Antiquities Compared. (Special Section)
Kohler, Timothy A., Antiquity
Whenever I pick up a copy of ANTIQUITY (which for purposes of clarity one of my colleagues refers to as Un-American Antiquity) I am struck by its contrast with the journal I edit. ANTIQUITY is more colourful (both literally, as of late, but also metaphorically, for some time now), more diverse in its subject matter and nationality of contributor, reflecting its world-wide scope; and more informal, especially of course in its editorials, but also in its format, including News & Notes, Notes, longer articles, short notes on new books, review articles, relatively standard book reviews, and even (it takes an editor to notice) a nice index. American Antiquity by contrast looks a bit earnest and perhaps even slightly stodgy--the greatest of ironies considering that Americans traditionally consider Brits to be stodgy! So perhaps these editorial stances are mere compensatory screens on both sides. (According to Fustel de Coulanges (1980 : 213), following the disastrous engagement of Sparta at Leuctra, relatives of those who survived had to show themselves publicly in tears, whereas those whose sons had perished were to be seen publicly `with gay countenances'.) I want to use my allotted space to prospect a bit for the reasons behind these perceived differences--in case that explanation is either incorrect or incomplete--drawing on the education I received reading these papers.
Many of the contributors to this symposium make much of the fact that ANTIQUITY is not beholden to any institution or society. My own experience is that the responsibilities of American; Antiquity to the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) are not very onerous; in over two years of editorship I have yet to be lobbied by the President or by the Chair of the Publications Committee (himself a former ANTIQUITY editor) to accommodate a `Society viewpoint' on any issue, or to have my decisions on content in any way questioned. (That's not to say that individual members have not felt free to voice such opinions!) The constraints, to the extent that they exist, are more subtle than that. One important factor in the differences between the journals is that they were founded with somewhat different mandates, and both have been fairly faithful to their respective founding visions. That of ANTIQUITY, as I understand it from Renfrew, Malone and Darvill, was to serve the needs of a then relatively small archaeological profession for a worldwide coverage, yes, but even more, to engage an educated non-specialist public around the world in the world of archaeology. And I mean that broadly: the editorials are full of little gossipy bits about famous figures in archaeology that American Antiquity would never dream of publishing. So ANTIQUITY speaks to the same wide public interest in archaeology and related exotic things that Barbara Pym knew existed when she set Less than angels (1955) in a community of anthropologists, or that Agatha Christie developed so well in a number of mysteries (e.g. Christie 1951) that profited from her intimate knowledge of the archaeology and archaeologists of the Near East.
By contrast, American Antiquity has never seriously tried to reach out to the general public, although one of the concerns at its inception in the mid 1930s (we are only 67 years old) was to provide a platform for cooperation between a large avocational archaeological community and a very small professional community. If ANTIQUITY, especially in the Glyn Daniel years, seems a trifle clubby to the American reader, we can perhaps see that the journal thrived in part by giving non-archaeologists (who would not aspire to be part of that club) the vicarious pleasures of a look into the club. American Antiquity would not want (or dare, if it did want) to take such a stance. Whether because of a more egalitarian American ethos, or because there really was not much of a club, the preferred vision was (and remains) one of a shared goal with amateurs in which the specific status of the participants was subordinated to the daunting tasks of preserving and interpreting the record. …