A Letter from the Editors-in-Chief
We are honored to begin our tenure as the 20th and 21st (and first joint) Editors-in-Chief of this illustrious journal, and we hope to do it proud. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the outgoing Editor-in-Chief, Jane B. Carter, who generously gave her time to prepare us for the job and handed us the reins of a vibrant and well-run journal with manuscripts in the pipeline. Her astute and witty instructions during our online training were invaluable. Indeed, the entire team, including Laetitia La Follette, Rebecca W. King, Meg Sneeringer, Elma Sanders, and Anne Duray, has been a joy to work with and has made our arrival smooth and pleasant, which we hope is evident in this issue. We are grateful that both Josephine Shaya (Museum Review Editor) and David Stone (Book Review Editor) have stayed on through this transition to continue their excellent work. Finally, we have assembled a new Editorial Advisory Board, whose composition is printed on the masthead of this issue. They are among the top scholars in our field and their expertise and experience reflect our aspirations for the journal. We greatly look forward to collaborating with them during our tenure.
Our vision for the journal as Editors-in-Chief involves staying the course in some respects and taking the journal in new directions in others. We are committed to maintaining the mission of the journal as the flagship publication of the Archaeological Institute of America and the top North American journal for the archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean and adjacent regions. To that end we will shepherd manuscripts through and publish them in a timely manner to the highest standards. Museum reviews and early access book reviews will continue, the latter online and the former both online and in print.
In keeping with the recently updated editorial Statement of Purpose,1 we see our mission to be showcasing the best of the work being done on the traces of the past across the Mediterranean, Europe, western Asia, and North Africa from the Paleolithic through late antiquity, while also presenting the afterlife of past places and objects in heritage studies and classical reception. The articles in this issue reflect just how ambitious in scope that statement is, as they range geographically from the Mediterranean to the Horn of Africa, and temporally from antiquity to a contemporary archaeological study of impounded migrant boats in Sicily. The latter article, by Greene et al., expands traditional classical reception studies to encompass a maritime geography of reception: these migrant boats traversed the same stretch of sea between North Africa and Sicily that ancient boats traveled in the past. Just as an ancient site might be reused and reimagined in later periods, these recent voyages may be understood as referencing all earlier voyages across that same water, layering new stories onto old. Layered engagements and reception are at the heart of another article in this issue, in which Brennan uses the expertise of a 1930s American boxing reporter to illuminate a novel reading of the famous Hellenistic statue known as the Terme Boxer.
We have some ambitions for the journal that we trust will be visible to readers within a few issues. We remain committed to goals set by our predecessors to diversify the authorship of the AJA. This will require more than passively welcoming submissions by scholars from underrepresented groups; it means being proactive in recruiting and supporting prospective authors, especially junior scholars, from before submission all the way through the revision process. We seek to diversify the content as well, working within the Statement of Purpose. The discipline of classics is facing a reckoning with regard to its colonialist roots and a reputation that is perceived by many as, at best, out of touch and at worst, a vehicle for justifying claims to white European superiority. This breaks the hearts of those of us who love the ancient world exactly for what it reveals of other cultures and other ways of thinking and living. The more the AJA can do to amplify the stories of groups formerly excluded from archaeology, the more the field’s continued relevance will be recognized. This means seeking out the aspects of the ancient past that are not just about the elite, who are often more visible in the material record, but tracing the people on the margins, socially, geographically, and economically.
Already in this issue, this theme of nonelite social history is apparent in González-Ruibal et al.’s study of nomads of northeast Africa who engaged in trade with the major empires of the ancient world for 1,000 years, over long distances, while maintaining radically different subsistence practices and cultures from their trading partners. In another example of the limits of imperialism, Avramidou’s study of Hellenistic theater culture and religion in Samothrace portrays a world of competition and one-upmanship between neighboring cities, and their homegrown love of theater, that over-turns the conventional tale of top-down Macedonian cultural imposition. In Van Oyen et al.’s account of a remarkable intact first-century CE blacksmith’s workshop in the Tuscan countryside, we catch a glimpse of craftspeople and their practices and role in the rural economy, all of which would typically be hidden from us. As we look to future issues, there is still much work to be done on a whole host of topics, such as enslavement, forced and voluntary migration, indigeneity, health and diet, and poverty in the ancient world. These facets of nonelite social history are of great popular and scholarly interest but until recently were materially elusive. This has changed with the advent of new scientific techniques in bioarchaeology, archaeobotany, and paleogenetics to name a few.
This brings us to our other big push at the helm of the AJA: to bring scientific approaches to the fore in future issues. To that end we will encourage more science-based articles to be published in the journal. This process has begun in some key articles published in the AJA in the last few years, and we intend to accelerate that trend. Some of the most important recent breakthroughs in classical archaeology have been published not in the AJA but in the scientific archaeology journals. To take the Roman world alone, we are thinking of work on diet and foodways, such as the archaeobotanical data from a Herculaneum sewer to reconstruct an eclectic working-class diet, or stable isotopic analyses revealing ancient migrants to London.2 Similarly, the rewriting of the story of Roman glass production has come about through a stream of recent publications in other journals, not the AJA. Thus, an encouragement of science-based research, grounded in social theory and always offering situated interpretations and larger historical significance, would maintain the AJA’s centrality in an evolving field. The changes we propose would align the AJA’s offerings more closely with a typical AIA annual meeting program.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge this scholarly community’s fortitude in persevering with original research despite the COVID-19 pandemic, when most field projects ground to a halt and access to museums, libraries, and archives was restricted. We are grateful to the authors for writing and rewriting under these trying circumstances. No scholars work in isolation, so we extend our gratitude to the peer-reviewers for finding the time to evaluate manuscripts—theirs is an essential and all too often underappreciated service to the field—and to the AJA’s stellar production team for continuing to publish the journal on schedule through it all. At the time of our writing, we are not out of this pandemic yet, but the past year has shown that archaeologists have the grit to keep up their research amid chaos and uncertainty. Now more than ever, in print and online, the American Journal of Archaeology is a venue to celebrate those hard-won accomplishments.
2 Rowan, E. 2017. “Bioarchaeological Preservation and Non-elite Diet in the Bay of Naples: An Analysis of the Food Remains from the Cardo V Sewer at the Roman Site of Herculaneum.” Environmental Archaeology 22(3):318–36; Shaw, H., J. Montgomery, R. Redfern, R. Gowland, and J. Evans. 2016. “Identifying Migrants in Roman London Using Lead and Strontium Stable Isotopes.” JAS 66:57–68.