Throughout our postings, we have talked about the cultural landscape of the town of Gettysburg. But what we haven’t really talked about is why a cultural landscape is so important and effective for learning about the past. A cultural landscape is the combined effects of humans and nature on a certain section of land over time. Gettysburg’s cultural landscape has much more to do with the human side, as humans have had much more of an effect on the area (at least in recent times). By being inclusive and looking at all of the elements that go into a cultural landscape, we can learn about all the parts of the landscape, but also how they relate to each other. This is extremely helpful when anthropologists and archaeologists come across something they don’t know a lot about in the landscape. They can make inferences about it and figure out what it is or does or how it was used based on the context of the surrounding elements of the cultural landscape. For example, a button. If you or I found a button on the ground, our curiosity would be peaked and we would wonder where it came from. We might look around, but because we probably don’t know enough about our surroundings, we probably couldn’t figure out anything about it. Now if an archaeologist was looking at the remains of a house in Gettysburg, and found a button, they could probably figure out more. First of all, they have better technology, so they could test its age and make up. Then, given where it was found, they could probably figure out who or at least what kind of person used it. Its all about the circumstances. That’s what a cultural landscape provides. The context and circumstances to figure out the what, when, where, why, and how of an item. Its an invaluable tool for discovering our past.