Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Journal of Roman Archaeology 20 (2007)

I am back from my holiday-season family excursions and the AIA/APA meetings in Chicago. A late present from me to myself was waiting upon my return: volume 20 of the Journal of Roman Archaeology in two fascicules.

All long-time readers of the JRA will immediately notice the smaller format, which was necessitated by the US Postal Service's increased overseas rates. I'm currently leaning toward preferring this smaller size. It's certainly easier to hold and won't require finding shelf space for more oversize volumes. The text is smaller and that will probably become more of a problem as my eyes continue to age.

In terms of content, excellence continues. I haven't read it cover-to-cover yet (will I ever?) but have enjoyed what I've come across so far. Of direct interest to ceramicists are J.T. Peña's article on tituli picti from Pompeii and environs (p. 233) and S. Rotroff's review of J. Poblome et al.'s volume on early Italian sigillata (p. 418).

Ceramics are deeply integrated into the study of Roman archaeology and this is reflected throughout the JRA's articles. I'll cite only one instance. M. Gawlikowski's superb article on the Mithraeum at Hawarte in Syria is an enjoyable read given the unusual iconography of the cave's wall-paintings and given the bright color plates which accompany the text (p. 337). I also took note of the following brief description of the fill of a pit cut into the floor of the cave:
The finds, carefully processed by G. Majcherek, represent a significant number of more or less complete vessels. Common wares were rather scarce, most being elegant tableware, including drinking cups, a dozen Eastern Sigillata A plates, some lamps, and a large skyphos with applied vine-scroll decoration. The finds are chronologically consistent, dating to the second half of the 1st. c. A.D. Taken together with some glass vessels, abundant animal bone fragments and ashes, they provide convincing evidence that the pit was used as a bothros (deposit for sacrificial remains). (p. 342)

Can there be anybody who does not eagerly await the full publication of this deposit?!?

One point. So far as I can tell, JRA articles are not generally available online. Furthermore, the publisher tightly holds on to redistribution rights. This text, in bold face, follows the copyright statement on page 2:
Pemission to copy may be obtained only direct from JRA, by e-mail, letter, fax or phone.
The Copyright Clearance Center (USA), the Copyright Licensing Agency (UK), and other national Reproduction Rights Organizations are not permitted to authorize copying or to collect fees for doing so.

While I certainly don't know the details, I believe the JRA exists as an independent entity funded largely from sales of the journal and its supplements (though one sometimes sees reference to subventions from other sources). In this context, I am more sympathetic than might be expected to the financial considerations that must be in play as the JRA considers whether or not to "go digital." It's also the case that the publisher, John Humphrey, was a professor of mine at the University of Michigan so that I am confident in saying that his main goal in publishing the JRA is the timely dissemination of archaeological information and analysis. Despite this prior disposition, I do have to say that I, along with many colleagues, eagerly await the inevitable day when I can bring the JRA's content into the field on my computer hard-drive.

No comments: