Cultural Landscape : General Discussion
The World Heritage Center defines a Cultural Landscape as one intentionally designed and created by human action, as one that has evolved naturally in relationship to traditional social ways of life, or as one that has associative value. Within this last category, the landscape is endowed with “powerful religious, artistic or cultural associations…”(UNESCO World Heritage Center: Cultural Landscape). Another way of thinking about Cultural Landscapes is to consider the definition offered by the geographer, Carl Sauer: a cultural landscape is one that has been “… fashioned from a natural landscape by a cultural group. Culture is the agent, the natural are the medium, the cultural landscape is the result" (Sauer 1925).
Within mountainous Bayan Ölgiy, the deliberate placement of ancient surface monuments with reference to specific landscape features and directions results in the expansion of the monuments’ expressive force. Conversely, the intentional placement of monuments calls attention to specific features in the landscape and to the cardinal directions, thereby reinforcing a sense of their signifying power. In both respects, setting and orientation indicate ancient intentionality and the existence of cultural landscape within a synchronic dimension.
We find, also, that monuments frequently reflect their builders’ awareness of what occurred at an earlier age at that site. This awareness is reflected in the overlay of monuments of different periods and in the reuse of stones from one period and monument to the next. In this respect, the cultural landscape of this region, also, exists within a diachronic dimension, suggesting a sense of cultural memory.
While we do not know what the interrelationships of monuments and natural features or directionality signified, we can observe regular patterns in their occurrence; and we can conclude that ancient people of the Bronze and Iron Ages understood their existence to be lodged within realms of vast physical and even cosmic dimensions.