By Christopher Tilley
Landscape has long been central to archaeology as the context within which sites and monuments are preserved, and as a long-lived dynamic entity deserving explanation. Intellectual tussles over the interpretation of ancient landscapes have seen the pendulum of endeavour swing back and forth between Romanticist and Enlightenment traditions but always driving thinking forward in what Andrew Sherratt characterised as the "European cultural dialectic". The mid-20th century belonged to Modernists bent on determining order and progression in landscape evolution. A blizzard of aerial photographs captured by the pioneers of aviation opened up exciting new vistas and a wealth of previously unsuspected remains. The meticulous historical geography of W.G. Hoskins, epitomised by his The Making of the English Landscape in 1955, and detailed fieldwork by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in England and sister bodies in Wales and Scotland made for a Golden Age of landscape archaeology, leading some to declare the whole of Britain one huge archaeological site. So where could research go next?
The answer came in Chris Tilley's A Phenomenology of Landscape, which melded anthropology with social theory to create a new application of cultural relativism for the interpretation of spaces and places. It is a book almost every archaeologist wishes he or she had written, and it holds the record as the fastest-selling volume from the tables of Oxbow Books when it was launched in 1994 at a meeting of the Theoretical Archaeology Group in Bradford.
At its heart is an analysis of how individuals experience the world now and in the past, using the relationship between "Being" and "Being-in-the-World" to unfold the process of "objectification" through which people set themselves apart from their world. To be human, Tilley argues, involves first creating a gap between the self and what is beyond and