Editorial

Article excerpt

* At 12.30 pm on Saturday 12 June 2004, the Trustees and Directors of Antiquity took the momentous decision to go digital--in other words to create an on-line version of the journal and all its previous issues. So many other periodicals have already slipped blithely into electronic publishing that readers may feel that a slow hand-clap is in order. However, ours is a very broad and varied constituency and much thinking has been devoted to the question of how to serve these diverse interests well. For many of us the way we read archaeology--or anything else--is closely related to the way we see life on earth and our place in it--a fundamental, even a metaphysical matter, not at all to be satisfied by throwaway aphorisms such as "inevitable technology", "improved cost-benefits" or "rapid dissemination". A technology which cannot be read in strong sunlight, expires if kept away too long from an electronic socket and becomes unreadable if you spill coffee on it is, one hopes, not inevitable. There is no contest with a book which doesn't mind rain and sand, is still legible after being run over and can be read in the bath without killing you. The rapid dissemination of information, as opposed to its appreciation, may be the problem rather than the solution. And as for cost-benefit, it is important that the cost shall not accrue exclusively to the reader and the benefit to the publisher.

With these things in mind, we have devised the following scheme, and I hope readers will permit me to take a few lines to describe it. The first thing to say is that the printed journal will go on being delivered in printed form so long as there is any demand for it. Those who like the printed journal shall continue to get it, regularly and pleasurably we hope. So what will the on-line journal look like and how will one read it? With one exception, it will resemble the printed journal in every particular, and that exception is the inclusion, in the on-line journal only, of certain tables and lists that support published articles. Readers will be aware that we have already been doing this over the last year, and it has been well received--or at least courteously tolerated--by authors. Subscribers to the on-line journal will have a user code and nice clear instructions to go with it which will provide them with access from Antiquity's website.

What then of the back-numbers? Antiquity's 77 years of publishing world archaeology has created a unique and priceless archive, containing not only discoveries and theories but commentary on its times and archaeology's place in them. For this reason we have decided to create a comprehensive search facility which can find not only authors and titles, but words and phrases used on any page, whether in articles, notes, reviews, advertisements or editorials. It is intended as an instrument with which to research both archaeology and archaeology's own history. A "premium" subscription gives access to all the back-numbers; but non-subscribers can also find and download particular articles through a "pay-to-view" option on our website.

Readers will find the options and rates for 2005 at the end of this volume. We hope very much that you will want to take up one or other of the options and encourage your colleagues and institutions to do likewise.

* Two hundred delegates from fifteen countries gathered in Lund, Sweden, in June to discuss the surprising subject of Old Norse religion. Their enthusiasm for the arcane was perhaps a measure of the current archaeological zeitgeist. Although not all of the 102 speakers were concerned with material culture, a great many were, and applied themselves with gusto to the interpretation of hanging rituals and the social role of the stuffed horse's penis. The modern European prehistorian is no bashful statistician with Christopher Hawkes' "Ladder of Inference" framed on the office wall. Finding past patterns and trends and explaining them in terms of changing subsistence and social control is yesterday's task. …