British

Archaeology

The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 87

Issue 87

March/April 2006

Contents

news

Unique Roman tombstone may leave UK

"No synthesis of British prehistory is right"

Neolithic road is unique

Bottle message is dry

The dead make way for iron age warrior

In Brief

features

When Rome left Britain: the Bosnian perspective
Buckles and Bosnia - Stuart Laycock has a dark vision of early historic Britain.

Telling the story of the people who made London
Archaeology in London: Peter Rowsome reviews a year of new publications.

Boudica: a queen in search of a husband
Finding Prasutagus: Amanda Chadburn deciphers iron age coins.

on the web

Recommended websites

letters

Views and responses

CBA news

Headlines from the CBA office.

 

ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

Issue 87 March/April 2006

on the web

The elite world of e-journals

Caroline Wickham-Jones gets in some serious reading on the internet.

The thud of a new journal on the doormat has been joined by the ping of an on-line arrival. Archaeology has been slow to take advantage, and references to on-line publications are rare, but e-journals are set to revolutionise our reading.

The grandfather, Internet Archaeology (intarch.ac.uk) is celebrating its 10th anniversary as "the first fully refereed e-journal for archaeology". Such content control is essential to readers, and also authors, judged by their refereed publications. Internet Archaeology has established a reputation for good, even pioneering, content.

A plethora of e-journals exists in other fields, but Internet Archaeology has few rivals. Before Farming is one exception (www.waspjournals.com/journals/beforefarming). Your subscription gives you the excellent current online version, and the previous year's as a printed paperback.

Internet Archaeology too requires a subscription, though early issues are free. Other journals have no charge. Care is taken over integrity of content in Assemblage (www.shef.ac.uk/assem), edited at Sheffield University to present the work of graduate students. Anew freebie is Insight, also carefully reviewed, the Irish heritage studies e-journal (homepage.eircom.net/~archaeology/index.htm).

Antiquity, a familiar name, offers a combined traditional and electronic publication through various subscription levels (antiquity.ac.uk). Premium subscription brings paper copies and access to comprehensive archives, but online searches are free as is access to the Project Gallery, a valuable showcase for new work with useful map-based entry.

The versatility of e-publication permits access to precise information without the purchase of a complete book or journal. Antiquity offers a pay-per-paper service; sair (Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports, www.sair.org.uk) allows free chapter downloads. Good news for the specialist or those wishing to read broadly before immersing themselves in data.

Electronic publishing is not without costs which many societies and journals just cannot afford. Nevertheless, accessing the wealth of useful papers in local journals is one of the challenges of archaeology. Early this year the Council for British Archaeology launches an archaeology e-publication consortium. In collaboration with the Society of Antiquaries of London and the electronic archiving house SomCom Ltd, an online library of journals and monographs is being created (www.access2archaeology.info). Access costs vary – some papers are free, some need to be bought, others require a full subscription. One can only hope that all local societies will join.

Similarly, the on-line library of unpublished fieldwork reports hosted by the Arts and Humanities Data Service (ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/library/greylit) offers invaluable access to previously hidden work, including that of archaeological contractors, and archive material from published reports.

A great advantage of e-literature is electronic searching. Information is easier to find, from meta-searches of the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography (www.biab.ac.uk) to local searches of journals or libraries.

Adobe Acrobat is becoming a publication standard, with its freely available reader and ease of citation. Other e-journals prefer traditional pages or longer scrolls.

E-journals worth the search


Promoting best practice through open access

The Portable Antiquities Scheme websites are turning into a major resource. Daniel Pett explains.

The Treasure Act, which came into force in 1997, led to a great increase in the reporting of qualifying finds, but most fall outside its scope. To encourage reporting of these other finds, to raise public awareness and interest and to advance both academic and public understanding of our past, the Portable Antiquities Scheme was introduced. It is a voluntary scheme for recording objects found by members of the public, many of them, but not all, metal-detector users.

The websites provide background information, news, listings and access to our database. Since April 2003, the scheme has employed an ict adviser to effect use of the internet to disseminate the information being collected. This has revolutionised the delivery of our work to the public. In the last year the sites have been totally revamped. The scheme is committed to open source technology: declining to contribute to Microsoft's coffers has allowed us to create an exciting suite of web resources on a very limited budget!

The scheme also makes full use of accessibility standards, and complies fully with W3C standards. As well as the 81% who use Microsoft when they visit our sites, we need to help those who choose to use Linux or Apple OSX operating systems, and other browsers such as Firefox.

The PAS currently presents itself on the web via three distinct urls. A wide-ranging knowledge base can be found on the main site (www.finds.org.uk), with features such as:

  • information on what the scheme does and who to contact
  • advice on conserving artefacts
  • advice on the law about buying antiquities
  • advice on the Treasure Act
  • royalty free images for downloading
  • a blog and discussion forum
  • news items, events and vacancy listings
  • RSS feeds for new additions.

Recent, more innovative, developments, are the really detailed interactive identification guides for Roman and early medieval coins. These offer high resolution images which use free technology to zoom and pan around, and provide a visual stimulus for identification. They have proved extremely popular, with over 1,000 users a month.

The records from treasure reports dating back to 1998 are newly available online. These are now fully searchable, and include details of the acquisition/disclamation, valuation details and most importantly, images.

The scheme's database (www.findsdatabase.org.uk) is perhaps the most discussed part of its armoury. It is designed to systematically record archaeological finds made by members of the public within England and Wales, whether they be pursuing their example search for Roman denarii, and be alerted when the next turns up!

  • new map browser, which places finds in local geographic context
  • zoom and pan image browser.

The database is available to all, with differing permission levels applied to protect secure data (eg personal and spatial) If you are a university student, then it is an ideal place to begin research. You could find data that relates to stirrup strap mounts or a vast array of coins. From January, this dataset is being incorporated into historic environment records.

Finally, pastexplorers (www.pastexplorers.org.uk) was developed over the last year for our younger audiences, and is aimed at Key Stage 2 (7–11 year olds). It was launched by culture minister David Lammy in October 2005 (News, Jan/Feb #86). This website provides free, accessible lesson plans and materials which teachers can use to bring archaeology and history alive in the classroom. Try out exercises like packing your bag for virtual fieldwork, exploring the mythical village of West Mucking or use data drawn directly from the scheme's database.

To learn more about PAS websites, please contact Daniel Pett at the British Museum: dpett@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk.

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