This is the second part of my Blogging Archaeology or the Archaeology of Blogging article. I posted it yesterday on the Ancient World Bloggers Group Blog and received some good comments and corrections. I've made those corrections and offer it here in version 3.
Blogging Archaeology [Part 2 v.3]
As I began to blog, I was on the lookout for models to understand the medium of blogging more clearly. I gravitated primarily toward blogs which focused on the archaeology of Mediterranean world, Classics, and Ancient History to see how my disciplinary peers were engaging the New Media. I tried to understand the (relatively recently) history of blogging the ancient world to determine whether the trends and patterns that I observed in blogging behavior in general carried over into academic blogging.
From what I can gather, there were archaeology blogs in the first wave of intensive blogging. In the late 1990s several projects by both professional and avocational archaeologists were underway to expand classics and archaeology into the digital realm. Ross Scaife at the University of Kentucky established The Stoa Consortium in 1997, and by 2003 Scaife and others were running a blog that today it is the main portal into the remarkable collection of material collected by that project. David Meadows efforts at the Rogueclassicism began in the late 1990s with a news group. By the early 2000s, it had become transformed into a blog and continues to this day to provide a compendium of links, news stories, and witty remarks on the classical world and archaeology. Dorothy King’s Ph.Diva blog, which is now accessible by invitation only, debuted in 2001, and for over 5 years and provided astute commentary on archaeological and cultural maters from her base in London. Avocational archaeologists and enthusiasts likewise brought their passion for archaeological news to the web. Archaeologica News began in the early years of the century, and still offers links to archaeological news from around the world.
With the success of these “early adopters”, the great expansion of archaeological blogs began in 2002. A convenient barometer of the visibility of weblogs is Archaeology Magazine’s review of websites of interest to both professional archaeologists and the general public. They posted a two part review of archaeology websites in 1997 (here and here) and blogs are not mentioned (as might be expected at such an early date). By 2000, they mention the anthropology new page at Texas A&M which is essentially in the form of an early blog and About.com’s archaeology page which featured a blog by archaeologist Kris Hirst from the late 1990s. In 2002, however, they dedicated an entire web review to the blog ArchaeologyOnline which lists newsworthy items for archaeologists with short commentaries. By this time, the number and diversity of archaeological blogs had expanded greatly.
Today the variety is almost limitless. Popular and newsy blogs like Roman Times, Archaeoblog, remote central, or Archaeology in Europe continue the tradition of avocational archaeologists posting news, notes, and links for anyone interested; archaeologist, Ioannis Georganas, provides news and notes from a wide range of sources on his blog Mediterranean Archaeology. Blogs like Abnormal Interest and Thoughts on Antiquity have a more varied approach than traditional news blogs, interspersing news links with useful and sometimes amusing commentary on archaeological and ancient topics. Aardvaraeology, Martin Rundkvist’s quirky and popular Swedish blog, provides an opinionated perspective on scientific archaeology with a particular focus on Scandinavia. Judith Weingarten’s blog Zenobia uses her smooth style to expand on the topic of her recent popular book The World As it Was which is part of a projected three part work of historical fictional called Chronicle of Zenobia The Rebel Queen; her blog provides general information on the ancient Near East and Palmyra. Several blogs like Louise Hitchcock’s LA(H) Confidential and Adventures with Yo and Mo provide insights into life as a working archaeologist both during the season and during the rest of the year. Mary Beard’s A Don’s Life, hosted by the Times Literary Supplement, is perhaps in a league of its own, making insightful and amusing comment on both ancient and contemporary topics. Most of these blogs are geared toward the educated public although even the most jaded academic will often find useful links and insights on their pages.
At the same time, there is a growing collection of genuinely academic blogs, many of which continue discussions from books or articles into the blogosphere and adopt a less formal, but no less serious tone. The best example of this genre is David Gill’s Looting Matters which is an extension of his serious research interest into archaeological ethics and cultural property (joining the Illicit Cultural Property Blog and SafeCorner to track affairs involving archaeological looting and the trafficking of illegal antiquities). Troels Myrup Kristensen’s blog Iconoclasm details his archaeological travels in the Mediterranean with special attention to incidents of the destruction of pagan statues by Christians in the Late Antique period. Kostis Kourelis’s new blog Buildings, Objects, Situations is set to revolve loosely around his interest in the intellectual and cultural history of archaeology and the study of material culture. Alun Salt’s Clioaudio ranges freely across the discipline, but often returns to his interest in archaeology and archaeoastronomy. The same breadth and academic feel comes through in Archaeolog which is a group blog hosted by Stanford’s MetaMedia Lab.
