Current Archaeology is Britain’s leading archaeological magazine. It is published monthly, and with a circulation of 18,000 it is by far the biggest archaeological magazine in Britain.
Current Archaeology is aimed at the “Middle Market”, that is, we are not “academic/professional” nor on the other hand are we “popular”. We are in between. Generally our style is based on that of “The Economist”. Thus names should be quoted as forename, followed by surname – no titles, nor initials (standard newspaper practice).
Articles are either written by the editor, and sent to the source for approval, or they are written by the source, but are then often substantially edited, in which case they will be returned to the author for re-editing. We abide by the principle that if you are prepared to let us hack your text about, we in our turn are very willing for you to hack our editing about. But we never publish anything without the full approval of the source, and copies are normally sent for checking often right to down to the final page proofs.
Contributors should aim to get away completely from the usual style of writing archaeological reports. Instead, just tell the story: try and remember how you present the site when you lecture about it to the local archaeological society – and put that down on paper. Tell us how you came to set up the excavation, what you thought you were going to find, how the dig progressed, and how you reached your conclusions. This is a very typical formula – but any formula will do. Just relax; use words like fortunately, and unfortunately – your hopes and fears as the dig progressed – your disappointments and triumphs. Tell us about your problems, how you fought through them and eventually solved them – or failed to solve them. Tell us where the evidence is missing and confess to the weak parts of your argument – and of course your final triumph. Above all, be human, be normal, be yourself.
The excessive use of abstract nouns slows up the pace of any article. The easiest way to ‘edit’ an article to make it more readable is to replace the abstract nouns by concrete nouns, or better, by verbs.
When analysing an article, it is often useful to go through, putting a ring round all abstract nouns, ticking all concrete nouns, and not marking those where you are uncertain. If the concrete nouns exceed the abstract, you are writing for the Sun – a fault I have never yet discovered in an archaeologist. If however the abstract nouns predominate, and particularly if there are large numbers of double abstract nouns (e.g. ‘research design’) where one abstract noun is used to qualify another, then please get to work replacing them by verbs.
Verbs can also be analysed in a similar way, between active and passive, and between strong verbs, and weak verbs such as ‘is’ or ‘has’. If some of the abstract nouns can be replaced by strong verbs in the active tense, most articles will increase in pace and readability.
We normally reckon to have about 400 words to a page of Current Archaeology: in fact we have about 800 words to a page but then 50% of the average article consists of illustrations. Thus articles tend to work out as follows:
- Short reports “Archaeology in pictures” = one large picture, possibly a mini plan and between 200-400 words of text or long caption.
- Short articles- single season, single site projects. Two to four pages, 800-1,600 words, 4-8 pictures, one plan or map.
- Major articles – multi season, multi site projects. Six to eight pages, 2,400-3,200 words. 2 plans/maps, 2-4 photos per page.
- Do remember the editor will re-write and edit as necessary but the result will, of course, be sent to you for re-editing until both you and the editor are happy.
We do not have footnotes in Current Archaeology. Where there is some major external evidence which should be referred to, it should be summarised in the text. The reader should never have to go outside Current Archaeology to understand the article.
Dates should be quoted AD/BC (or ad/bc if radiocarbon). They should not be quoted either BP, or as a range of dates. (A central calibrated date can be obtained from the CALIB, the Seattle radiocarbon calibration programme). Deviations should not be quoted unless they are unusual. Try to bring in the relevant information; is there an unusually large deviation? is there a ‘wiggle’? what is the material? is it an accelerator date or a standard date?
Dating is a crucial aspect of archaeology, and I rather encourage authors to discuss dating problems and contradictions.
Text for Current Archaeology can be submitted in any format by email.
We are always looking for material for the Diary, including photos if possible. We are happy to publicise conferences and events in our Smalltalk column but details should be sent at least 3-4 months in advance. Our criteria for inclusion is whether they will be of interest to our readers i.e. conferences with a genuine research element will be welcome: standard lecture series on the Archaeology of Roman Britain will not.
Current Archaeology is in full colour throughout.
We work with scans and digital photos but can work with slides or prints if no alternative. Please make sure yoru digital images are 300dpi (or above). We prefer digital files in Photoshop .eps format, or tifs, but are also happy to accept jpegs or vitually any other format.
We always like to make Current Archaeology as elegant as possible and we always choose at least some of our illustrations with half an eye to their aesthetic qualities. In particular we always like to have a picture of the excavations showing the horizon so that the reader can place the excavation within its setting. It is also useful to have photos with people in them to act as a scale. However photos taken while an excavation is in progress are rarely satisfactory as the people tend to be untidy. It is usually better to wait until the excavation is completed and the site ready for photography and then place diggers back on site pretending to dig in suitably aesthetic positions paying attention to the overall composition of the picture.
We also prefer to have photos taken in sunshine. It is the conventional wisdom in archaeology that pictures should be taken on dull days to produce an even distribution of light across the site. However dull days produce dull pictures and the printing process always reduces the contrast of photographs. We therefore find the best photos are bright sparkling shots with a slight over-contrast taken in sunlight. This is particularly true of the more technical slides of excavated features where it is better to show the shadows of features rather than the features themselves. A particularly valuable technique is to take photos against the sun, shading the camera lens, this produces good contrast.
We are always looking for suitable photos for our front cover. The main requirement is of course that they should be ‘portrait’ rather than ‘landscape’. They can either occupy the whole of the front page, bleeding on three sides, or they can go in a frame, as in our usual standard. Obviously a very high quality is need for the full page photo. We have found by experience that the best front cover photos are those with a strong centralising element: – objects are particularly good. By contrast aerial photos, or landscape views, where the interest is scattered, do not seem to come out well on front covers thought they are often very successful in the body of the article.
We always endeavour to be as fair as possible over copyright. Thus the copyright of a signed article remains with the author, as does the copyright of plans and photos: we merely ask that you give us first reproduction rights, and the rights to any subsequent reprints of the magazine.
In addition we would also request permission to reproduce any parts of the article on our web pages – we aim to reproduce some of the main articles at about a third length. We also request permission to reproduce material in our advertising brochures.
In addition, for administrative convenience we would suggest that you allow us to give minor copyright clearances, that is give permission to teachers to photocopy articles for class use; to local societies to reproduce articles in their local magazine; to the Talking Newspaper for the Blind to reproduce articles on a tape recorder, and any other minor requests. Finally, if in 10 years time you have left archaeology, no longer subscribe to Current Archaeology and cannot be found, we then wish to be able to give copyright permission to any subsequent researcher.
In all these cases it is assumed that no money changes hands: if a fee is offered, we will of course contact you and pass the relevant part of the fee on to you.
Additional copies of the magazine
We are always happy to supply our sources with extra copies of the magazine. We send out up to six to eight copies as a matter of course, but we are quite prepared to send you up to 50 to 70 free copies, especially if you are heading a team of archaeologists. You should also ask for copies for each of your sponsors, while ‘curators’ often find it useful to give a copy to each member of the planning committee. In this way we hope that Current Archaeology will make a contribution to the general cause of archaeology.
All rules of style are meant to be broken. We always welcome new and original articles on new and original topics in a new and original style!