The global theme of human development in their cultural and natural environment is linked to the detection of cross-linkages between different factors: the influence of man on nature and vice versa. At present, the natural change of environmental conditions has to be uncovered at more precise timescales, while the human impact on the environment needs to be understood. The creation of cultural environments amplifies the meaning of landscape: Apart from natural conditions (individual: health and genetics; ecological: soil, climate, vegetation; technological: wind and waterpower, or natural resources), social constants (social hierarchies, ideologies) play a decisive role in the formation of landscapes.
Social environments, within this concept of landscapes, are not only reflected by material remains but also by the spatial imprints of mobility and sustainability. The development of social space under specific ecological conditions is linked to the ideological systems which keep societies, for economic reasons or ritual purposes, together.
In this respect, the study of landscapes does not only concern environmental, demographic, and social reconstructions but also the ideological changes regarding “landscapes”: the conception individuals and societies have concerning “nature”.
Highly dynamic spatio-temporal processes underlie the data collected by numerous disciplines and the understanding of these processes requires expertise in palaeoclimatic, palaeoecological, palaeodemographic, as well as cultural research. Though the processes involved are of global character and apply to the entire human history, case studies concentrate on the Holocene, which is the key era of interactions between humans and landscapes, and mainly in Europe and adjacent regions. A critical reflection on the encoding and representation of material culture, spatial development, and landscape is unavoidable. The appropriation of landscapes by societies and their ambiguous symbolisms leaves room for many different reconstructions of the environments of different social groups and cultures.