Even more specialized blogs give the public a view into rarified or highly specialized fields. Current Epigraphy or What’s New in Papyrology disseminate information on inscriptions and papyrology for experts in these disciplines. In addition, Current Epigraphy has become a platform for collaborative readings of inscriptions by bringing together scholars from all over the world to help solve epigraphic conundrums. Archaeologist can also keep track of the acquisitions of the Blegen Library at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in their Blegen Library Blog. New online resources for scholars often appear at Joint Library of the Hellenic & Roman Societies / Institute of Classical Studies Library Blog as well. Users of the massive Project Dyabola database can follow their progress through their Project Dyabola Blog. The Persepolis Fortification Archive Project also disseminates updates and new through a blog.
These specialized blogs will not be of interest to everyone, but they have tapped into the rich potential of digital media to communicate, inspire, and promote collaborative scholarship. Shawn Graham’s innovative Electric Archaeologist shows how a whole range of digital media can assist an archaeologist in research and teaching. Sebastian Heath’s blog Mediterranean Ceramics explores the intersection of the study of Mediterranean ceramics and the resources available on the internet. Tom Elliot, the director of the Pleiades Project which brings together geographic and historical information for ancient places across the Mediterranean, makes occasional posts at his horothesia blog. His main interest is developing innovative and open methods to disseminate archaeological and historical data. Scott Moore’s Ancient History Ramblings has developed a serious focus on archaeology in the virtual world of Second Life. Charles Watkinson, the director of publications at the American School of Classical Studies maintains an occasional blog on “communication in the humanities and social sciences.” Digging Digitially provides some great info on digital archaeology as the “Semi-offical” news source for the SAA’s Digital Data Interest Group. The Okapi Project’s blog from the University of California at Berkeley includes regular reports on their innovative efforts to disseminate academic research through digital media – including their work with the Çatalhöyük excavations.
The ease of updating a weblog makes it a useful tool for archaeological field projects to use when they are in the field. Daily or weekly updates can convey the immediate excitement of a new discovery. My project, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, maintained two weblogs during the 2007 season: one for our graduate students and one for the senior staff (which it continues to maintain through the off season). Mia Ridge and Jason Quinlan blogged their experiences from Çatalhöyük. Penn State students, Amanda Iacobelli, Jeff Rop, and Ben Bradshaw, described their work Cilician Plain Survey Project in a blog called Real Time Archaeology. The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog keeps their team members informed about events both during and after the field seasons. Wessex Archaeology is among the most sophisticated examples of this providing not only text blogs but also regular podcasts. The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project also maintains a great blog that tracks their progress on an 18th century site in Maryland. For the past several years Archaeology Magazine has hosted “Interactive Digs” which, although not exactly a blog, similarly let you follow the weekly or daily events of several ongoing archaeological projects.
Finally, an increasing number of institutions are maintaining blogs to keep you informed on events or programs. Gary Vikan, the curator of the Walters Art Museum, whose blog deals widely with matters involving the world of art, museums, and ancient culture. The University of Missouri at Columbia maintains a blog called Musings that keeps folks up to date on the goings on at the Museum of Art and Archaeology. George Washington University’s Classics and Semitic Studies program blog touches upon events in their program but also provides some helpful information for prospective graduate students in Classics, Archaeology, or Ancient History (like describing what a Post-Bacc program actually is!). Tulane University’s Classics Department began a blog in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and it continues to provide helpful information on that program’s affairs. The Art and Social Identities Program at Aarhus University in Denmark also updates a blog making available the events sponsored by that program as does the Archaeological Institute at the University of Hamburg (in German).
While archaeologists have not yet explored completely the usefulness of blogs for the instantaneous publishing of archaeological data, figures, photos, or even videos, it is clear that the ease in creating and maintaining weblogs will make them increasingly appealing options for archaeologists seeking to create a more transparent approach to fieldwork and research. For members of the public, avocational archaeologists, and professional archaeologists and academics, blogging archaeology is a good and expanding way of both participating in and keeping abreast of new research in the discipline.