British

Archaeology

The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 97

Issue 97

November/December 2007

Contents

news

Curlew care leads to lost royal residence find

Wat's Dyke dated: was it Coenwulf's dyke?

Little dig goes to big festival

Orkney finds confirm early Scottish colonisation

In Brief & Phase 2

features

Made in China
The exhibition that you will never forget opens in London

Viking treasure
An early inside look at the Viking hoard from Harrogate

Caribbean tragedy: under the volcano
David Miles and Julian Munby say island heritage matters on Montserrat

on the web

Recommended websites
Archaeological science, and digging up a hearth (and home)

letters

Views and responses

CBA correspondent

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA
Dan Hull explains the CBA's pioneering initiatives in archaeological publishing

 

ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

CBA correspondent

Dan Hull explains the CBA's pioneering initiatives in archaeological publishing

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA

The CBA has long tried to publish material which is written, laid out, and sold at a price that will reach as wide an audience as possible – not always characteristics of archaeological publications. We have also promoted accessibility to others. As long ago as 1973, Signposts for Archaeological Publication encouraged good practice, "to help us all publish without being damned in the process".

In 2003 the CBA produced From the Ground Up – the Publication of Archaeological Projects: a User Needs Survey (commonly known as the PUNS report), drawing on a wide survey of archaeologists. The report's recommendations have been influential: fieldwork publications should make much greater use of online formats, but in conjunction with conventional print; more attention should be paid to syntheses and narratives; access to unpublished fieldwork reports should be improved; archives should be made available on the internet; and local and society journals should receive greater support.

Publishing has changed markedly. The internet has forced us to ask questions: why publish, for what audience and how is it best reached? The CBA has reviewed its own publication strategy. It has always been our intention to convey cutting-edge archaeological discoveries in the most accessible manner possible. Do we meet that challenge?

Books

Books have long been our publishing mainstay. In the 1940s, we produced titles like Survey and Policy of Field Research in the Archaeology of Great Britain, and the Discovering the Past booklet. Research Reports began with Romano-British Villas in 1955: the series is still an important priority. Notwithstanding rapid online developments, a recent survey showed that most readers prefer to have a hard copy. However, we are now doing our best to ensure that our books respond to the challenges set by the PUNS report.

Kevin Leahy's new Interrupting the Pots: the Excavation of Cleatham Anglo-Saxon Cemetery, does an important job in setting out, analysing and contextualising detailed research, but crucially he also offers an accessible discussion. The book is made more readable and affordable by reducing the quantity of specialist reports and raw data traditionally housed in appendices. Instead Leahy has placed a database and further images with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS). The LEAP project is examining ways of further connecting publication and archive, by linking Internet Archaeology articles with their digital data sets in the ADS. It looks likely that users will come to expect such links more and more.

The CBA's Practical Handbooks present archaeological methodologies in a brief, well-illustrated format. Beginning in 1987 with Recording Worked Stone, this series now numbers 17, with Garden Archaeology and Historic Landscape Analysis added in the last year. Expanding this range will be an important priority, with titles on human remains, leatherwork, fieldwalking and industrial archaeology on the way.

Other archaeological publishers' catalogues reveal the popularity of narratives and syntheses. Amid a dizzying quantity of often difficult new data, readers seem keen to have experts summarise periods and themes. Getting the balance of such titles right is tricky. A summary of well-known information can be useful for beginners, but will not appeal to specialists. Instead, the CBA has sought to address new themes, and draw together data never previously broadcast to a wide audience. In the last CBA correspondent (Sep/Oct), Mike Heyworth noted the difficulties of publishing developer-funded archaeology for a wider public. Reports are made available via the OASIS scheme (ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/oasis), but contract staff rarely have time or money for the work. A refreshing new approach has been taken by Penelope Walton Rogers in Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England (see Books, this issue). With the resources of English Heritage, the Anglo-Saxon Laboratory and the CBA, she has produced a superb synthesis of previous work and new results from developer-funded projects.

We often broadcast the research of others more widely than our own, so this year we launched the CBA Research Bulletin, a much shorter, more digestible format for work we commissioned. Available in hard copy and online, the first issue is a survey of heritage television viewing figures by Angela Piccini of the University of Bristol (www.britarch.ac.uk/research).

Electronic publishing

Online, hard copy or both? The choice is crucial. During the mid-1990s, when the world wide web began to develop rapidly away from being just the domain of it specialists, the CBA, with the University of York, supported the establishment of the ads and formed Internet Archaeology, the discipline's first ever online-only journal (intarch.ac.uk). Since 1997 the journal has published over 180 articles of a high academic standing, including cutting edge research in computing methodology and presentation, demonstrating archaeology's genuinely high level of innovation compared with other disciplines.

For other publishers, and especially society and county journals, "getting online" is not necessarily straightforward. Costs and technical challenges can seem prohibitive. So in June 2007 the CBA and the Society of Antiquaries of London launched ArchLib: an electronic library of publications for archaeology (archlib.britarch.net). This brand new service draws together research papers from a growing number of different publishers within one easy mechanism, enabling users to search over 2,000 pages of text, view the results and buy and download papers of interest. These are still early days, but we hope ArchLib will rapidly become the primary repository for archaeological publications – be they journal papers, chapters or books – boosting the ease with which researchers can obtain the materials they need.

Finding aids

As new publications and resources proliferate it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Around 1,000 archaeological journals and at least 600 book publishers have featured the archaeology of Britain and Ireland. Researchers looking for comparative material or approaching a new subject for the first time face a daunting task.

Since the publication of the Archaeological Bulletin of the British Isles in 1949, the CBA has been committed to guiding archaeologists to the information they need. The bulletin has grown to become the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography, and is the ideal first port of call for any research programme: around 200,000 references on British and Irish archaeology cover everything published from the 17th century to the present. biab online is free and easy-to-use (www.biab.ac.uk). A much improved new service will be launched in spring 2008. The CBA and the ADS are discussing how to link their own extensive holdings of free publications to biab online and ArchLib, cutting down the amount of surfing a user has to do. Guaranteeing "interoperability" behind the scenes is crucial. In our future vision, researchers will be able to find – confidently and easily – references to subjects of their choice, then click through to purchase or download free publications there and then.

Developments such as these will put archaeology at the forefront of epublishing. Our approach to publishing has always been user-led. We will continue to take advantage of the fast changing online environment, while remaining committed to creating the very best in printed material.

CBA publications are at www.britarch.ac.uk/pubs. Dan Hull is the CBA's head of information and communications.

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