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Beyond Stone & Bone

We Asked For It
by Mark Rose
November 20, 2009

One of our recent cover survey images

One of our recent cover survey images

In our recent cover survey, we also asked for your feedback about what you like and dislike in Archaeology and on We received hundreds of responses—thanks to everyone who gave us their input. We are now going through your comments and suggestions, but I thought you might like a quick take.

Some people took the opportunity to remark on the potential covers that we asked them to rank. Two people thought one cover was objectionable, the one with the Peruvian mummy and headline with  “trophy skulls” in it. Here’s part of one of the comments:

I believe the fourth cover down is inappropriate and does not reflect the changing ethos within our field when it comes to how we present the physical remains of the people we study. …Many indigenous peoples see us, the archaeologists (as well as museums), as the folks who historically have taken “trophy skulls” …ARCHAEOLOGY magazine represents us, as well as the work we do to the public. It therefore needs to represent the ethical standards or our field, and our respect as scientists and people to other cultures and times.

Thanks for raising this concern—we hear you.

There were calls for more coverage of different countries and regions, such as Canada, Eastern Europe, and Africa. We’ll tabulate those and compare the results to the world map in Eric Powell’s office. Eric, our deputy editor, tracks the geographic distribution of articles by hammering colored pins into his map using the plaster cast of a mammoth tooth—a primitive but effective method. Thanks for your help in spotting the holes in our coverage. We’ll try to address them.

A number of individuals called for more underwater stories, while the cheer “More Medieval!” was raised by some. We received detailed suggestions on the Caucuses and Hawaii. How archaeologists work—excavation procedures and scientific techniques—and bios of leading archaeologists were also mentioned.

There were objections to particular subjects. “I was disgusted by the ‘hippie’ dig. WHY did you do it at all?” “Pop occultism—much, much less. The world ends in 2012? Well, let’s hope the stories about it end first.” “More on discoveries and ongoing digs etc. Less of the legal fights over possession of stolen artifacts.”

Some people made general comments about the articles: “More depth in articles.” “Less ‘mysterious,’ more facts and explanations.” “Deeper explanation of implication of finds.” “More shorter articles. I would rather read ten 2-page articles than two 8-page articles.” Bumping up the illustrations—maps and diagrams—had several boosters. Criticisms included articles split up by ads and articles that start in the beginning of the magazine then “jump” to the back.

On the web side, there were calls for information about opportunities to dig and for resources for teachers. In case readers are unfamiliar with the resources on the Archaeological Institute of America’s website, I can recommend the Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin and the Lesson Plans there. In print, but more so on the web, there were requests for more news and follow up of current headlines, and we hope to beef up online news. Our Archaeological Headlines blog by Jessica Saraceni is good, but it would be nice to dig further into a couple of headlines a week when possible. Several people asked for more Interactive Digs. We recently added Zominthos, Crete, and El Carrizal, Mexico, but we are definitely looking for more of them.

We also asked whether or not you would like to see more information about travel to archaeological sites. A large majority of those who expressed an opinion in favor or against said they would like more travel information. But there were some qualifications: more about travel should not be at the expense of the articles, and travel information should be directed toward a number of budgets, not just high end.

You’ve given us lots to think about—this is just a brief overview and there are many other useful suggestions. Thanks. Remember, you can write to us ( any time you have a suggestion.

Comments posted here do not represent the views or policies of the Archaeological Institute of America.

One comment for "We Asked For It"

  • Reply posted by Jonathan Laden (November 20, 2009, 12:31 pm):

    It’s important to remember that people are much more likely to give feedback of the “improve this” than the “loved that” variety. Myself, I love the interactive Digs.


About Our Blogger:

Heather Pringle is a freelance science journalist who has been writing about archaeology for more than 20 years. She is the author of Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust and The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead. For more about Heather, see our interview or visit

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