From storytelling we recall great pioneering achievements mostly as heroic deeds. However, the origin of the term pioneer comes from the Spanish peón (Spanish: 'the walking one'), established in the Spanish conquista period. These people were the trailblazers, doing the ground work for a new settlement. This dual perspective on pioneer can be seen in regards of colonization and settling activity. This interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary project aims at a comparative analysis of newly established settlements in different places and in different temporal epochs, and the associated climatic, environmental and cultural influences. The aim is to investigate how settlers' initial situation (such as their experience, support from the area of origin), the local situation caused by environmental conditions, and any contacts in inhabited areas have influenced the nature of the foundation and further development. The factors are versatile, starting with their arrival: whether in terra nullius, or settling in already populated areas with the resulting intercultural encounters. Social factors such as group communication or interaction with other parties play a role, integration into or suppression of an existing system, the use and availability of resources, and the strength of counterparties competing for food and commodities.
The project will proceed systematically, step by step, with the initial focus on the collection of empirically evaluable, existing, archaeological and, if available, historical datasets that show the potential for reevaluation with digital and statistical methods. The question is to what extent can this be understood as 'pioneering'? If possible, remote sending and close range sensing methods should then be used to complement and evaluate the data collection, to survey the immediate vicinity of the settlement. For the principal analysis of the complete datasets and interpretation of the settlement in its environment, GIS and statistical methods are preferred to understand the structure, and relation of the elements to each other, and as part of the cultural landscape. Visualization could bring new insights into the integration of the settlement and its inhabitants in their environment.
The conference session Seas of Encounters - Mapping colonial impacts on indigenous landscapes (T01S018), co-organized by Till Sonnemann as part of the NEXUS 1492 project at the EAA2014, showed that a cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural research approach is urgently needed to gain new insights on this topic. Therefore, cooperation with other disciplines is sought. A way to complement the datasets could therefore be limited invasive analysis by small scale excavation in collaboration with local archaeologists, and using relevant geoarchaeological techniques from geology, geomorphology, pedology, isotope analysis, or palynology studies.