Editorial

By Scarre, Chris | Antiquity, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Editorial


Scarre, Chris, Antiquity


Our new cover design announces that Antiquity has moved to a new home with a new editorial team. It is both a great pleasure and an enormous challenge to follow in the footsteps of the distinguished series of editors who have guided and nurtured the journal since it first appeared back in 1927. Its mission remains unchanged: to bring the most significant recent research, be it fieldwork, analysis or debate, to the broadest possible archaeological audience.

Covering every aspect of archaeology and every part of the world, Antiquity is unique in its breadth and scope. Our mission remains as important today as when O.G.S Crawford, the founder of Antiquity, wrote in his first editorial in 1927 about important archaeological discoveries that "seldom reach the general public, and remain buried in obscure publications". With the growth of archaeology as a profession over the past 50 years, the readership of Antiquity has changed, but we still aim to attract the interest of the general non-professional, alongside the archaeological and heritage students and professionals who today form our main constituency.

It is also more widely read than ever before: one advantage of the digital age is greater accessibility with all the benefits which that brings. Being able to access an article from a home or office computer saves time and makes it easier to find what we are looking for. It also makes it possible to share research and information internationally on a scale never seen before. All those developments are good things. The larger the community of knowledge, and the more diverse in terms of region and tradition, the richer the archaeology that should result.

One of the key challenges facing journals in the twenty-first century, however, is the economic model that supports them, and the growing demands for Open Access. Under the current arrangement, most journal articles are hidden behind pay walls to which only subscribers, those linked to subscribing institutions, or those who are prepared to pay for an individual article have access. That is increasingly being challenged. The alternative model, where the author pays for the cost of publication, is being championed by governments in the UK and elsewhere. The benefits are many. Articles funded this way will be free to access by everyone, whether in Newcastle or Novosibirsk. Subscription charges that developing countries find difficult to afford will no longer be a barrier to knowledge. A new age of wider sharing of knowledge seems hence to beckon. But there are downsides too that have yet to be resolved. Who will provide the funding for authors to pay for publication of their articles? And how will that affect archaeologists from developing countries who cannot possibly be expected to find the money required? Antiquity has been increasingly successful in attracting articles from non-western scholars in recent years, and it would be a tragedy if that were to be compromised or reversed through the pressure for Open Access. This is a complicated issue to which we shall return in future editorials.

My first encounter with Antiquity was as a university student in the 1970s, when Glyn Daniel was editor. He had taken over following the sudden death of O.G.S. Crawford in 1957, not without some misgivings, as he later confessed. But with the able support of his wife Ruth, Glyn did a sterling job for 30 years, firmly establishing Antiquity as the leading journal of world archaeology. And so it has remained to the present day, its scope and content gradually expanding as there was more and more archaeology to report, not only from Europe, south-west Asia and North America but also from areas that hitherto had featured less regularly in these pages such as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and East Asia. The pattern had been set by Crawford: the very first issue of Antiquity in 1927 contained an article on Maori hillforts and a note on Mongolian flint scatters (the latter accompanied by acerbic comments on the chronology!

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