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

    Imogen Wegman (see profile)
    Landscapes, History, Imperialism, Indigenous peoples, Australia, Geographic information systems, Tasmania
    Item Type:
    Landscape history, Colonial history, Indigenous history, Australian history, GIS
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    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 were 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, and 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.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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