Remote Sensing Reveals Lasting Legacies of Land-Use by Small-Scale Foraging Communities in the southwestern Indian Ocean

Archaeologists interested in the evolution of anthropogenic landscapes have productively adopted Niche Construction Theory (NCT), in order to assess long-term legacies of human-environment interactions. Applications of NCT have especially been used to elucidate co-evolutionary dynamics in agricultural and pastoral systems. Meanwhile, foraging and/or highly mobile small-scale communities, often thought of as less intensive in terms of land-use than agropastoral economies, have received less theoretical and analytical attention from a landscape perspective. Here we address this lacuna by contributing a novel remote sensing approach for investigating legacies of human-environment interaction on landscapes that have a long history of co-evolution with highly mobile foraging communities. Our study is centered on coastal southwest Madagascar, a region inhabited by foraging and fishing communities for close to two millennia. Despite significant environmental changes in southwest Madagascar’s environment following human settlement, including a wave of faunal extinctions, little is known about the scale, pace and nature of anthropogenic landscape modification. Archaeological deposits in this area generally bear ephemeral traces of past human activity and do not exhibit readily visible signatures of intensive land-use and landscape modification (e.g., agricultural modifications, monumental architecture, etc.). In this paper we use high-resolution satellite imagery and vegetative indices to reveal a legacy of human-landscape co-evolution by comparing the characteristics – vegetative productivity and geochemical properties – of archaeological sites to those of locations with no documented archaeological materials. Then, we use a random forest algorithm and spatial statistics to quantify the extent of archaeological activity and use this analysis to contextualize modern-day human-environment dynamics. Our results demonstrate that coastal foraging communities in southwest Madagascar over the past thousand years have extensively altered the landscape. Our study thus expands the temporal and spatial scales at which we can evaluate human-environment dynamics on Madagascar, providing new opportunities to study early periods of the island’s human history when mobile foraging communities were the dominant drivers of landscape change.

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Work Title Remote Sensing Reveals Lasting Legacies of Land-Use by Small-Scale Foraging Communities in the southwestern Indian Ocean
Access
Open Access
Creators
  1. Dylan Davis
  2. Kristina Douglass
Keyword
  1. Foraging
  2. niche construction
  3. landscape archaeology
  4. remote sensing
  5. ecological legacies
  6. Madagascar
License CC BY-NC 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial)
Work Type Article
Acknowledgments
  1. All vegetative indices (NDVI, SAVI, NDWI) were calculated using PlanetScope Imagery (Copyright Planet Labs Inc. 2021).
Publication Date 2021
DOI doi:10.26207/zmsr-tc92
Geographic Area
  1. Madagascar
Deposited March 01, 2021

