Internet Archaeology: A Quality Electronic Journal

By Heyworth, Mike; Richards, Julian et al. | Antiquity, December 1997 | Go to article overview

Internet Archaeology: A Quality Electronic Journal

Heyworth, Mike, Richards, Julian, Vince, Alan, Garside-Neville, Sandra, Antiquity

In recent years traditional print publication has become increasingly limiting for archaeology. The limitations are well known and include: small and expensive print runs; high distribution costs; declining library subscriptions; and a tiny readership. As a consequence greater selection is required and 'full' publication is rarely possible. Some publishers adopted microfiche as a method of distributing supporting information and specialists reports, but this has proved consistently unpopular and has its own limitations. Archaeological fieldwork generates huge quantities of data (or should it be capta?) and with developments in information technology much of this data is now captured in a digital format. Why not distribute the data electronically to overcome the limitations of print technology? Archaeological reports are wellsuited to multimedia publication which allows access to colour images and large data-sets, as well as permitting several possible journeys through the hypertext.

This motivation led a consortium of archaeological organizations, including the Council for British Archaeology, the British Academy and several UK university archaeology departments (Durham, Glasgow, Oxford, Southampton and York], to propose an electronic journal for archaeology (Heyworth et al. 1995). A successful bid was made to the Electronic Libraries (eLib) programme of the Joint Information Systems Committee (a higher education community funded initiative) and the journal office, based at the University of York, was established in August 1995. Funding from the eLib programme is initially for three years.

The journal aims to become one of the world's foremost archaeological journals of record. It presents the results of archaeological research in a readable manner, and at the same time allows readers to explore the data upon which the conclusions of the research are based. It covers all elements of world archaeology, is fully refereed and has no print equivalent, so that the full functionality of the electronic environment can be utilized. The efforts of the Managing Editor (Dr Alan Vince) and Assistant Editor (Sandra Garside-Neville) are supported by a Steering Committee, which oversees the journal, an Editorial Board and a Technical Panel. The Chairman of the Steering Committee, Barry Cunliffe, acts as the journal's General Editor.

Three issues of the journal have now been published at The varied contents include contributions on selected artefact groups and environmental data, as well as discussions of particular developments in archaeological methodology. As well as text and colour graphics, the contributions include searchable data-bases, virtual reality models and interactive maps.

Academic issues

One of the aims of Internet Archaeology is to contribute to the process of culture change required before electronic publication is accepted amongst the academic community. There is a view that many archaeologists still crave the almost sensuous pleasure derived from a hardbound monograph, despite the fact that such publications are no easier to take to bed than a colour monitor. The problems of traditional archaeological publication have been wellrehearsed (see above). Underpinning the arguments of the proponents of the traditional book, however, are a number of serious worries which affect the acceptance of an on-line journal.

The first of these is quality. Mainly because of the uncontrolled way in which usage of the Internet has developed there is a genuine concern that much of the information available is garbage, and furthermore, that it is impossible to locate and distinguish resources of value. Such problems are essentially no different from concerns that sales of the works of von Daniken and others outstrip more reputable works, except that it is difficult to identify scholarly imprints from an Internet address, or Uniform Resource Locator (URL). Internet Archaeology has tried to follow traditional academic publishing models by adopting peer refereeing of all articles, both for content and for web-based realization. …

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