Periodic Reporting for period 1 - METAPHOR (People, Space and Time: Understanding metaphors in sustaining cultural landscapes)
Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2017-06-30
1) Map sacred landscapes through metaphors represented by myths, legends and folklore linked to the two places chosen as case studies;
2) Explore how ‘metaphors’ sustain sacred cultural landscapes in traditional societies in Zimbabwe and Northern England; and
3) Examine how metaphors can be useful to archaeological research, the management of heritage places and ethical heritage practice.
The objectives of the research were a) to identify and characterise the sacred components of the selected landscapes; b) to unravel the complexity of cultural landscapes through the communities’ traditional knowledge systems and create new interpretation of those landscapes and c) to highlight the social nature of landscapes and therefore to assist scientists in recognising the invisible and indivisible bond between people and landscapes. By these means, the project served as a challenge to traditional philosophies about time, objects, spaces and landscapes.
In this study, metaphor is the language used in defining certain elements of the landscape through stories by communities that revere them. Through this understanding, sites and artefacts are anthropomorphize to behave like people and to take physical characteristics of humans. The project utilises two landscapes as case studies: Great Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe) a cultural site revered by Shona communities living near it, and The North Yorkshire Moors. The study will have a practical purpose: understanding metaphor by both experts and other users to create new interpretations of sacred landscape that can reduce conflicts with communities that inscribe cultures on the landscape. I argue that to understand cultural landscapes, one has to understand the cultural and environmental metaphors used by communities who have a long connection with them. Western approaches to cultural landscapes divides landscapes into natural and cultural. Emphasizing this separation, however, fails to understand the investment communities have in landscapes and also how communities relate to their environments. It also leads to archaeologists and heritage managers focusing on the monumental aspect and dividing landscapes into tangible and intangible. The experience of those that are immersed in the cultural landscape however shows that they experienced it through all senses not only the visual sense. It also brought out the idea that that it is not only the landscape that is changed by humans but people and their cultures are shaped by their interaction to a landscape. Understanding this will also make us understand what drastic changes in a cultural landscape can have on ontological security of communities.
My focus was on how communities perceive cultural landscapes through the stories they tell as well as the songs they compose about that landscape. I use narratives (folklore, myth, legends, stories and folk songs) as metaphors that can be deployed in the creation of biographies for cultural places and cultural landscapes. I also examine ways in which these biographies can be used in archaeological research.