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‘A truly sublime appearance’: using GIS to find the traces of pre-colonial landscapes and land use


Wegman, I, A truly sublime appearance': using GIS to find the traces of pre-colonial landscapes and land use, History Australia, 17, (1) pp. 59-86. ISSN 1449-0854 (2020) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 Australian Historical Association. This article has been accepted for publication in History Australia, published by Taylor & Francis.

DOI: doi:10.1080/14490854.2020.1717348


When the British landed on the island of Van Diemen’s Land in 1803, they found lands seemingly prepared for them. Abundant open plains drew the newcomers further inland, attracted by the prospects of further pastoral and agricultural success. What they neither understood nor acknowledged was the thousands of years of cultivation prior to their arrival. As the custodians of the island, the Tasmanian Aboriginal people used fire to manage and maintain a landscape that nourished them. This article proposes that analysis of land-use continuities can reveal new understandings of pre-colonial landscapes. This article uses two case studies to demonstrate two complementary approaches for uncovering this story. The first study follows a traditional approach that relies on historic sources such as maps, artwork and journals. The second methodology incorporates modern resources to build a Geographic Information System (GIS) from environmental and historic spatial data. The GIS compensates for an absence of traditional sources, thus enabling researchers to investigate areas of colonial expansion that have previously been undervalued. Using GIS to understand this continuity of land use gives historians another tool for researching landscapes that have been obscured by subsequent occupiers.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:colonial landscapes, colonisation, indigenous landscapes, Australian history, Van Diemen's Land
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:Wegman, I (Dr Imogen Wegman)
ID Code:137561
Year Published:2020
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2020-02-20
Last Modified:2022-08-29
Downloads:27 View Download Statistics

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