Antiquity and the Scope of Archaeology. (Special Section)

By Renfrew, Colin | Antiquity, December 2002 | Go to article overview
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Antiquity and the Scope of Archaeology. (Special Section)


Renfrew, Colin, Antiquity


The beginnings of world archaeology

Our field is-the world, our range in time a million years or so, our subject the human race.

CRAWFORD 1927: 1

In this short paper I want to make several bold claims for ANTIQUITY, and for the achievement of the man who founded it in 1927, O.G.S. Crawford, and his successor Glyn Daniel, who edited the journal from 1958 to 1986. For, in a world today with what seems like too many periodical publications and with numerous places for discussion, it is possible to overlook that for a whole generation ANTIQUITY was perhaps the only journal in the world which already had a vision of what was later to become world archaeology. Perhaps the full potential of a global view could fully be realized only with the development of radiocarbon dating (itself first brought to wide public attention in the pages of ANTIQUITY in 1949): its systematic application by Grahame Clark, one of Crawford's younger colleagues and a regular contributor from 1931, resulted in the publication in 1961 of World prehistory, an outline, dedicated to the memory of Crawford and of V. Gordon Childe. But already, decades earlier, ANTIQUITY was blazing this global trail. To quote the concluding words of Crawford's autobiography Said and done (1955: 312):

I find it difficult to dissociate my views about the future of archaeology in general from the future of ANTIQUITY, for I want the one to reflect and influence the other. To some extent ANTIQUITY is already, just such an open forum. It has both readers and contributors in every country in the world, and when choosing a reviewer distance is no object. No other archaeological publication has this world-wide basis.

To justify that claim I would like to draw your attention to the very selective TABLE I of the date of first publication of various mainly archaeological publications, principally in the English language. I have divided them using the annus mirabilis of 1859 (the year of Darwin's On the origin of species and of the establishment of the antiquity of humankind) and utilized also the boundaries offered by the dates of World War I and World War II. In general I have omitted local regional journals, despite their early date and frequently their excellence.

From this list it may indeed be claimed that ANTIQUITY was the first archaeological journal with a world-wide scope. Of course pride of place must go to the very early antiquarian publications, such as those of the Society of Antiquaries of London (i.e. Archaeologia and Antiquaries Journal), but these were devoted primarily to English antiquarian studies. They continue today to have a mainly English bias and to deal to a significant extent with the surviving material culture of the Middle Ages and later periods. Other journals (such as Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland or Archaiologike Ephemeris) were indeed pioneering journals, but devoted mainly to the archaeology of a single country. Certainly there were some early anthropological journals which reflected the world-wide scope and interests of 19th-century anthropology (Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; L'Anthropologie; American Anthropologist), but these were never primarily archaeological journals, although they did and still do contain important archaeological contributions.

It might have been argued that American Journal of Archaeology would be the first archaeological periodical to have a world-wide coverage, and such was indeed the stated intention of its founders (Renfrew 1980), but it soon developed a preoccupation with the classical and pre-classical archaeology of the Mediterranean lands. Thus it fell to ANTIQUITY, from its foundation year of 1927, to take on that innovatory role.

Since then, of course, it has been joined by several newcomers or even rivals. While American Antiquity is mainly (but not exclusively) devoted to the archaeology of the Americas, the coup in 1935 at the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia, engineered by Grahame Clark and C.

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