Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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A Peek at the Past Volume 54 Number 5, September/October 2001
by Jerald T. Milanich

The rise and demise of ARCHAEOLOGY's Victorian predecessor

Thumbing through a stack of nineteenth-century journals in a cabinet in the library at the Florida Museum of Natural History, I came upon the yellowed January, 1895, issue of the Archaeologist, a magazine I never before knew existed. Several visits to the New York Public Library, which has a complete run of the monthly magazine, offered a peek into the world of the Victorian archaeologist.

The Archaeologist was born in 1893, the child of a small group of avocational archaeologists who, a year or so before, had helped found the American Archaeological Association. The magazine, that organization's "official organ," was to be a "primer-like journal" to "educate the beginning collector." Readers would learn "about the objects of which he becomes possessed," and thus be spared the shame of "being imposed upon by unscrupulous dealers and knaves." The Archaeologist routinely accepted advertisements from dealers and printed notices from subscribers wishing to sell and trade archaeological objects. "Part of an Indian's skeleton for flint or slate implements," one such notice reads. "One large sea-shell dish taken from an Indiana mound," another offers. "Will exchange for fine stone pipes."

The professional community must have bristled at the magazine's apparent tolerance of the trade in antiquities. In an editorial "Do Not Ask Too Much Of Us," editor Alfred Franklin Berlin addresses the issue head-on: "some dissatisfaction is shown by anthropologists, because in the Archaeologist are printed the advertisements of dealers who wish to dispose for cash remains of pre-historic art. The complainants must certainly be aware of the fact that this journal DOES NOT PAY. Can its publishers then be blamed for trying to at least make enough money out of the project to meet all expenses?"

More problems lay ahead. The American Archaeological Association disbanded, victim of a seriously ill secretary, a treasurer on the lam (apparently with some of the magazine's subscription money), and a membership of only 66 people, not all of whose dues were current. To remedy the situation, the magazine's publishers incorporated the Archaeologist Publishing Company. Selected as new editor was none other than Warren K. Moorehead, who would become a major figure in American archaeology, excavating at the famed Hopewell and Fort Ancient sites (in Ohio), Cahokia (in Illinois), and Etowah (in Georgia). Moorehead charged one dollar a year for a subscription, with individual issues priced at 15 cents.

To attain solvency, Moorehead sold stock in his publishing company at $25 a share and offered $15 cash and a collection of artifacts to the reader who brought in the most new subscribers. The magazine continued to accept ads from dealers, including Moorehead himself. The pages of the Archaeologist are peppered with his ads for "mound pottery," "amulets," and "urns of queer shapes."

Jerald T. Milanich is curator in archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History and author of a number of books on Florida archaeology.

© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America