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Archaeology and Technology

Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts

Mark Gilberg

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Regardless of the medium of distribution, it is generally agreed that the dissemination of information is critical to advances in historic preservation. Improved methods of sharing information and coordinating its distribution are needed, including new information databases and searching capabilities. Preservation professionals need to gain both intellectual and technological control over the existing knowledge base. Unfortunately, this has become increasingly difficult as the knowledge base expands. Nonetheless, it is essential to keep pace to avoid reinventing the wheel and to take advantage of the benefits of technology transfer.

One of the most effective means of staying abreast of current developments in historic preservation is through the use of abstracts such as Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts (AATA). AATA is an extremely effective resource. Unfortunately, few archaeologists are aware of its merits.

Coverage and Content

First published in 1955, AATA is the only comprehensive, international bibliographic publication for the technical literature on archaeology and the fine arts. It is also the only abstract source that literally brings together all disciplines that are active in historic preservation -- architecture, landscape architecture, materials conservation, and archaeology.

AATA abstracts periodicals, reports, newspapers, books, and other publications as well as audiovisual and machine-readable media. Each year approximately 1,300 periodicals and some 500 new monographs, selected essays, conference pre-prints and proceedings, bibliographies, textbooks, patent documents, technical reports, doctoral and master's theses, films, videos, and other "gray" literature are surveyed. Last year alone more than 3,000 abstracts were published.

The sources cited deal specifically with the technical examination, investigation, analysis, restoration, preservation, and technical documentation of works of art and monuments having historic or artistic significance. Also abstracted is technical literature that reports data on the physical and chemical composition of artistic and historic works as well as on the substances used in their treatment, repair, and preservation. Articles of general interest, or those concerned with the technical aspects of art and archaeology, are also abstracted. Reports of the progress of archaeological excavations, notices of objects and works of art newly discovered or authenticated, and art historical studies are included if they shed light on the nature or techniques of construction of objects.

In recent years a special effort has been made to abstract works that are indirectly related to the study and treatment of art works or archaeological materials. This is an attempt to facilitate the transfer of new technologies from disciplines outside the immediate sphere of historic preservation.

Subject Headings and Searches

The abstracts are divided into the following eight main subject headings:

Under each subject heading are subsections that address specific issues. For example, under the heading of archaeology are subsections on archaeological conservation, archaeometry, site location and documentation, excavation and processing techniques and field conservation, site preservation and management, geoarchaeology, environmental archaeology, experimental archaeology, archaeobotany, and archaeozoology.

These subject groupings make combing the literature easy and convenient and serve as a framework for simple browsing. More systematic searches can be conducted by using the author, subject, or source indexes provided as appendices to each annual volume. AATA uses more than 6,000 key words and proper names for more specific topical searches in the subject index, which also includes the full titles in English as well as cross-references to related terms when appropriate. Each issue contains an author index and a combined index/directory that lists the citations for each source and includes the publisher's address and ISBN/ISSN reference numbers to simplify library requests.

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The bibliographic information in each abstract cites figures and illustrations, references, indexes, and bibliography, as well as source language(s) and published summaries. The sample abstract of a periodical article in Figure 1 illustrates the range of information provided.

Figure 1

Archaeology and AATA

The range and breadth of publications abstracted by AATA is impressive and reflects a strong international perspective. Regional editors worldwide ensure the coverage of pertinent foreign language journals and books. Many of these publications are directly relevant to archaeologists. The following periodicals, for example, were abstracted in Volume 33 (1996), and this list is by no means complete.

AARG News: Newsletter of the Aerial Archaeology Research Group
Acta archaeologica
Acta praehistorica et archaeologica
American Antiquity
American Journal of Archaeology
Archaeological Journal
Archaeological Prospection
Archaeological Review from Cambridge
Archaeological Textile Newsletter
Archaeology Ireland
Archäologie in Deutschland
Archäologisches Korrespondenzhlatt
Archeologia e Calcolatori
Archeologicke rozhledy
Australian Archaeology
Biblical Archaeologist
Cambridge Archaeological Journal
Circaea: Journal of the Association for Environmental Archaeology
Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites
CRM: Cultural Resources Management
Current Archaeology
European Archaeologist
Field Archaeologist
Historical Archaeology
Historical Metallurgy
Industrial Archaeology Review
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Journal of Archaeological Science
Journal of Field Archaeology
Journal of Ethnobiology
Journal of Imaging Science and Technology
Journal of Irish Archaeology
Journal of Theoretical Archaeology
Lithic Technology
London Archaeologist
MAW: Museum Archaeologists News
Manchester Archaeological Bulletin
MASCA Research Papers in Science and Archaeology
Medieval Archaeology
Science and Technology for Cultural Heritage

Not all journals are covered or covered comprehensively. The editors of AATA recognize this deficiency and are constantly seeking to expand coverage. AATA is a highly collaborative publication that depends on the efforts of nearly 120 volunteers worldwide who contribute abstracts. To stay current and to fill gaps in coverage, AATA is always looking for additional volunteers. As an inducement, a free subscription is offered to each volunteer. Serving as an abstracter is a rewarding exercise and a great way to stay current with the published literature. At the same time, it provides an opportunity to ensure coverage of important gray literature that might otherwise go unnoticed. AATA also has one very strong selling point that subscribers always appreciate: it appears regularly and promptly and has done so for 40 years.

AATA is published semi-annually by the Getty Conservation Institute in association with the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, London. Subscriptions may be purchased through the J. Paul Getty Trust, Book Distribution Center, P.O. Box 2112, Santa Monica, CA 90407, (818) 778-6943. AATA is also available on-line through the bibliographic database (BCIN) of the Conservation Information Network, a joint project of the Getty Conservation Institute and the Department of Canadian Heritage, Canada. For more information, contact User Services, Conservation Information Network, Canadian Heritage Information Network, 365 Laurier Ave. West, Ottawa, Ontario, KlA 0C8, Canada.

Mark Gilberg is the research coordinator for the National Park Service's National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.

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