Kythera Island Project
Examples of KIP GIS analysis:
GIS during intensive survey
Scale issues
Second Palace farmsteads
Post-Medieval land use

GIS and Post-Medieval Land Use

Principal Investigator:
Andrew Bevan (UCL)

in collaboration with:
Charles Frederick (Independent)
Nancy Krahtopoulou (Sheffield)

Field enclosures and terraces across the island
Field enclosures (in red), terraces (in blue) and villages (in orange) across the island as mapped by the HMGS. These are shown on top of a slope map, geoarchaeological study areas in green outline.

Satellite images, aerial photos, maps and intensive survey offer a wealth of information on 19th-20th century land use practices, during a period in which the population of the island has changed dramatically (from a high of ca.15,000 to ca. 3000 today). In many cases, it is clear that certain land use regimes have persisted since much earlier times. GIS provides a primary platform for combining these datasets and exploring them in formal ways. For example, we can consider the relationship between Kytheran field systems and various environmental variables such as slope and geology/soils. Broadly speaking, extant Kytheran field systems can be divided into three types:

  1. enclosed fields
  2. hillslope terraces
  3. cross-channel terraces (sometimes enclosed)

These phenomena offer a good instance of where GIS-led analysis works in tandem with other KIP research areas such as geoarchaeology to shed light on the spatial structure of anthropogenic Mediterranean landscapes. We can use a combination of detailed geoarchaeolgical study at the regional scale and coarser-grained, island-wide 1:5,000 Hellenic Military Geographical Service (HMGS) map data to examine the relationship between these different strategies, especially the first two.

For example, as terrain gets steeper, enclosed fields gradually give way to contour terracing (usually unenclosed on Kythera) , but we can suggest a rough threshold at ca.12º, where the prevalence of field enclosures is declining most rapidly and the increase in terracing reaches a plateau. This matches broadly the empirical estimates made by previous researchers and can be regarded as a useful rule-of-thumb for the transition from one strategy to another. Furthermore, hillslope terraces concentrate on the steeper slopes on Kythera and were used for both fruit crops (olives, grapes, figs etc.) and planted with cereals. They are constructed in a variety of ways and have important affects on the visibility of archaeological remains on the surface, sometimes exposing them, but more often obscuring them from view (see Geoarchaeology, Terracing and its Impact). Initial analysis (Bevan et al. 2003) suggests that the critical factor behind which parts of the steeper landscape were invested with terraces was a preference for specific geological formations, primarily the soils forming on Eocene flysch and Neogene regressive conglomerate units.

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