Viewing entries tagged
open access

More on finding wood in the desert

I've mentioned my collaboration on Islamic period charcoal with the incredible Brita Lorentzen on this blog before. That time was to point to a short post on the PEF Blog. Note, incidentally, that the most recent entries are about Islamic Bayda, near Petra, and Islamic metalwork in the southern Levant. Told you that you should read the PEF Blog. Anyway, I recently found out that a short report I wrote on the charcoal project has been published in the latest issue of Palestine Exploration Quarterly. The report is only four pages long, but includes some interesting preliminary data on radiocarbon dating results and the charcoal species identification from Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir and Khirbat Faynan. Excitingly, this report has come out right as we're getting ready to submit a paper that, among other things, will include more of the charcoal results. I'll post updates as that starts moving along.

If that doesn't convince you to check out the latest PEQ, there's also an interesting (open-access!) editorial by Philip Davies — that Philip Davies?! No, not that kind of "interesting." This Philip Davies — on the political neutrality of the PEF. Definitely worth a quick read. And it's free!

Alternative archaeology update

Well, what do you know? The title of this Forbes story that's been going around today seemed awfully familiar, and it turns out it's actually a review, of sorts, of the recent American Antiquity book reviews section on alternative archaeology. The SAA has, in fact, made the entire section open-access. That's awesome, and if you don't already have an AmAnt subscription you should go out and download it. It's definitely worth a read!

Alternative archaeology and American Antiquity

I don't, admittedly, always read the reviews section of the SAA's flagship journal, American Antiquity. I am, however, quite glad that I did last month (or, more accurately, this month, since I didn't open the July issue until just a few days ago). That is because the current reviews section is devoted entirely to reviews of "alternative archaeology" titles, in a special reviews section, titled "Talking to the Guy on the Airplane." These are worth a read for a few reasons. First, many of them are quite funny, especially if you find "alternative archaeology" entertaining anyway, as I do. Second, many of the reviews make important points about why it is that people are much more interested in alternative archaeology than they are in actual archaeology (for lack of a better word). Stephen Lekson's review, in particular, has some good points about why "all archaeologists not named Brian Fagan" tend to be much less successful than alternative archaeologists at writing for a popular audience. Third, for archaeologists, who often tend to ignore this sort of thing, it's an interesting overview of what's actually out there in terms of alternative archaeology. For example, William Conner's Iron Age America gets a review. I occasionally see him posting to the ARCH-METALS mailing list, and have often wondered what he was all about. Well, now I don't have to wonder anymore!

I do find one thing very strange, though. One of the stated purposes of this special reviews section was to provide laypeople with an overview of what archaeologists actually think of various alternative archaeologies and why we reject those ideas. To quote, "Accordingly, the main intent of these reviews is to offer the silent and curious majority that is interested in these works a professional perspective on them" (Holly 2015: 616). This is, I think, a good goal, especially because, as Holly implies, most of the people who consume alternative archaeology are probably not "true believers." I'd argue, however, that the best way to engage this audience is not to bury these reviews in a closed-access PDF labeled only "Reviews" that only SAA members can download. This seems to me to miss the point. I should note that Holly has uploaded his introductory piece to his Academia.edu page, but maybe if the goal was to reach a wide audience of non-archaeologists, it would have made more sense to make the entire thing open-access to begin with? Or to make all of them open-access at all? Or to advertise this at all? To be fair, this is not the first time the SAA has done a less-than-stellar job of disseminating information to all of the people who might be interested in it. Still, it'd be nice if they did this time!

EDIT: In the course of my Googling on this topic, I've discovered that Jennifer Raff already wrote a better post on this a month ago. She's asked people to pester the SAA about making all of these reviews open-access, but this doesn't seem to have had much success yet, unfortunately.

Works Cited

Holly, Donald H., Jr. 2015. Talking to the Guy on the Airplane. American Antiquity 80(3):615-617.

Ripped from the Headlines: Biblical Archaeology!

Given my recent posts, you'd probably think I work in a much earlier period than I actually do. I suppose I'm going to add to that now by pointing to three stories that have come out of Israel in the past week or so.

First is the news that "King David's palace" has been discovered at Khirbat Qeiyafa, identified by the excavators as the Biblical site of Sha'arayim (I didn't want to comment much on any of these, but I will point to Aren Maeir's response, which is both the shortest and the sweetest I've read so far). Second, a house at Tel Rehov has been identified as the Prophet Elisha's. And the third is the most recent update on Simcha Jacobovici's libel lawsuit against Joe Zias.

I could probably say a lot about any one of these stories, but don't really want to. I bring them up, actually, because I just got around to taking a look at the (open access!) Richard III skeleton paper in the most recent Antiquity (Buckley et al. 2013). The authors of that paper begin their abstract by stating, "Archaeologists today do not as a rule seek to excavate the remains of famous people and historical events" (Buckley et al. 2013:519). One might be forgiven for assuming that the opposite is generally true in Biblical archaeology. . .

