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


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Wegman, I ORCID: 0000-0002-0514-9184 2020 , '‘A truly sublime appearance’: using GIS to find the traces of pre-colonial landscapes and land use' , History Australia , doi: 10.1080/14490854.2020.1717348.

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When the British landed on the island of Van Diemen’s Land in1803, they found lands seemingly prepared for them. Abundantopen plains drew the newcomers further inland, attracted by theprospects of further pastoral and agricultural success. What theyneither understood nor acknowledged was the thousands of yearsof 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 thatanalysis of land-use continuities can reveal new understandings ofpre-colonial landscapes. This article uses two case studies to demonstrate two complementary approaches for uncovering thisstory. The first study follows a traditional approach that relies onhistoric sources such as maps, artwork and journals. The secondmethodology incorporates modern resources to build aGeographic Information System (GIS) from environmental and historic spatial data. The GIS compensates for an absence of traditional sources, thus enabling researchers to investigate areas ofcolonial expansion that have previously been undervalued. UsingGIS to understand this continuity of land use gives historiansanother tool for researching landscapes that have been obscuredby subsequent occupiers.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Wegman, I
Keywords: colonial landscapes, colonisation, indigenous landscapes, Australian history, Van Diemen's Land
Journal or Publication Title: History Australia
Publisher: Taylor & Francis Australasia
ISSN: 1449-0854
DOI / ID Number: 10.1080/14490854.2020.1717348
Copyright Information:

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

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