The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 100

Issue 100

May / June 2008


There is more content online than usual for this bumper issue!


Early Scottish gardens unturfed

Axes could be 0.5m years old

In the press

Listing lobby was no hot air

Kent Anglo-Saxon cemetery could be royal

Poetry to assist transfer of Hadrian's Wall collection

In Brief & Phase 2


John Wymer
Mike Pitts introduces an archaeologist with a fine eye for illustration

The Lost Royal Cult Of Street House, Yorkshire
The excavation of a unique Anglo-Saxon cult cemetery

Born digital: Making People Believe
How computers have changed the world of archaeology

The Office: Heritage and Archaeology at Fortress House
John Schofield finds unexpected things on Savile Row

Green Men & The Way of All Flesh
Richard Hayman uproots a fashionable myth

on the web

Recommended websites
Caroline Wickham-Jones considers archaeological imagery, and The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland has a new website

100 letters & news

Some of the letters we received and news stories we revealed in the past 100 issues

CBA correspondent

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA
Communication is king, says Mike Heyworth, celebrating nearly 60 years of magazines

Extra online content


Sebastian Payne asks, what do forensic archaeologists do?

Mick's travels & more travels

Mick Aston looks for early saints in Cornwall, and an introduction to visiting Cornwall's sites & monuments

my archaeology

Phil Harding, the man with five guitars


ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

CBA correspondent

Communication is king, says Mike Heyworth

BA News, January 1995 BA1, February 1995

The CBA documents the archaeology of typefaces in a line of magazines and newsletters reaching back nearly 60 years

The 100th issue of any magazine is worth celebrating, and particular thanks go to Simon Denison and more recently Mike Pitts for the exceptional way in which they have developed British Archaeology. It has grown substantially from 16 black and white pages (with colour cover), first published in 1995, to this special 84-page issue – the largest ever produced.

British Archaeology is the latest in a continuous line of CBA magazines and newsletters stretching back to 1951, when Beatrice de Cardi produced the first regular CBA Calendar of Excavations, the unique and essential guide to excavation opportunities across the UK. This evolved, expanded in size and content, and by the 1980s had become an a4 newsletter, British Archaeological News (BAN), edited by the then CBA director Henry Cleere. I remember him typing away on his Amstrad word processor in the CBA's London office in Kennington Road for each issue (we still have the discs – though no computer which can read them!).

This version of BAN was aimed at professional archaeologists and enthusiastic amateurs, principally covering heritage management issues; but the calendar of excavations at the back was the key to many annual subscriptions, as in those pre-internet days there was simply no other way to obtain this information. The CBA received several thousand inquiries a year about fieldwork opportunities, and this led to many subscriptions to BAN.

In the early 1990s, with the introduction of individual membership for the CBA and the move to reach out to a much broader public, the old-style BAN was replaced by a more magazine-style format, mostly in black and white but with green headings. The excavation calendar was printed in a new stand-alone Briefing section, with added details of conferences, courses, new books and other noticeboard-style material.

I recall working on the first issue of this new magazine, along with Carol Pyrah (now head of English Heritage's north-east region). As relatively junior staff, we had to take the difficult decision at the very last minute to pull the planned front page and replace it with some important news about the government's rejection of two applications which threatened the Hadrian's Wall world heritage site (both had been opposed by the CBA).

Inevitably senior colleagues were all away and out of contact, but we were reassured by the CBA's honorary vice-president Peter Fowler, and in the end the first issue came out on schedule (though its print quality was awful!).

As the magazine developed it quickly became clear that we needed more professional journalistic skills to put it together, and Carol and I returned, with some relief, to our other roles within the CBA secretariat. Simon Denison was appointed, and as a proven journalist with a degree in history and wide-ranging interests he brought a new dimension to the magazine. This was subsequently taken further by the current editor, who combines his diverse archaeological interests and experience with journalistic flair. Under his editorship the magazine has come a long way, and the circulation has expanded way beyond anything previously known for a CBA newsletter

With the significant expansion into retail sales, both in the UK and in many countries around the world, the print run now exceeds 15,000 copies (and continues to rise). It is the CBA's flagship product, doing much to achieve our aims as a charity to advance the education of the public in archaeology (particularly important with the clearer definition of this concept as published by the Charity Commission in March). But this is far from the end. An assistant editor, James Doeser, has been engaged, and we are developing plans to expand the magazine further.These are based strongly on feedback in the most recent readers' survey, and we continue to welcome comments and suggestions.

Our key task remains to inform the general and specialist audience about new discoveries, theories and interpretations in archaeology, mostly across the UK, but also abroad where British archaeologists are involved (and even sometimes when they are not!). It is clear that for many it is such analytical work that is of particular interest, often moving above the level of the individual excavation or site – especially with so many projects these days being small interventions that yield little – and the sterile descriptive texts that lurk in the twilight world of "grey literature".

No wonder that the growth of community archaeology is seen as a breath of fresh air and a chance to return to the days of research-based fieldwork addressing specific questions. Community archaeology is a diverse term which covers a wide range of local archaeological projects undertaken outside the planning context, but from the evidence of the projects which entered the recent Marsh Archaeology Award, they have in common a passion for bringing their findings to their local communities. Contrast this with many commercial archaeology projects which often take place at apparently short notice behind large fences, with individuals froman archaeological organisation based outside the area, and with results that are not fully analysed and published.

The CBA now receives very few calls about excavation opportunities. This partly reflects the fall in major excavations seeking volunteers. But also the internet has made a big difference, as the information is generally available to the public on websites at the click of a mouse. The opportunities provided by the internet for more accessible and up-to-date coverage of archaeology in action are being taken up by some projects, both commercial and community. Everyone can "peer over the fence", and follow the archaeological project and the thinking of the contributors as the fieldwork develops.

The best examples can engage the (potentially) world-wide audience with attempts to understand what the evidence means – interpretations which invariably change as work proceeds – and in some cases can even provide feedback opportunities for net users to discuss the material alongside the excavators. But there are very few examples of this type of engagement once the work leaves the field. How many projects provide daily post-excavation diaries or allow webcams to follow the work of finds or environmental specialists? Yet this work is equally necessary, together with the stratigraphic analysis and scientific dating, to really understand the archaeology and then communicate the story to a broader public audience.

The CBA is fortunate to have a magazine which can promote fascinating archaeological narratives, based on sound analysis and research. There is no shortage of material to publish, but there are so many more potential stories which are not reaching the public audience at the moment, especially at a local level. It would be good to think that by the time of British Archaeology's 200th issue, we might have solved some of these issues of how to emphasise the public benefit of commercial archaeology and ensure that research really does lie at the heart of all archaeological endeavour.

Mike Heyworth is director of the CBA

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