Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More on Sharing

Readers may recall a blog-based discussion of sharing archaeological data. See this post on AWBG for a summary with links to most of the discussion. The originator of the thread, Charles Watkinson, offered further observations in a contribution to the CSA Newsletter. I don't mean to re-open the whole issue, but I did recently come across a quote that seemed relevant.

The short volume, Francovich and Hodges. 2003. Villa to village: the transformation of the Roman countryside in Italy, c. 400-1000. London. [worldcat], is a good introductory text on an important early Medieval topic. When surveying the contributions of archaeology, the authors write:
...ceramic remains from for[sic] the post-classical period were needed to identify medieval sites. The opportunity arose in the spring of 1960 during the survey of the Ager Veientanus, some 17km north of Rome. Deep ploughing turned up what what on inspection proved to be the bases of a church colonnade, together with other major architectural elements and medieval pottery. Ward-Perkins soon identified the conspicuous surface remains as those of the monasterium sancti Cornelii in Capracorio, a monastery found between 1026 and 1035 on the site of a papal estate established by Pope Hadrian I in c. 776 (Christie 1991). Ward-Perkins realised that the site had almost certainly been occupied by a Roman villa as well, and with some zeal set out to explore the possibility of establishing direct continuity between a Roman villa and a domusculta - a ninth-century papal farm. Over five seasons, under the direction of Barri-Jones and then Charles Daniels, the British School at Rome uncovered this rare example of an early medieval rural settlement, permitting the pottery types of the age to be identified and used for locating other sites in survey. Unforunately, as Chris Wickham has recently written, "Santa Cornelia did not have the impact of the Castelprio or Torcello sites, or the German excavations of Invillino later in the decade, because it was not published for 30 years; by the time Neil Christie piloted it to publication in 1990, medieval archaeology had moved on." (Wickham 2001:38)

The key phrase here is "did not have the impact...because it was not published for 30 years". It is not important who you are - and I leave it to others to slot Ward-Perkins into a scholarly taxonomy - if you don't share ("publish"), then your data doesn't matter. I could certainly be more expansive and subtle but that would dilute the point.

1 comment:

Antiochian said...

I could not agree more. I have come to notice in my little niche (Ancient Antioch) that a number of theses of great importance have lain unpublished since the 1930s because there was no "market" for them in the period when they were published and the mere handful of interested parties got themselves samizdat versions from the now-long dead was not the authors' fault but now the question arises as to why institutions are not trying sufficiently to push out into the accessibility of the online world the vast corpus (whether it be theses or even lecture notes by famous scholars) in which gems of thought lie unheard as the speaker and most of the initial listeners have now gone to the great beyond.