’ll explore the history, definition, and politics of landscape. You’ll discuss what landscapes are, how to decipher their history, and why we should promote and protect them.

Uncover archaeological tools and methods, from excavation to environmental analysis

After an introduction to landscapes and the international institutions that protect them, you’ll delve into tools and methods for analysing them.

In Weeks 2 and 3 of the course, you’ll gain an overview of various methodologies in landscape archaeology, from reading and understanding ancient maps to remote sensing techniques.

You’ll also learn how analysis of soil, plants, and zoological remains can help archaeologists reconstruct environmental changes, and why earth, water, and fire are fundamental in past and present landscapes.

Learn how to engage local communities in land-use planning and conservation

In the final week of the course, you’ll identify the real beneficiaries of landscape archaeology, and consider the importance of involving local communities in land-use planning and conservation.

You’ll finish the course with a deeper understanding of the importance of landscape archaeology, and a knowledge of its many tools and methodologies.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds What does the word “landscape” mean? A magnificent mountain, a picturesque island, a tranquil lake? These are landscapes we can visit and admire. But landscapes are not only places to look at, there are also places where we live. Ever since the Neolithic Revolution, around 10,000 years ago, and even before, humans have used and shaped the landscape around them through plant domestication, agriculture, animal breeding, and exploiting and modifying uncultivated places such as woods, rivers and marshes. Over centuries, elements of landscapes have been created, restructured or abandoned, while others are used for centuries or even millennia, resulting in landscapes which are palimpsests reflecting many different periods of history.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds The layers of landscapes tell us stories about the past and so the term “historic landscape” evokes the time-depth of our seemingly “modern” cities and countryside. Archaeologists dig through these layers, unearth meaning, and reveal the histories of landscapes, through different sources and methods. By using innovative techniques of environmental archaeology, such as soil or pollen analysis, methods of remote sensing to identify landscape from above, more traditional sources like cadasters and historic maps, and connecting this data with archaeological evidence, we can understand how landscapes looked in the past and how they were managed and perceived by the people who lived in them.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds I’m Alexandra Chavarria, Professor of Medieval Archaeology at the University of Padova and with me as your guide, you will learn about these methods for reconstructing and understanding historical landscapes and the dynamics of change.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds Focusing on southern Europe, we will explore the character of Mediterranean territories and also how knowledge of the history of a landscape can improve its protection and sustainable use today. Finally, we will see how the involvement of local communities in the process of discovering and managing their own landscapes can be crucial not only to their cultural, social, and economic development, but also the research itself. Journey with me and together, let’s dig deep into the fascinating history of Mediterranean landscapes.


  • Week 1

    Approaches: What are Landscapes?

    • Introduction to the course

      For thousands of years, humans have created, re-structured, or abandoned elements in landscapes. Some have been used over centuries or millennia, resulting in palimpsests reflecting many periods of history.

    • Defining Landscape

      In this section we will outline methods for deconstructing and reconstructing the complexity of landscapes in order to understand them from a historical point of view.

    • Deconstructing Landscapes

      In this section we will see how landscapes are made of many different elements, and how these can emerge, develop, change, disappear, or alter in form over time.

  • Week 2

    Tools and Methods

    • Stratigraphy in landscape archaeology

      Learning how stratigraphy functions is a key step in understanding landscape archaeology.

    • Maps

      Ancient cartography, mostly that created from the 18th century onwards, is the basis for retrospective analysis and reconstruction of ancient landscapes.

    • From paper to computer

      During recent decades, a huge development in landscape archaeology has been the application of remote sensing imaging, which allows us to analyse large areas.

    • Case study

      Let’s now see how all the tools that we have looked at so far can be applied to a particular Mediterranean landscape

  • Week 3

    Methods: From site to lab

    • Archaeological surveys and excavations

      In the study of landscapes, archaeological field surveys and excavations are also fundamental to clarifying many chronological and historical issues that might otherwise remain unresolved.

    • Environmental analysis

      The study of landscapes has seen a boom in scientific approaches integrating paleoecology and geomorphology among other environmental sciences in order to better understand soil types and vegetation as well as other remains

    • Animals and landscapes

      Let’s see now how archaeologists recognize human-animal interactions as a key source of information for understanding landscape and society.

  • Week 4

    Mediterranean Landscapes: Earth, fire and water

    • Earth

      Cultivated terraces are modifications of mountains and hills to obtain land for agriculture. They generally incorporate dry stone walls, a kind of built structure that can be found all around the Mediterranean.

    • Fire

      Traces of the use of fire, including the working of metals and warfare, have left their marks on its landscapes.

    • Water

      Water is certainly the most important element for human existence. Settlement, cultivation, livestock farming and even the ecosystems themselves depend largely on the water supply.

    • Beneficiaries: what is this for?

      Landscape archaeology can engage communities in co-production of research (called participatory research or citizen science) and contribute to social sustainability by supporting new educational strategies and inclusion.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Compare definitions and meanings of landscapes between history, culture, and protection
  • Explore instruments and methods to identify and study historical landscapes
  • Investigate historical urban landscapes
  • Develop landscape protection initiatives in collaboration with local communities

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in learning more about historic landscapes and how we identify, study, and manage them.

It will be particularly useful for professionals (including archaeologists, museum conservators, educators, and tourism managers) looking to expand their knowledge and expertise in areas of cultural heritage and the management of historic landscapes.

Who will you learn with?

I teach medieval archaeology at the university of Padua . I love communicating knowledge and approaching people to cultural heritage.

I'm an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne where I research late antique archaeology, particularly wine and oil making and the roles of both children and monasteries in production

Who developed the course?

University of Padova

The University of Padova is one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious seats of learning; it aims to provide its students with both professional training and a solid cultural background.


Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe.

ED-editor project

Facing Challenges of Global Change in Higher Education Using Digital Tools for Reflective, Critical and Inclusive Learning on European Historical Landscapes

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Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

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  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 19 Jun 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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