A'ndrea Elyse Messer
Just a few years ago the only information for the general public on archaeology was found in books, occasional newspaper and magazine articles, and Archaeology Magazine. Today there are three bimonthly archaeology magazinesone for childrenand one quarterly, all intended for the general public and sold by subscription and on the newsstand. Some require that all feature articles be written by archaeologists, but their news sections come from wire stories, news releases, and conference presentations. Others use freelance writers to fill their pages.
Whatever the case, SAA members should be familiar with these magazines because they are the way non-archaeologists learn about archaeology. They are also venues for the publication of your research notes and where, if you can convince the publishers, you can try your hand at writing for the general public.
Archaeology Magazine, published by the American Institute of Archaeology (AIA), is the grand dame of archaeology magazines. Published six time a year, it underwent a recent facelift that beefed up the news section which now sports 10 to 20 short news items from around the world. The essays, serious and humorous, are as interesting as ever. The overall content, however, has not changed much. There is a penchant for Old World Mediterranean and northern European prehistory and history. The emphasis remains on art and architecture and little time is spent on archaeological technique, although one fairly recent article did an excellent job of covering ancient DNA.
In the last three issues, only one story covered Central or South America and two covered North Americaone focusing on paleolithic times and one on 50 years of dramatic discoveries. In the same issues, there were two stories on Rome, four on Greek archaeology, three on Africa, one on Spenser's Ireland, and one on Chinese archaeology.
With only one issue on the shelves, it is difficult to judge this publication intended for children and also published by the AIA. The first issue highlights mummies (an appropriate topic in light of the recent remake of The Mummy movie), but the magazine seems directed to an audience younger than the one the movie is intended for, and at times it talks down to the reader. On a personal note, while I understand that children are infatuated with dinosaurs, it bothers me that the magazine covers paleontology as well as archaeology. The implication is "dig dinosaurs, dig archaeol
"SAA members should be familiar with these magazines because they are the way non-archaeologists learn about archaeology"
ogy." I am painfully aware of the public's inability to comprehend that dinosaurs and people did not live together and that archaeologists do not dig up dinosaur bones. The jury is still out on this magazine.
This new magazine seems a breath of fresh air. The design is wonderful and the photography first class. The focus is not on artifacts, but the process, science, and research aspects of archaeology. Articles cover the tools of the tradetree ring dates, analysis of bone, ground-penetrating radar, and the uses of photographyas well as specific sites and cultures. While the magazine covers archaeology around the world, there is far more North and South American research covered. Although a recent issue focused on warfare, cannibalism, and witches in the southwestern United States, the articles are presented as alternative explanations for what happened at various places and different times in the areas. The archaeologist in me might cringe at this being presented to the public, but these explanations are exactly the ones presented at SAA's Annual Meeting over the past few years and the journalist in me sees that this is a valid representation of one part of American archaeological thought at this time. With only three issues published, it is difficult to be sure what this magazine will become, but the initial impression is very good.
American Archaeology is a quarterly published by the Archaeological Conservancy. As the title suggests, the magazine covers the area where the Conservancy is active and about a quarter of the articles are on Conservancy business including new acquisitions and field notes on Conservancy activities at museums and in the field. The articles on new acquisitions are niceshort descriptions of sites across the country, what they might represent, and their current level of preservation. The news segments cover the gamut of recent occurrences in American archaeology and articles feature sites and locations not owned by the Conservancy. From a conversation with mystery author Tony Hillerman to an article on site vandalism and the analysis of seeds, the magazine is an eclectic mix of ideas and information.
A'ndrea Elyse Messer, an ABD in anthropology at Penn State University, is a science writer for the university's Public Information Department writing about research. She has been a science writer for 25 years and serves on SAA's Public Relations Committee.
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