Antiquity and the New World. (Special Section)

By DeMarrais, Elizabeth | Antiquity, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Antiquity and the New World. (Special Section)


DeMarrais, Elizabeth, Antiquity


In his first editorial, ANTIQUITY's founder, O.G.S. Crawford, wrote `our field is the Earth, our range in time a million years or so, our subject the human race' (1927: 1). ANTIQUITY was established for British archaeologists, but Crawford sought to publish a journal of world archaeology. ANTIQUITY's early success encouraged new subscribers and by the mid 1930s, the journal had an international readership; Crawford encountered difficulty in finding authors to write about subjects that lay outside the expertise of his British colleagues. After World War II, articles on the Americas appeared more frequently as ANTIQUITY hosted an increasingly international dialogue. Crawford and his successor, Glyn Daniel, endeavoured to produce a journal that was (as Daniel put it) `readable and relevant' for archaeologists of diverse interests and backgrounds.

This article considers ANTIQUITY's contributions to New World archaeology and, where possible, examines perceptions of the journal among American subscribers. ANTIQUITY is unusual in devoting a large number of pages to the Editorial, as well as to Notes & News. These sections provide wide-ranging, vivid and sometimes highly personal commentaries about new discoveries, archaeology's practitioners and the controversies and debates of the day. Useful for charting the history of the journal, as well as for understanding the craft of the editor, these sections--along with the articles--are the starting point for this analysis. My aim is to allow ANTIQUITY's pages to `speak for themselves', highlighting the journal's contributions to American archaeology throughout 75 years of publication.

O.G.S. Crawford and the early years, 1927-1940

The first article on the Americas appeared in 1928; in it, Maya specialist Eric Thompson argued strongly against hyper-diffusionist theories then in vogue, which traced the origins of all early civilizations to a single source (usually ancient Egypt). (1) Eight additional articles appeared between 1930 and 1940, including a set of review articles, papers on aspects of the archaeology of the Yucatan or Mexico, and an article examining the peopling of the Americas (TABLE 1).

The early papers were concerned with responding to claims of the diffusionists or with summarizing existing knowledge for an Old World audience. Four papers comprised a set of review articles--written by J. Leslie Mitchell covering the early centres of `civilization' in the Americas (the Yucatan, highland Mexico, and the Andes). Crawford introduced Mitchell's first paper on the Maya by noting that `We had long been trying to obtain an article on this subject, but hitherto without success' (1930: 369).

Mitchell's papers were rich in descriptions of art, architecture, and calendrics. Each paper also evaluated evidence for different diffusionist scenarios, while acknowledging the difficulty of choosing among them without more concrete evidence. Although Mitchell had never actually visited the Americas, he was undoubtedly one of the most accomplished literary figures to contribute to ANTIQUITY. J. Leslie Mitchell was the novelist Lewis Grassic Gibbon (1901-35), who authored 11 novels (including the critically acclaimed trilogy A Scot's Quair) as well as writing extensively on archaeology (Gifford 1983). (2)

Although these review articles suggest that Crawford sought to publish widely, British archaeology and Old World civilizations nevertheless formed the core emphasis of the journal at this time. Daniel (1981: 187) later interpreted this as a lack of interest on Crawford's part, arguing that

O.G.S. Crawford was completely uninterested in American archaeology and ANTIQUITY under his editorship had very few articles or news about America. Gordon Childe thought American archaeology was a sideline of no importance to the general history of man. In What Happened in history he said that pre-Columbian archaeology was `outside the main stream of history' by which, of course, he meant the stream of history in the Old World . …

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