Antiquity at 75. (Special Section)

By Fagan, Brian | Antiquity, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Antiquity at 75. (Special Section)


Fagan, Brian, Antiquity


I have been a reader of ANTIQUITY since I was an undergraduate, more years ago than I care. to contemplate. It occupies a special place in' my heart. The journal's pages have kept me in touch with a wider archaeological world when camped in Central Africa, at sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and on Alaska's North Slope--to mention only a few locations where it has reached me. Life without it is unthinkable. I rejoice at its 75th birthday and at the chance to offer a few thoughts On the subject.

The papers in this special section are a paean of praise for ANTIQUITY, for the vision of its founder and the acumen of the editors who succeeded him. This is as it should be for we are, after all, entitled to a modicum of self-analysis and self-congratulation on this auspicious occasion. After all, how many people would have predicted that Crawford's bold enterprise would have endured for 75 years, three-quarters of a century ago?

The same distinguished contributors have also analysed the content of the journal from diverse perspectives, among them American archaeology, method and theory, and British and European prehistory. But there has been surprisingly little talk of what lies ahead. Surely the future of ANTIQUITY is far more important than its past! I believe that our revered journal stands at an important crossroads on its 75th birthday.

The four editors of ANTIQUITY have collectively built up the editorial foundations of the journal. Crawford railed at the outset against `the parochial'. He envisaged a `journal with worldwide scope'. He aimed his ANTIQUITY as much at serious amateurs as he did the few professionals of the day. His objective was to `communicate ideas in an informative, non-technical way'. That the journal survived is a measure of his success.

Glyn Daniel was a humanist, an editor who believed that archaeology was about the people of the past and the people who do archaeology.

Chris Chippindale followed through on Crawford's dream and made ANTIQUITY into a world archaeology journal. He upped the professional ante, as well as the technical level of many of the articles.

The present editors have continued in his tradition and have introduced many notable innovations, among them the brief reports with colour illustrations--widely valued by people in many parts of the world.

ANTIQUITY continues to evolve, but I believe we are at the threshold of a new era, because archaeology has changed dramatically in the past generation.

What are some of the trends?

We are witnessing an inexorable move to far greater levels of specialization; to an archaeological world where there are specialists in myriad exotica--to mention only a few: Hoabhinian choppers, plant flotation, Andean roads and medieval rabbit-keeping in Yorkshire. With this increased specialization comes a contentment with intellectual blinkers, a mushrooming intellectual myopia, which allows people to claim that they have no need to read outside their narrow specialty. What arrogant, utter nonsense! How can you study the past, even in the narrowest focus, without a broader perspective? Such people need a subscription to our journal, for ANTIQUITY provides a unique vehicle for reading about the wider world of archaeology in the broadest sense, while at the same time being academic rather than popular.

We are living through a massive population explosion of professional archaeologists in all parts of the world, not only in academia, but many of them in cultural resource management, heritage, and the private sector. Archaeology has become a profession as much as a scholarly discipline, a community of astounding intellectual and practical diversity. Apart from academic specialization, we see fragmentation by occupation, and a general erosion of the intellectual quality of much research. One reason may be because we lack a common forum for general intellectual communication and for reading about archaeology as a whole, a place where we can meet in print as a community. …

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