Even a cursory glance at the academic literature will reveal that the deceptively simple term `landscape' in fact is a complex and contested concept imbued with multiple meanings. For researchers like myself, working mainly in the geosciences, `landscape' is generally taken to mean an objectified, material, `mappable' reality that can be seen. From this perspective, Africa's landscapes are globally important, occupying ~21 % of the Earth's continental surface area, and increasingly are regarded as likely to play critical roles in global climate change; for instance, through acting as sources of atmospheric dust and through their ability to release or sequester carbon. For many researchers in the social sciences, however, `landscape' can take on more nuanced meanings. There is recognition that what is `seen' by eye can be historically and culturally contingent, and that in any case there is a range of nonvisual embodied aspects of human interactions with the land, whereby `seeing' can be influenced by other faculties such as smell, touch, and memory. Hence, rather than just being something over which we gaze, by these more imaginative representations, landscapes are regarded more as something within which we live. From these perspectives too, Africa's landscapes are of global
Journal of African Archaeology – Brill
Published: Oct 25, 2011
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