Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More on Archaeology Journals, Maney, and SNIPs

Maney is a publishing house that has been been acquiring quite a few archaeological journals. For example, they now publish the Journal of Field Archaeology, Lithic Technology, and quite a few others. I noticed today that some of the journals report something called their "Scopus SNIP." Never having heard of it, I looked it up. Evidently, SNIP stands, not for single nucleotide polymorphism, but for "source normalized impact per paper." Some of the Maney journals do not list this metric, but I don't know why. The metric is, I assume, produced from Scopus data, and the journals that don't have it (e.g., Ethnoarchaeology) are indexed in Scopus, so I'm not sure what the issue us. The same journals are also absent from the Scimago journal rankings (see previous post), which are also based on Scopus data. Perhaps they haven't been indexed in Scopus long enough to produce the metric, but I really don't know. I do know that the number and complexity of journal metrics is quickly becoming bewildering.

One of the new Maney journals is named STAR: Science and Technology of Archaeological Research, which is published in association with the Society for Archaeological Science (SAS). The SAS, then, sponsors not only the prestigious Journal of Archaeological Science, but also the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, a new periodical published by Elsevier that seems to be on its second issue. STAR, however, is open-access, so that may distinguish it from the two Elsevier journals sponsored by the SAS.

Note that the first link in this post should take you to a page showing 43 of the Maney archaeology journals. The content at that link is open and free until April 26th. Take a look. I flipped through Ethnoarchaeology and Lithic Technology and found a bunch of interesting articles I had not seen before.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rick Steves update

In case you had doubts, here's a picture of Rick Steves behind me in the Piccolomini library.
As you can see, he's very lifelike.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rick Steves lives! He is not a cyborg created by PBS.

I ran into Rick Steves today. Literally. This big gringo trailing a camera crew almost elbowed me in the Piccolomini Library of the Duomo. I looked up, and it was Rick Steves. I was carrying one of his guidebooks, so I touched his arm and showed it to him, and he grinned. I said, "There's an archaeology conference in town, down at the psychiatric hospital [sic--perhaps I should have explained better]. You should stop by." He said, I would love to," which I took to mean "I would love to if I weren't working for a living" or "I would love to but I'm sane."

To understand the thrill of the encounter, you have to understand that for us Chardonnay-swilling, freedom-hating, science-loving liberals, Rick Steves is like a rock star. In fact, I had begun to wonder whether he was a cyborg created by PBS just for fund-raising. If he is, the technology sure has improved. He is much more life-like than Data from Star Trek, The Next Generation. I suppose that, technically, he could be an android and not a cyborg, but I'm not sure how to tell the difference.

He's much taller in real life than he looks on TV. I know that the camera adds 5 pounds, but I didn't know it added 5 inches too.


Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) conference 2015

I'm in Siena, presenting at the CAA conference. The main conference venue is a former psychiatric hospital. Too many jokes! My head feels like it will explode.

Poster on the Quantitative Analysis of Munsell Color Readings

Random archaeologist discussing the poster
I'm preparing for my talk on Thursday, on the fractal topology of archaeological site distributions.

Siena is lovely.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

We need better chronologies

In the latest issue of Latin American Antiquity, George Cowgill has published a short note arguing that we need better chronologies. Cowgill is particularly well known for his contributions to quantitative thinking in archaeology. He is also known for his work at the site of Teotihuacan, in Mexico. In this note, he argues that we need better chronological control over our data, and he suggests that Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon determinations is one way to get it.

The article is a commentary to accompany a special section on chronologies that began in the previous number of the journal. The special section, assembled by the editors Geoffrey Braswell and María A. Gutiérrez, also includes articles suggesting revisions to the chronologies of Kaminaljuyú and Becan.

I mention all this because I think it is important and needs to be highlighted. While I can't say we've exactly neglected chronology, it has not really been a focus of research for many years. It needs to be. Not that it should be an end in itself--it is mainly a tool for addressing other kinds of questions--but until we have more precise and reliable chronologies, we can't find the answers to the more pressing historical or social questions in which we are really interested.

