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Although originally a German term, landschaft also has an English and French synonym, the archaic term vill, a predecessor of the later word, village. Landschaft or vill was the term used to describe a certain type of farming settlement common to medieval Europe, although references are made to the landschaft type of community as far back as in ancient Egyptian heiroglyphs as well. Some early American settlers such as the English that colonized Virginia and New England also used a similar design for their settlements. The landschaft was typically a community of around three hundred people who lived in a fairly static setting usually consisting of a grouping of living and farming structures surrounded on all sides by pastureland, fields, and/or meadowland. The overall shape of the landschaft was typically as circular as the terrain allowed since it was grouped around a central focal point, the roland, and organized according to convenience. The fields closer to the grouping of structures were typically those requiring attention on a more regular basis, while those farther away were those which required attention less and less often in graduating order. Thus, the farmers of the community, which were pretty much the entirety of the population, minimized their overall travel time by using advantageous crop organization.

The landschaft operated more or less as a sort of commune; a lord usually owned the land but typically had little contact with the inhabitants beyond the occasional tribute payment, leaving the isolated communities to exercise government according to their own devices. The inhabitants often held both land and the food that they harvested from it more or less in common in order to maximize average crop yield for the entire community, thereby decreasing the possibility that one bad crop yield would kill a significant proportion of the population. This system worked partially because of the intense isolation of the individual landschaften (as we'll see shortly, landschaften and roads don't mix) and partially because of the rigid social order on which this and many other "traditional" social organizations operate. Because of the emphasis on survival in those societies and the almost universal human dependence on group formation for survival, the individual often takes a back seat to the community in "traditional" societies, which are usually more survival-oriented than our "modern", more individualistic approach to social contact.

In the landschaften, the fields were seen by the inhabitants as being every bit as important as the buildings in which they lived. Since the survival of the community very much depended on the food grown in the landschaft's fields, said fields were intrinsic to the survival of the landschaft and were seen as such. The landschaft was also quite isolated, being a type of society that arose and existed primarily before roads were very widespread. This contributed to a feeling of being at war with the surrounding wilderness and the perception of the very real fact that the landschaft could be overwhelmed by the forces of chaos that pervaded said wilderness, further strengthening the landschaft's tendencies toward social order as a sort of compensation. Some inhabitants, especially the young, often viewed this order as oppressive, as evidenced by the steady exodus from places like this with the advent of roads and road systems (near the end of the sixteenth century) that linked them to the outside world.

The term landschaft was later introduced into English as landskip by way of the Dutch, who mutated it into landschap before introducing it to the English. The term eventually came to be landscape, a term still used today to describe an artificial melding of human structures and the natural landscape, especially for agricultural purposes.

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