A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
When the pyramids are just a click away
In 1953, archaeologist O.G.S. Crawford ominously prophesied that "Future archaeologists will perhaps excavate the ruined factories of the 19th and 20th centuries, when the radiation effects of atom bombs have died away." Well, we made it through the twentieth century (or almost, if you're one of those year-zero sticklers) without too much fallout, and are entering the twenty-first with something Crawford failed to predict: the World Wide Web.
The Internet has revolutionized the way people exchange information, and in the process kicked the ivory tower out from beneath many an academic. Dialogues once usually heard only in faculty lounges or at conferences are now posted on electronic bulletin boards for the whole world to see, and site reports that in pre-web days would have languished in some dusty corner of a university library are now--as web sites--attracting thousands of viewers, scholars and enthusiasts alike, with their virtual tours and interactive maps.
The amount of archaeological information on the web has grown exponentially since we first reviewed websites in this column three years ago (see "What's Online? Part I," January/February 1997, and "What's Online? Part II," March/April 1997), and it is no longer practical to showcase a selection of websites that deal solely with a single site or culture. The following is a very basic introduction to Internet resources that may be of interest to archaeology buffs.
These days, if you need a general starting point for your online archaeological pursuits, the resources at About.com (archaeology.about.com) are your best bet. Its "World Atlas of Archaeology on the Web" lists museums, researchers, and cultural history sites for almost every country on earth, and there's an electronic bulletin board where you can post specific questions. "For Enthusiasts" catalogs a wide selection of websites, featuring site tours, reconstructions, archaeologically related movies and fiction, biographies of famous archaeologists, and links to various clubs and organizations. Meanwhile, hardcore academic types can spend their time arguing the finer points of cluster analysis at the About.com "Computer and Quantitative Methods" section.
Archnet's European counterpart is the Archaeological Resource Guide for Europe, ARGE (odur.let.rug.nl/~arge/). The site is searchable by subject (from arctic archaeology, to Illyrians, to virtual reality), one of the 42 country indexes, or via an interactive European chronology page. "Acutely aware of the Anglo-centroid state of the Web," ARGE is currently accessible and searchable in nine different languages. Unlike Archnet, the site is updated frequently.
The best resource for information on the ancient Near East is Abzu, a project of the Research Archives of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (www-oi.uchicago.edu/OI/ DEPT/RA/ABZU/ABZU.HTML). Although the primary index is most useful to academics (material is indexed according to author, institution, or both), the secondary index includes a fantastic collection of links to specific archaeological sites in the Near East, online museum collections and maps, and Egypt- and Mesopotamia-specific indexes.
Perseus (www.perseus.tufts.edu) should be the first stop for any cyber Hellenophile. This easily navigable site contains an enormous amount of material that focuses primarily on the ancient Greek world; archaeological resources include more than 33,000 cataloged and searchable images of sites, architecture, coins, sculpture, and vases, as well as site plans, informative essays, and online encyclopedias. A search on Perseus for "Sparta" yielded ten images of the site, eight encyclopedia entries, nine images of related sculpture, a description of the site, a digital atlas entry, nine mentions in the historical overview essay, and an article on the Spartan sculptor Gitiadas.
All links lead to Rome at Lacus Curtius (penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/home.html), where there is an online list of more than 2,000 Rome-related websites, as well as several interesting nineteenth- and early twentieth-century public-domain books on Roman history and archaeology, with text linked to other sites and pages of interest; a Latin inscription center with material for the expert, student, and surfer; and a considerable collection of photographs of Roman monuments.
Need to find out where ancient Halicarnassus was? Check out the Interactive Ancient Mediterranean (iam.classics.unc.edu), a searchable online atlas with downloadable, printable maps of terrain and ancient places from the Levantine coast to the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Gaul, Britain, and Ireland.
The Society for East Asian Archaeology runs a straightforward and informative website at www.eastasianarchaeology.org that provides news of discoveries, along with a list of more than 200 different links to sites related to Chinese, Korean, and Japanese archaeology.
The art and archaeology of the Maya and Olmec cultures and the Teotihuacan cultural complex are covered by www.maya-archaeology.org. Digitized images of Maya vase rollouts are available, as well as site reports, museum links, and information on traveling in Central America. The site is supported by the Foundation for Latin American Anthropological Research (F.L.A.A.R), which also runs a digital-imaging technology center. The emphasis on imaging technology is readily apparent on the site, and if you become frustrated with the Maya iconography quiz (winners get a free iconography workbook), you can brush up on your digital photography and desktop publishing skills.
For archaeology in the United States, your best bet is the National Park Service's archaeology page (www.cr.nps.gov/archeology.htm). As well as current features on battlefield archaeology, Mississippian moundbuilders, and a timeline of public archaeology in the U.S., the page provides links to endless listings of archaeological museums, sites, and volunteer opportunities in every state of the Union. Via this site you can also reach the pages of the Park Service's Submerged Cultural Resources Unit (www.nps.gov/scru/home.htm) and read about shipwrecks in American waters. Who knew there were wrecks in Yellowstone Park?
Fans of underwater archaeology should also take a look at the mis-named Nordic Underwater Archaeology site (www.abc.se/~m10354/uwa/), which has been run by Swedish shipwreck buff Per Akesson since 1996. Here you can find links to underwater archaeological museums, societies, and authorities around the globe, as well as to ongoing and completed shipwreck excavations and essays on ship reconstruction and conservation. For another in-depth look at what it takes to excavate a ship, visit the Institute of Nautical Archaeology's Virtual Museum (ina.tamu.edu/vm.htm), where nearly all of the projects the institute has undertaken in the past 30-odd years--from the world's oldest shipwreck off the Turkish coast to horse-powered ferries in Lake Champlain--are described in detail with excellent images.
Finally, if you're looking for a simple, straightforward introduction to the field itself, visit Archaeology: An Introduction at www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/kevin.greene/wintro/index.htm. The site is meant to serve as an online supplement to archaeologist Kevin Greene's 1996 book of the same name, but the links he provides under the various chapter headings, including "The Idea of the Past," "Discovery, Fieldwork and Recording," "Excavation," and "Science and Archaeology," are useful resources themselves.
A major appeal of the web is that it's a Wild West of information, and if you stumble across a website that tempts you to further explore the connection between Stonehenge, the hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle, and ancient UFOs, take a reality check and sharpen your critical web-perusing skills at Fantastic Archaeology (www.uiowa.edu/~anthro/fantasti/cultindex.html). The brainchild of two anthropology professors, Richard A. Fox of the Univeristy of South Dakota and Larry J. Zimmerman of the University of Iowa, the website provides nonspecialists with the skills for understanding and evaluating pseudoscientific archaeology, as well as links that either support or debunk various archaeological "theories" (i.e., ancient Egyptians in the Americas, human footprints in billion-year-old coal deposits, and Nazca landing strips).
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Associate editor KRISTIN M. ROMEY is a computer geek in her spare time.