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Building materials and landscapes

This section will discuss the connection between the choice of building material used in a location and the nature of the surrounding landscape.

Choice of building material usually depends on local availability of resources in the surrounding landscape. For example, we would not usually expect to find mudbrick buildings at a site in a rocky volcanic landscape; here, stone suitable for building is plentiful but clay-rich mud for bricks is uncommon. We are therefore better able to understand sites if we have knowledge of their surrounding landscape.

Good data on past settlement and land-use patterns is crucial for understanding the context for well-known sites. For example, a major city in an arid area may only have been sustainable because of a network of irrigation canals. Having accurate data about the landscape around a site can therefore help to inform the planning and development and helps in understanding our heritage.

Recording landscapes therefore not only helps us to know what is there, but can also provide us with useful data to feed into the management of planning and development around a site, and enhance its educational value.

How can we record these?

In order to record sites and their wider landscapes, there are some basic things that we need to know:

  • What is there – the nature of any remains
  • Where it is – the location of sites and features in space
  • The size and condition of any remains, and the types of material present
  • The nature of any threats or damage

Ideally, this information should be centrally recorded and made accessible to others.

How to begin?

Satellite imagery data is widely available, and makes for a great starting point. It can compensate for the absence of air-photographic coverage, reliable maps and, to some extent, archaeological inventories.

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