The development of human societies was shaped by the landscapes in which it took place and in turn shaped those landscapes. Both societies and landscapes evolved over time, partly interactively, partly under the influence of external factors like climate. Traces, left at and below the landscape surface, offer a non-written archive of human development that can be read, together with its time frame, using various methods available in natural sciences. This information complements that from written and oral sources making other landscape and climate conditions and other stages of human development accessible to research and extending the study of the dynamic aspects of transforming landscapes far back in time.
An interdisciplinary research strategy based on the dualistic character of ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ is needed to (i) capture all the relevant information regarding the influences of a complex body of interacting factors such as population density, topography, temperature, and hydrology, (ii) integrate these results in a coherent relational database, which (iii) allows their use in the modelling of different development scenarios to (iv) deconvolute and quantify the importance of the contributions of different factors to the observed developments. While soil scientists, geographers, geologists, and ecosystem researchers reconstruct soil use and landscape dynamics; archaeo- and historical-botanists explore the development of vegetation; and archaeo-zoologists trace faunal change and domestication, palaeoclimatologists quantify climatic and hydrologic forcing.