So, a salute to the editors for focusing attention on the issue and to the authors of these articles for their empirical and mathematical analyses.

References Cited

Ball, Joseph W. (2014). Rethinking the Becán Ceramic Sequence--Disjunctions, Continuities, Segmentation, and Chronology. Latin American Antiquity 25(4):427-448.

Cowgill, George L. (2015). We Need Better Chronologies: Progress in Getting Them. Latin American Antiquity 26(1):26-29.

Inomata, Takeshi, Raúl Ortiz, Bárbara Arroyo, and Eugenia J. Robinson (2014). Chronological Revision of Preclassic Kaminaljuyú,, Guatemala: Implications for Social Processes in the Southern Maya Area. Latin American Antiquity 25(4):377-408.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

More on Archaeology Journal Impact Factors

I have created a stable page on this blog in which I provide links to the Scimago rankings and impact data for about 80 of the highest ranked archaeology journals. I hope this may be a useful resource for others who are curious about publishing in our field or, like me, are trying to choose a journal.

I regret to say that I left our old darling the Numismatic Chronicle off the list. Like you, when I hear someone mention The Chronicle, I immediately think of numismatics, not the Chronicle of Higher Education.But as its primary focus is not archaeology, I could not justify including it on the list.

Scimago lists over 200 archaeology journals, and I'm sure many others exist but are too obscure to garner bibliometric attention. Many of the 200-odd journals appear to have small impacts, but archaeologists do generate a lot of significant data that need to find a home. With all these journals, you would think it easy to get published, but a journal's impact and prestige are not correlated--according to my anecdotal experience--with the fairness or finickiness of peer-reviewers or editors.

I would love for you to let me know if the links on the new page are helpful to you.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring Break

I spent my Spring Break at the Middle American Research Institute (MARI) studying ancient pottery. I brought a couple of students with me. They seemed pleasantly unperturbed, and even excited, to be laboring through their holiday. Of course, you have to remember that to go to Daytona Beach for Spring Break, my students have to drive several hours north, where it's colder and less fun than here by the beach in south Florida. It goes without saying that my students are the best, so I was not surprised by their interest and enthusiasm.

MARI has really excellent collections. Even though I've examined a couple of them before, I didn't realize how great they are, or how extensive. They have quite a few highly significant type collections that will well repay study if you're interested in Maya or Central American ceramics. Our goal was to prepare for our ceramic analysis this summer in Nicaragua, where we hope to study materials from the northwestern corner of the country, near Honduras and El Salvador. For this purpose, the MARI collections could not have been better suited because they include significant material not only from Honduras and El Salvador but also from Costa Rica.

I cannot fail to mention that the staff were extremely hospitable and graciously answered a hundred annoying questions. I thank them sincerely.

We brought our new portable digital microscope with us and took it for a test drive. I bought a Dino-lite AM4515ZT because it seemed to have, at an affordable price, the resolution and magnification that would help us record and analyze ceramic pastes. I tried out a lower resolution, simpler, and cheaper model first, but it was disappointing. Fortunately, the new model came along just in time for the trip to New Orleans. In the near future, I will post some photos of sherd pastes to illustrate what it can do. I think it will be excellent for comparing pastes and analyzing temper sizes and shapes. It cost about $770. It offers polarized as well as regular light, automatic magnification recording, a good range of magnification (20-220x), and a 1.3 megapixel camera. We found that the use of polarized light was extremely helpful for enhancing the contrast between clay and temper. Note that to use magnification in excess of, say, 20 or 30x, you really need to have a stand for the instrument because no one can hold it steady enough to take clear microphotographs.

Now I need to find affordable digital image processing software for isolating the temper from the clay. The one that everyone seems to recommend (Image-Pro) costs more than $5500, which is beyond my budget for this project. Cheaper programs exist, but I don't know whether they will really do the job. Let me know if you're aware of something cheap that really works!

The best reason for visiting the collections at MARI is, of course, the New Orleans food. We ate at:

Antoine's on Monday,
Pascal Manale's on Tuesday
Court of the Two Sisters on Wednesday, and
Franky and Johnny's on Thursday.