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Version 1
published

  • Created
  • Added Creator Dylan Davis
  • Added Creator Kristina Douglass
  • Added R_Code.R
  • Updated Description, Publication Date, License Show Changes
    Description
    • Archaeologists interested in the evolution of anthropogenic landscapes have productively adopted Niche Construction Theory (NCT), in order to track and evaluate cumulative anthropogenic impacts. Applications of NCT have especially been used to elucidate co-evolutionary dynamics in agricultural and pastoral systems. Meanwhile, foraging economies, often thought of as less intensive in terms of land-use than agropastoral economies, have received less theoretical and analytical attention from a landscape perspective. Here we address this lacuna by contributing a novel remote sensing approach to investigating co-evolutionary dynamics in landscapes that have a long history of co-evolution with foraging communities. Our study is centered on coastal southwest Madagascar, a region inhabited by foraging and fishing communities for close to two millennia. Despite significant environmental changes in southwest Madagascar’s environment following human settlement, including a wave of faunal extinctions, little is known about the scale, pace and nature of anthropogenic landscape modification. Archaeological deposits in this area generally bear ephemeral traces of past human activity and lack the intensive kinds of landscape modification that archaeologists typically look for as evidence of human environmental impacts (e.g., agricultural modifications, monumental architecture, etc.). In this paper we use high-resolution satellite imagery and machine learning to reveal a legacy of human-landscape co-evolution by comparing the characteristics – vegetative productivity and geochemical properties – of archaeological sites to those of locations with no documented archaeological materials. Then, we use a random forest algorithm to quantify the extent of archaeological activity and contextualize modern-day landscape impacts in this region. The results of this analysis demonstrate that coastal foraging economies in southwest Madagascar over the past thousand years have made – and continue to make – significant, long-standing impacts to the modern landscape. Our study thus expands the spatial-scale at which we can evaluate human-environment dynamics on Madagascar, including during early periods of the island’s human history when mobile foraging communities were the dominant drivers of landscape change.
    Publication Date
    • 2021
    License
    • https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
  • Added Kernel_Density_Test.zip
  • Added Planet_NDVI.zip
  • Updated Description Show Changes
    Description
    • Archaeologists interested in the evolution of anthropogenic landscapes have productively adopted Niche Construction Theory (NCT), in order to track and evaluate cumulative anthropogenic impacts. Applications of NCT have especially been used to elucidate co-evolutionary dynamics in agricultural and pastoral systems. Meanwhile, foraging economies, often thought of as less intensive in terms of land-use than agropastoral economies, have received less theoretical and analytical attention from a landscape perspective. Here we address this lacuna by contributing a novel remote sensing approach to investigating co-evolutionary dynamics in landscapes that have a long history of co-evolution with foraging communities. Our study is centered on coastal southwest Madagascar, a region inhabited by foraging and fishing communities for close to two millennia. Despite significant environmental changes in southwest Madagascar’s environment following human settlement, including a wave of faunal extinctions, little is known about the scale, pace and nature of anthropogenic landscape modification. Archaeological deposits in this area generally bear ephemeral traces of past human activity and lack the intensive kinds of landscape modification that archaeologists typically look for as evidence of human environmental impacts (e.g., agricultural modifications, monumental architecture, etc.). In this paper we use high-resolution satellite imagery and machine learning to reveal a legacy of human-landscape co-evolution by comparing the characteristics – vegetative productivity and geochemical properties – of archaeological sites to those of locations with no documented archaeological materials. Then, we use a random forest algorithm to quantify the extent of archaeological activity and contextualize modern-day landscape impacts in this region. The results of this analysis demonstrate that coastal foraging economies in southwest Madagascar over the past thousand years have made – and continue to make – significant, long-standing impacts to the modern landscape. Our study thus expands the spatial-scale at which we can evaluate human-environment dynamics on Madagascar, including during early periods of the island’s human history when mobile foraging communities were the dominant drivers of landscape change.
    • Archaeologists interested in the evolution of anthropogenic landscapes have productively adopted Niche Construction Theory (NCT), in order to assess long-term legacies of human-environment interactions. Applications of NCT have especially been used to elucidate co-evolutionary dynamics in agricultural and pastoral systems. Meanwhile, foraging economies, often thought of as less intensive in terms of land-use than agropastoral economies, have received less theoretical and analytical attention from a landscape perspective. Here we address this lacuna by contributing a novel remote sensing approach for investigating legacies of human-environment interaction in landscapes that have a long history of co-evolution with highly mobile foraging communities. Our study is centered on coastal southwest Madagascar, a region inhabited by foraging and fishing communities for close to two millennia. Despite significant environmental changes in southwest Madagascar’s environment following human settlement, including a wave of faunal extinctions, little is known about the scale, pace and nature of anthropogenic landscape modification. Archaeological deposits in this area generally bear ephemeral traces of past human activity and do not exhibit readily visible signatures of intensive land-use and landscape modification (e.g., agricultural modifications, monumental architecture, etc.). In this paper we use high-resolution satellite imagery and vegetative indices to reveal a legacy of human-landscape co-evolution by comparing the characteristics – vegetative productivity and geochemical properties – of archaeological sites to those of locations with no documented archaeological materials. Then, we use a random forest algorithm and spatial statistics to quantify the extent of archaeological activity and use this analysis to contextualize modern-day human-environment dynamics. Our results demonstrate that coastal foraging communities in southwest Madagascar over the past thousand years have made – and continue to make – significant, long-standing impacts to the modern landscape. Our study thus expands the temporal and spatial scales at which we can evaluate human-environment dynamics on Madagascar, providing new opportunities to study early periods of the island’s human history when mobile foraging communities were the dominant drivers of landscape change.
  • Deleted Planet_NDVI.zip
  • Added NDVI_AN.tif
  • Added SAVI_WS.tif
  • Added SAVI_DS.tif
  • Added SAVI_AN.tif
  • Added NDWI_AN.tif
  • Added NDVI_WS.tif
  • Added NDVI_DS.tif
  • Added SWIR_PS.tif
  • Added SWIR_PS2.tif
  • Updated License, Acknowledgments Show Changes
    License
    • https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
    • https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
    Acknowledgments
    • All vegetative indices (NDVI, SAVI, NDWI) were calculated using PlanetScope Imagery (Copyright Planet Labs Inc. 2021).
  • Added RF_128_prob.tif.zip
  • Updated License Show Changes
    License
    • https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
    • https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
  • Added README.md
  • Updated Keyword, Geographic Area Show Changes
    Keyword
    • Foraging, niche construction , landscape archaeology, remote sensing, ecological legacies, Madagascar
    Geographic Area
    • Madagascar
  • Deleted README.md
  • Added README.md
  • Published
  • Updated

