Sunday, April 5, 2009

A new issue of Latin American Antiquity

I just received the March 2009 issue of Latin American Antiquity, and here are a few yays and nays. The journal is thicker than usual, a good sign. The twelve papers are arranged into two sections, titled “Part 1: Themed Section on Technology Approaches” and “Part 2: Themed Section on Mesoamerica.” I can’t figure out what the phrase “technology approaches” means here. The section has four papers on bone chemistry analysis, an osteology paper, a paper on DNA analysis, and a paper on Maya lithics.

The second section has four papers on the Maya and one on another Mesoamerican region. One of the Maya papers is on lithics, like one of the papers in the other section. I looked in vain for a message from the Editor about the context or rationale for these puzzling special sections.

The journal also has a book review essay (on Olmec books), but no regular book reviews. I take this as further evidence for the existence of a book review crisis in New World archaeology.

Given my interest in promoting comparative analysis in archaeology (Smith 2009; statement on comparative archaeology), I was pleased to see Scott Speal’s (2009) paper on Maya chert tool production. Speal proposes “a new direction in Maya lithic studies with the goal of enhancing comparability of data on ancient economic structure through the use of standardized statistics that facilitate spatial analysis” (from the abstract, p. 91). (¡Way to go, Scott!) Several other papers in this issue also engage in explicit comparative analyses, including Chris Garraty’s paper on market exchange in Mesoamerica and Cecil Lewis’s paper on mtDNA in the southern Andes. Publication of this kind of comparative work is a very positive development.

When the SAA gets around to posting the contents of this issue, it will be found here.

Smith, Michael E.
2009 Editorial: Just How Comparative is Comparative Urban Geography?: A Perspective from Archaeology. Urban Geography 30:113-117

Speal, C. Scott
2009 The Economic Geography of Chert Lithic Production in the Southern Maya Lowlands: A Comparative Examination of Early Stage Reduction Debris. Latin American Antiquity 20:91-119.

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