Cairn and landscape interaction: a study of human ecodynamics in the North Atlantic

Roigé Oliver, Mar (2020) Cairn and landscape interaction: a study of human ecodynamics in the North Atlantic. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Cairns are very versatile constructions, used for a variety of human activities. For this reason, this master’s thesis focuses on the analysis of navigational and agricultural cairns as a way to further the study and understanding of human ecodynamics in the North Atlantic. The project was developed within the wider framework of DataARC, a ciberinfrastructure that interconnects several North Atlantic datasets while facilitating access to them. This master’s thesis aims to connect its results and datasets to cyberinfrastructure’s concept map. The study uses a variety of interdisciplinary data, methodologies, tools, and approaches in its analysis. It is divided into two case studies. Case Study One analyses the role of navigational cairns and their relationship with the roads and the general landscape while creating proposed routes between late medieval/early modern farm networks in Iceland. The methods used in this case study are least cost path and intervisibility analysis. The results support the hypothesis that cairns were being used as road markers, and suggests a dependence between landscape features and cairn positioning, indicating landscape agency. Case Study Two focuses on analysing the position and effect of clearance cairns in the Scottish landscape. Archaeological and landscape data (i.e. soil quality, land compaction, erosion levels, and continued use in agricultural practices) were combined in a newly created dataset that was examined with statistical analysis. The results show a correlation between the presence of cairns and a high erosion risk while proposing three effects of clearance cairns on soils: so exhaustive they are no longer cultivable, they are cultivable but have a risk of erosion, and so non-exhaustive that they can still be cultivated. Overall, the project’s findings highlight cairns’ usefulness in the study of human ecodynamics. In both case studies, cairns are the physical representation of an active and ever-changing interaction between humans and their environment, and the relevance and agency of landscape. These are based on Case Study One’s feature-dependant cairns, and Case Study Two’s observation of human adaptation to the landscape’s changes. This opens the possibility of an expansion of the area of study, including other areas and continents, and/or a focus on developing studies that focus on cairn multifunctionality.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: cairns, human ecodynamics, Iceland, clearance cairns, navigational cairns, GIS, least cost path, archaeology, route markers, DataARC, soil, Scotland, North Atlantic.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Opitz, Dr. Rachel
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Mar Roigé Oliver
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81443
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2020 06:48
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2020 06:51
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