11.19.2011

Whither The Popular Archeology Magazines?

It's a discussion I keep having with people, and maybe readers have an answer - why are there plenty of good popular archaeology / ancient history magazines each month in French and Italian, but not in English? I used to love picking them up at the Louvre bookshop, where one could buy old issues on special topics, not just current ones. And if you're thinking "but that's the Louvre!" you'd be wrong, because I could also pick up current editions in Valbonne, a little village in France.

L'Archeo Thema, which from its web site seems to be Swiss, and bi-monthly, is currently covering the archeology of Tripolitania, the western half of Libya.

(What's interesting is that one can subscribe to Archeo Thema - Revue Archeologie et Histoire in the US via Amazon, but not in the UK!)

In the Autumn following 9/11, as US forces went into Afghanistan, one of the French archaeology magazines devoted an issue to Afghan history and archaeology. It was interesting, in depth, and far more interesting than similar stories in British newspapers and magazines.

Looking on Amazon US, I see one can subscribe to a number of English language popular archaeology magazines, but outside museums I've only ever seen Archaeology magazine in a few of the larger Barnes and Noble book stores.

If you're in the US, then the AIA's Archaeology magazine is probably the best choice - you can subscribe via their web site (here - it's cheaper than via Amazon, and all the money supports their work).

In the UK, I went to a few museum bookshops and the large magazine section at Selfridge's and there was only one archaeology magazine available - the Australian Archaeological Diggings. I bought a copy, and it was ... charmingly amateur, reading like an enthusiastic club newsletter. I mean that as a compliment, but I did wonder how this little Ozzie magazine managed to get distributed in the UK, but no other magazine.

There are a few UK based archaeology magazines, but I never see them for sale, and I'm not going to subscribe if I don't know what I'm getting, so others probably won't either.

The best know popular archaeology magazine in the UK is supposedly the monthly Current Archaeology, which is very much 'hands in the dirt' archaeology rather than artefacts as art, and only covers the UK. The same publishers have also launched a bi-monthly World Archaeology covering non-UK archaeology.

I tend to recommend Minerva Magazine instead, as it seems easier for people to approach, with less anti-collecting preaching, but its articles are basic and there's a lot of pro-antiquities market coverage. It's bi-monthly, and covers on their web site show it's trying to target new readers through interviews with Tony Robinson, Bettany Hughes, etc.

I should probably also mention Biblical Archaeology Review in the US, but ... I'd almost rather not. They have driven me nuts with stories about Solomon being admired by the Romans at Pompei, and Vesuvius' eruption in AD 79 being punishment for the Romans' destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70 (why does God have to wait nine whole years, I ask you?!?) ... and the photo to the left seems to have led to an article in the current issue titled "A Menorah at Persepolis?" ... If you want to wind an archaeologist up, just tell them about an article you've read in BAR ...

Ancient Warfare is a magazine friends in the field - Adrian Goldsworthy, Adrian Murdoch, etc - had spoken highly of. Again, I never see it for sale, but I ordered their Gaius Marius special issue through their web site, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was popular, but interesting - and I loved that one can order single issues, pay using PayPal, which arrived within days.

What I find fascinating is that there is a demand for specialist magazines: my local newsagents in London stock the Council of Foreign Relations' Foreign Affairs, and Selfridges stocks dozen of specialist art magazines ... but despite the popularity of ancient history and archaeology, there is no popular archaeology / ancient history magazine easily available.

If anyone out there is thinking of starting one up - a few people have expressed interest in passing - then why not try the online rather than print format? It worked for Lonny magazine, a purely online 'shelter' magazine set up by some editors from magazines that were closed down, it looks as good as any 'real' magazine out there, and it makes money through advertising.

Updates:

Coincidentally,  David Meadows just mentionned a new online only magazine, Worldwide Archaeology Magazine, which can be downloaded as a PDF ... The first issue is charming, but I suspect the National Geographic won't be quaking in its boots.

 Daniel Pett reminded me to add the bi-monthly British Archaeology, which is available at WH Smiths (although I've never seen it for sale there, and there are fewer and fewer branches of Smiths these days).

A comment was left about KMT A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, which looks interesting, but again, I have to admit I've never seen a copy of it.

A few people have emailed in with other suggestions, mostly online journals - very different from popular magazines - and web sites, and with explanations of why it's a pain in the neck running a journal / magazine, but the point remains - there are lots of English language magazines, but most of them are quite niche, and none other than Archaelogy comes close to the standard of the French magazine.


2 comments:

  1. What about KMT? That's a US based magazine on Ancient Egypt with superb production values and great editorial content. I think there would be a market for a similar magazine for Rome, or Greece & Rome.

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  2. I wonder if this is a regional issue? Here in Newcastle, the local WH Smiths stocks Current Archaeology and British Archaeology, alongside Minerva.

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