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An Approach to Aboriginal Cultural Landscapes


Associative Cultural Landscapes

How is the concept of 'associative cultural landscapes' a break through in thinking about heritage resources?

Associative cultural landscapes mark a significant move away from conventional heritage concepts rooted in physical resources. Cultural heritage has been dominated by monuments, while natural heritage has celebrated pristine wilderness. Associative cultural landscapes accentuate the indivisibility of cultural and natural values.

What distinguishes an associative cultural landscape?

Boulder outcrop in field with trees behind.
Hatzic Rock, Xá:ytem National Historic Site, British Columbia.
© Parks Canada / Archaeological Services Branch / David Smyth / 1997.

While many landscapes have religious, artistic or cultural associations, associative cultural landscapes are distinguished by their associations with the natural environment rather than by their material cultural evidences, which may be minimal or entirely absent. The range of natural features associated with cosmological, symbolic, sacred, and culturally significant landscapes may be very broad: mountains, caves, outcrops, coastal waters, rivers, lakes, pools, hillsides, uplands, plains, woods, groves, trees.

A 1995 UNESCO workshop on associative cultural landscapes, held in the Asia-Pacific region, elaborated on their essential characteristics: "Associative cultural landscapes may be defined as large or small contiguous or non-contiguous areas and itineraries, routes, or other linear landscapes - these may be physical entities or mental images embedded in a people's spirituality, cultural tradition and practice. The attributes of associative cultural landscapes include the intangible, such as the acoustic, the kinetic and the olfactory, as well as the visual."

Cultural landscapes associated with indigenous peoples are most likely to fit in this category.


Last Updated: 2008-10-17 To the top
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