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.