Thursday, February 4, 2010

Archaeological research and the print media

There is an interesting discussion on Savage Minds about journalism and cultural anthropology. The first post, "Why is there no anthropology journalism?" generated a lengthy series of comments, and the second post covered remarks by a science journalist, with good comments by one of the SM authors.

In archaeology, we have lots of play in the print media, with ready access to the public through journalists, Archaeology Magazine, websites, and the like. But this coverage tends to focus on spectacular new finds, and most coverage is far from the intellectual heart of archaeology. I think that the main intellectual research done by academic archaeologists is almost as poorly served in the media as is cultural anthropology.

If I were to find a royal tomb at Calixtlahuaca, the media will come running. But if I find, after a bunch of artifact analysis, that the Aztec Empire had a greater impact on households here than in other parts of the Empire, this would be a real yawner for most journalists. Now this finding could be made interesting and relevant for the media and public, but it would take creativity and effort on my part. I'd like to think I could and would do that, but then maybe my time is better spent analyzing some more data?

These are issues archaeologists should think about, and the posts and discussion on Savage Minds are very relevant. If you don't follow SM, you probably should!

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