Unbelievable food.  I gained several pounds in less than a week. If I lived there and ate like that every week, I'd be dead in a year, but what a way to go.

Archaeology journal impact factors

I'm trying to decide where to submit an article, and therefore I was checking some journal impact factors on the Scimago site. I discovered they have a nice little widget that will produce a graph of a journal's impact information on your website. Here are some examples in no particular order:

1. Journal of Archaeological Science

SCImago Journal & Country Rank

2. Journal of Archaeological Research

SCImago Journal & Country Rank

3. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

SCImago Journal & Country Rank

4. Cambridge Archaeological Journal

SCImago Journal & Country Rank

5. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology

SCImago Journal & Country Rank

6. World Archaeology

SCImago Journal & Country Rank

If you click on the graph, the link will take you to the journal's page at the Scimago site, which has lots more information. 

Note that, after many years of dominance, the Journal of Archaeological Science has been surpassed in its SJR rating by the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, albeit by a tiny margin. By the older and better known H-index, the Journal of Archaeological Science still leads by a large margin (64 to 37). These measures are based on data through 2013, which are the latest available because of the inevitable lag in citations to articles.

I'll be curious to see whether these graphs update automatically. I suspect they will because they are links, not embedded images. So, check back frequently! Let me know if you want me to include other journals to this rather random cavalcade.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hoyo Negro skeleton mtDNA

For those of you who haven't been keeping up on cave archaeology in Mesoamerica, a remarkably complete skeleton of late Pleistocene girl was discovered deep underwater in a cave near Tulum, Quintana Roo, a couple of years ago. Reports of skeletons and other artifacts in similar contexts have been floating around for years. Most of us presumed, I think, that these remains were quite early because the caves were flooded by post-Pleistocene sea-level rise. The cave near Tulum was named Hoyo Negro, and the remains of the young woman were nicknamed Naia. In 2014, her mtDNA sequence was reported along with dates suggesting the skeleton was 12,000 to 13,000 years old (1).

In today's issue of Science, Kay Prufer and Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology argue in a comment (2) on the original article that mtDNA haplotype was incorrectly identified and was came from modern contamination because it did not show the level and type of damage they would have predicted.

The response (3) is robust. While conceding that the lack of damage to parts of the DNA sequence is perhaps unexpected, they argue that damage to ancient DNA is poorly understood and unpredictable. Therefore, it cannot be used by itself to prove or disprove that a particular sequence or segment of DNA is ancient. They also provide a reasonably compelling argument against contamination.

Both the comment and the response discussed whether and how DNA might be damaged  in different environments, including the tropical environment of Quintana Roo. What surprised me was the lack of any explicit consideration of the fact that the bones had been deep underwater for thousands of years. That seems like a noteworthy omission.

1. James C. Chatters, Douglas J. Kennett, Yemane Asmerom, Brian M. Kemp, Victor Polyak, Alberto Nava Blank, Patricia A. Beddows, Eduard Reinhardt, Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales, Deborah A. Bolnick, Ripan S. Malhi, Brendan J. Culleton, Pilar Luna Erreguerena, Dominique Rissolo, Shanti Morell-Hart, and Thomas W. Stafford Jr. (2014). Late Pleistocene Human Skeleton and mtDNA Link Paleoamericans and Modern Native Americans. Science 344: 750-754.

2. Prufer, Kay and Matthias Meyer (2015). Comment on "Late Pleistocene Human Skeleton and mtDNA Link Paleoamericans and Modern Native Americans." Science 347:835-a.

3. Brian M. Kemp, John Lindo, Deborah A. Bolnick, Ripan S. Malhi, and James C. Chatters (2015). Response to Comment on "Late Pleistocene Human Skeleton and mtDNA Link Paleoamericans and Modern Native Americans." Science 347:835-b.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Web page update

I updated and, I hope, improved my webpage. Please let me know if you like it, or not, or if you find any broken links or errors in it.

I am particularly interested in comments on my new page "Guide to Archaeology Resources and Journals in the Library". Both criticism and suggestions (as well as praise, of course) are all equally welcome!