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Symbolism and Place

  • By: Briavel Holcomb
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Humans have always used symbols, and archeo-logical evidence suggests that in nearly all societies, including prehistoric ones, particular places have held symbolic significance. Symbols are stand-ins for something, whether material (as in the case of places) or not (as in the case of the dove of peace or the Nazi swastika). Indeed, places are intrinsically symbolic, since places are, by their very nature, a part of space with meaning.

Geographers have long been interested in symbolic places and how symbols represent places. The Parthenon represented the birthplace of democracy in ancient Greece as, among U.S. citizens, the Liberty Bell may stand for independence from England. Paris and France may be symbolized by the Eiffel Tower, and St. Louis, Missouri, may be symbolized by its Arch. After ...

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