Barry Cunliffe

Cite this as: Cunliffe, B. 1996 Foreword, Internet Archaeology 1.

It gives me particular pleasure to welcome you to the first issue of Internet Archaeology. I have watched this project take shape over the past eighteen months, from the first tentative proposal through to the launch of this issue. What has been achieved in such a short time is little short of remarkable.

Glancing through the papers, I was particularly impressed by Paul Tyers' work on Roman Amphoras in Britain. In a deceptively small document the author has summarised a vast amount of information on the characterisation, use and distribution of these vessels. The distribution maps alone are redolent of economic information. It is a dataset which enables quite new questions to be formulated and shows what a powerful tool the Internet is.

The next paper, on the Archaeobotanical Computer Database (ABCD), not only offers a valuable summary of archaeological knowledge on the use of plants as foodstuffs but also provides a model of how other data could be made so much more accessible through Web publication. We are keen to have your ideas (and offers!).

With Lyall and Powlesland, we explore a totally different approach with a paper demonstrating how powerful current geophysical surveys can be if carried out on a site stripped of its topsoil. The main advantages of publishing this on the Web rather than print are that it would have been prohibitively expensive to print the colour images. More to the point, Lyall and Powlesland's methodology has a potential worldwide application and deserves Web dissemination. We are also pleased to announce that Internet Archaeology will be publishing the full reports of the West Heslerton project over the next few years: the present paper gives a hint of the size and complexity of this major archaeological enterprise.

Then there is Allan Peacey's study of clay tobacco pipe kilns. This paper is important for two reasons. Firstly, it embodies virtually the entire contents of the author's 629-page PhD thesis, plus a large collection of his own colour photographs, and yet it is the work of a moment to find the information you require. Secondly, its subtle use of software allows us to move effortlessly between text and data. Papers like this are breaking down the distinction between "publication" and "archive", a point explored in passing by our Managing Editor in his editorial.

Finally, we have two papers which indicate some of the ways in which archaeological publishing may go in the future. In Beardah and Baxter's paper on Kernel Density Estimates we are treated to a tutorial on how to use a piece of computer software illustrated at every point by screen shots, plus the ability to download routines to run with this software. In Gillings and Goodrick's paper on the use of Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML) we are introduced to some of the philosophical issues involved in the use of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and a plea to make use of VRML as a tool for the visualisation of past landscapes. In this paper too the authors show us how they got their results, pointers to places where software can be downloaded to encourage others to explore a fascinating new field.

All in all, then, a very full and wide-ranging issue and one that promises well for the future of this venture. Congratulations to the editorial team, all the authors and everyone who has worked behind the scenes to give this journal just the sort of start it deserves.


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Last updated: Wed Sep 11 1996