Interpreting Scholarly Articles

The Archaeological Ivory Tower

One of the biggest problems facing the field of archaeology today is the divide between academia and the public. There is a lot of pressure on archaeologists to “publish or perish”. That is to publish within scholarly journals so that they can achieve the coveted position of tenured professor. Aside from the fact that scholarly journals are often prohibitively expensive to those not involved in academic institutions, the writing required by these venues is full of jargon and often so pared down that it is difficult for those outside the field to understand.

Archaeology is exciting, and because many archaeologists are unwilling to translate translate their research for a general audience, the job of writing about archaeology is left to journalists or amateur archaeologists- people without a thorough grounding in archaeology method and theory. Because of this, there is much false information floating around.

In addition to the problem of false information, there has only been a recent push by some archaeologists to stress why their research is important to the wider public. Archaeology is not a self-contained entity, and the field is about more than just understanding our human past. Because of the current state of academia and political climate, it is crucial for archaeologists to begin communicating the wider impacts of their research.

To help rectify this situation, one of the aims of this blog is to ‘translate’ scholarly articles for the public. I will pick articles on a variety of archaeological topics and provide a synopsis for you in plain English. In addition to telling you what each article is about, I will give you the rundown on why this research is important to the field of archaeology and the broader impacts of the research. That is, how the research fits into other fields and how that research is important for us even in our modern times.

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