Published October 1, 2019 | Version v1
Dataset Open

Cairn and Landscape Interaction: A Study of Human Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic



Cairns are very versatile constructions, used for a variety of human activities. For this reason, this project focuses on the study 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 and facilitates access to several North Atlantic datasets.

The study uses a variety of interdisciplinary data, methodologies, tools, and approaches in its analysis. It is divided in two case studies. The first case study 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 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. The second case study 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 using 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 cairn's usefulness in the study of human ecodynamics. The datasets available here belong to both case studies. The first presents an Icelandic (Westfjords) navigational dataset with information from the routes the cairns are located in as well as their likelihood of being a route marker. The second offers a Scottish clearance cairn dataset which includes a variety of archaeological, historical, and geological data. There are two versions of this dataset: the raw version (ClearanceCairnDataset) and the processed version which offers an interactive table which classifies the cairns on the basis of soil type as well as a variety of other variables (InteractiveClearanceCairns). The code used to analyse this dataset and produce bar charts and pie charts has also been uploaded both in its original R file and a XPS version. Both datasets include metadata in PDF format. A CSV file with combinators created to connect these datasets to DataARC's concept map has also been included (CombinatorsForDataARC).



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