Works Cited

Buckley, Richard, Mathew Morris, Jo Appleby, Turi King, Deirdre O'Sullivan, and Lin Foxhall2013 ‘The king in the car park’: new light on the death and burial of Richard III in the Grey Friars church, Leicester, in 1485. Antiquity 87(336):519-538. http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/087/ant0870519.htm

More on the Exodus at UCSD

Recently, a page dedicated to the Out of Egypt conference went up on the Calit2 (actually, now the Qualcomm Institute) site. As I mentioned previously, this is the conference that the EX3: Exodus, Cyber-Archaeology and the Future exhibit was associated with, and Tom Levy and our colleagues at Calit2 have done a fantastic job of making everything available to those who couldn't attend the exhibit or conference.So, in addition to seeing photos from the conference (if you scroll through long enough you can see a few of me with the rest of the Levantine Archaeology Lab crew and some other UCSD Anthro folks), you can also watch videos of every talk that was given at the conference and get a guided tour of the exhibition (from Tom himself!). Plus, at the bottom of the page, you can read the three panels on the Exodus in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, including the contribution I put together with Prof. Babak Rahimi.I have to say, I'm impressed with how much of the conference has been made available online. It would definitely be a good thing if, at some point in the near future, it became common for conference organizers to provide open post-conference access to talks and other materials.

All of MSR now available online

A few days ago, I was checking out the University of Chicago Mamluk Studies Resources page, and I noticed something very exciting.  All of the back issues of Mamluk Studies Review, going back to 1997, are now available for free online.  The last time I looked, which was late last year sometime, the 2007 volume was the earliest one available, so they've been pretty busy over there.  This is especially exciting for me, since our university library owns exactly zero volumes of MSR, so I've had to request a few papers from the earlier issues via Interlibrary Loan.  I'm also excited that they now let you download individual papers, rather than the entire issue.  I can see some advantages to getting the whole issue, depending on how you store your PDFs (and they still give you the option), but it was a real pain keeping track of them this way in my Papers library.Anyway, this probably isn't news to anyone interested in MSR, but it's nice to see that they've completed the project and all of the back issues are available online.  I wish more journals would start doing this.

Sharing data on the web

As I was doing some reading for a project I'm working on, I happened to come across a decade-and-a-half old Antiquity review of a few survey volumes, mostly dealing with the Mediterranean world (Alcock and Cherry 1996). One of the last points Alcock and Cherry tackle is the dissemination of data – specifically, rather large sets of artifact data – from surveys. A lot of ELRAP team members have recently been involved in discussions of how to do just that, and it's instructive to look back and see what's changed in the past 15 years. They present these options: publish the artifact data as a separate hardcover volume; include the artifact data with the survey volume on microfiche (I'm so glad this never really caught on); publish the artifact data in a separate, but inexpensive, paperback volume; publish the data on a CD-ROM included with the survey volume; or publish the data on the web (Alcock and Cherry 1996:211).Again, it's worth keeping in mind that this review is rather old. Perhaps my perspective is skewed by my age of scarcely more than a quarter of a century and, worse, my academic focus in the first half of the second millennium AD (practically yesterday by archaeological standards), but I think it's important to consider just how long ago this really was in terms of technology. This Wikipedia illustration demonstrates what I'm getting at rather nicely. At the time the review was written, web browsers had only been available to the public for five years, and it had only been three years since the release of a web browser anyone actually used (I'm thinking of Mosaic). Internet Explorer was less than a year old. Surely, in the fifteen years since, web publication has become the obvious choice, even if it wasn't then.Yet, this isn't really the case. To single out one example, only three years ago the Wadi Faynan Landscape Survey publication was released, which included a CD-ROM with supplementary data (Barker et al. 2007). I'm not saying this approach is necessarily bad (though one might object to their decision to include the site gazetteer as a 530 MB PDF), but it still seems strange that web publishing isn't the obvious choice for this sort of data. I can understand the appeal of media – like CD-ROM or, heaven forbid, microfiche – that are directly associated with the survey publication, and I appreciate when artifact data are made available in any form, but I still think web publishing is preferable, not least because it opens up our results to people who are neither associated with large institutional libraries nor able to justify the cost of a large survey volume or subscriptions to all the journals in which preliminary reports may have appeared.  (Of course, that's another argument in favor of so-called "Green Open Access", or self-archiving and sharing of publications in non-open journals and books.  ELRAP actually does a fairly good job of this; you can download many, though not all, of the recent publications from our lab here.)Alcock and Cherry (1996) mention the Pylos Regional Archaeological Project as an example of a project that was already moving in this direction in 1996. It's still, despite a few flaws, a good example of what data sharing on the web should look like.  In part, though, this may be because there don't seem to be that many other examples, or at least examples that I'm aware of, of other projects that share this much data online.  ELRAP is, of course, just as guilty of this as any other project, although we're at least currently discussing ways to make our data available to others.  Still, it's a bit more complicated than just saying, "OK, I agree to share.  Put it all up on the web."  I can understand why there would be projects whose members just don't want to deal with it.  All things considered, I wonder how close we are to this type of data sharing becoming the norm.  It's only been 15 years. . .

1996     Alcock, Susan, and John CherrySurvey at any price? Antiquity 70(267):207-211.
2007     Barker, Graeme, David Gilberston, and David MattinglyArchaeology and Desertification: The Wadi Faynan Landscape Survey, Southern Jordan. Oxford: Oxbow.