Version 2
published

  • Created
  • Updated Work Title, Description Show Changes
    Work Title
    • Remote Sensing Reveals Lasting Legacies of Land-Use by Small-Scale Foraging Societies
    • Remote Sensing Reveals Lasting Legacies of Land-Use by Small-Scale Communities in the southwestern Indian Ocean
    Description
    • Archaeologists interested in the evolution of anthropogenic landscapes have productively adopted Niche Construction Theory (NCT), in order to assess long-term legacies of human-environment interactions. Applications of NCT have especially been used to elucidate co-evolutionary dynamics in agricultural and pastoral systems. Meanwhile, foraging economies, often thought of as less intensive in terms of land-use than agropastoral economies, have received less theoretical and analytical attention from a landscape perspective. Here we address this lacuna by contributing a novel remote sensing approach for investigating legacies of human-environment interaction in landscapes that have a long history of co-evolution with highly mobile foraging communities. Our study is centered on coastal southwest Madagascar, a region inhabited by foraging and fishing communities for close to two millennia. Despite significant environmental changes in southwest Madagascar’s environment following human settlement, including a wave of faunal extinctions, little is known about the scale, pace and nature of anthropogenic landscape modification. Archaeological deposits in this area generally bear ephemeral traces of past human activity and do not exhibit readily visible signatures of intensive land-use and landscape modification (e.g., agricultural modifications, monumental architecture, etc.). In this paper we use high-resolution satellite imagery and vegetative indices to reveal a legacy of human-landscape co-evolution by comparing the characteristics – vegetative productivity and geochemical properties – of archaeological sites to those of locations with no documented archaeological materials. Then, we use a random forest algorithm and spatial statistics to quantify the extent of archaeological activity and use this analysis to contextualize modern-day human-environment dynamics. Our results demonstrate that coastal foraging communities in southwest Madagascar over the past thousand years have made – and continue to make – significant, long-standing impacts to the modern landscape. Our study thus expands the temporal and spatial scales at which we can evaluate human-environment dynamics on Madagascar, providing new opportunities to study early periods of the island’s human history when mobile foraging communities were the dominant drivers of landscape change.
    • Archaeologists interested in the evolution of anthropogenic landscapes have productively adopted Niche Construction Theory (NCT), in order to assess long-term legacies of human-environment interactions. Applications of NCT have especially been used to elucidate co-evolutionary dynamics in agricultural and pastoral systems. Meanwhile, foraging and/or highly mobile small-scale communities, often thought of as less intensive in terms of land-use than agropastoral economies, have received less theoretical and analytical attention from a landscape perspective. Here we address this lacuna by contributing a novel remote sensing approach for investigating legacies of human-environment interaction on landscapes that have a long history of co-evolution with highly mobile foraging communities. Our study is centered on coastal southwest Madagascar, a region inhabited by foraging and fishing communities for close to two millennia. Despite significant environmental changes in southwest Madagascar’s environment following human settlement, including a wave of faunal extinctions, little is known about the scale, pace and nature of anthropogenic landscape modification. Archaeological deposits in this area generally bear ephemeral traces of past human activity and do not exhibit readily visible signatures of intensive land-use and landscape modification (e.g., agricultural modifications, monumental architecture, etc.). In this paper we use high-resolution satellite imagery and vegetative indices to reveal a legacy of human-landscape co-evolution by comparing the characteristics – vegetative productivity and geochemical properties – of archaeological sites to those of locations with no documented archaeological materials. Then, we use a random forest algorithm and spatial statistics to quantify the extent of archaeological activity and use this analysis to contextualize modern-day human-environment dynamics. Our results demonstrate that coastal foraging communities in southwest Madagascar over the past thousand years have extensively altered the landscape. Our study thus expands the temporal and spatial scales at which we can evaluate human-environment dynamics on Madagascar, providing new opportunities to study early periods of the island’s human history when mobile foraging communities were the dominant drivers of landscape change.
  • Published
  • Updated

Version 3
published

  • Created
  • Updated Work Title Show Changes
    Work Title
    • Remote Sensing Reveals Lasting Legacies of Land-Use by Small-Scale Communities in the southwestern Indian Ocean
    • Remote Sensing Reveals Lasting Legacies of Land-Use by Small-Scale Foraging Communities in the southwestern Indian Ocean
  • Added Davis_Douglass_2021_FEE.pdf
  • Published
  • Updated