Worldviews in Transition: The Impact of Exotic Plants and Animals on Iron Age/Romano-British landscapes

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Abstract:

Cultural geographers have long accepted that plants and animals play an important role in the construction and perception of landscape but such beliefs are yet to be embraced by landscape archaeologists who seldom give consideration to bioarchaeological data beyond the occasional economic or environmental reconstruction. In an attempt to highlight the value of plant and animal remains for landscape research this paper examines the Iron Age/Romano-British transition from a bioarchaeological perspective, focusing on the landscape change brought by the exotic species introduced around A.D. 43. I argue that the establishment of new plants and animals altered patterns of landscape organisation by introducing horticultural spaces – gardens, orchards, vineyards – and wild animal reserves – vivaria and leporaria – all of which were unknown before the Conquest. In itself, the use of bioarchaeological data to highlight the widespread existence of Roman horticultural spaces and game reserves is important since these have received little attention from landscape archaeologists due to the difficulties of their detection. Beyond this, however, I propose that the arrival of these species and spaces impacted on the way that people engaged with, traversed and experienced their world. Indeed, the very concept of 'wild animal enclosure' indicates a Roman worldview fundamentally different to that seen in the Iron Age period, when people seemingly negotiated with the wilderness and wild things rather than feeling they had the right to bring them to order.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2004

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