Conference logo Networked Information in an International Context


9th and 10th February 1996 at the Ramada Hotel, Heathrow, UK


SEAMUS ROSS, Assistant Secretary (Information Technology), The British Academy

This account was drafted for this report by The Marc Fresko Consultancy. It is based on notes taken during the presentation and slides used.


Archaeology is a particularly appropriate subject to promote the use of electronic media. Much archaeological work is by its nature destructive; archaeologists therefore need to preserve access to primary data in order to repeat and test conclusions. Traditional publishing methods have not provided the functionality that archaeologists require to manipulate the data types involved. The Internet Archaeology project aims to establish both a new definitive electronic publication and a model for subsequent developments. Key issues are touched on, with proposed approaches.


It is clear that electronic publications can be more flexible and more effective than paper publications could ever be. One brief example illustrates this: during the 1920s, an archaeologist painstakingly reconstructed the design of a theatre which had been excavated. His reconstruction was widely accepted until it was re-examined during this decade using solid modelling tools. Because of the facilities offered by solid modelling, this re-examination proved that the earlier work was not completely feasible, and ideas about the form of the theatre were revised. This probably would not have happened without the use of powerful computer-assisted techniques.


Accordingly, the main objective of this project is to develop a fully electronic, regular, online only, refereed journal. Internet Archaeology aims to become one of the world’s archaeological journals of record, by publishing refereed papers of high academic standing which also use the potential of electronic publication to the full.

Subsidiary objectives are to:

The Consortium

The project consortium is led by the University of York. The other members are:

The project is constituted as a charitable trust, with a formal management structure including a steering committee, an editorial board and a technical panel. The chair of the committee and Honorary Editor is Professor Barry Cunliffe, from Oxford.


Archaeology is well suited to the application of advanced electronic techniques. It is multidisciplinary subject, which makes calls on many different skills and methods of analysis. One instance of this is its use of many different data types — text, images, numerical data, GIS modelling etc. Practitioners already make use of electronic tools, and a body of experience in multimedia publication is growing. WHY AN ELECTRONIC JOURNAL? An electronic journal will be an ideal vehicle to convey archaeological information. It will provide new tools to allow archaeologists to say things about the past in ways which where not previously possible. It will allow access to primary research data, enriching it with additional functionality so that readers can manipulate this data, allowing readers to make use of, and do justice to, the rich diversity of information.

Finally, an electronic journal has some special logistical benefits which make it well suited to the dissemination of academic works. Its network orientation makes distribution both easy and inexpensive; and the distribution can include unusual or bespoke programs which add value to the data.

Unfortunately, some drawbacks accompany these benefits. In particular, the costs of preparing papers have been higher than anticipated, partly because of the many different data types with which archaeologists work. The team has also found that the complexities and difficulties of running an electronic journal are greater than expected, but remains convinced that it offers a valuable method of publication for archaeological work.


The journal will feature:


Revenue Generation

The annual running cost of Internet Archaeology is projected to be about £60,000. Clearly, an equivalent revenue stream is needed. This may arise from diverse sources including subscriptions and access charges.

Various models are being considered; they include personal subscriptions, multiple access subscriptions and so on. One option will be to offer personal subscriptions which allow greater functionality than site licences. The final model is not certain; but it has been agreed that the first issue will be free for a period of one year. We also intend that keyword searching and contents information will remain free of charge.

Intellectual Property

As in any publication, protection of intellectual property is a concern. In this domain, there is the added complication that some of the data is commercially valuable (eg to companies which offer services connected with environmental archaeological impact assessments).


Refereeing is essential for quality control and academic credibility. It has proved difficult because not all archaeologists are sufficiently familiar with the relevant multimedia formats. A two-stage refereeing process is being developed. The stages are:

In practice, this turns out to take place over the network as an iterative process.


Careful construction of the reader licences is essential so that the right balance is struck between usability and fair use on one hand and excessive sharing on the other. Rules for citations are envisaged.

Long Term Preservation

Somehow, the long term survival of the journal contents must be assured. How this will happen is as yet unclear. Evidently, standards will have a part to play here; and the Arts and Humanities Data Service may also be involved. This is a complex issue which is not yet resolved.


More information about the project and a sample electronic paper which displays many of the unique features of the electronic medium are available at URL:

Members of the project team include: Dr Michael Heyworth, Council for British Archaeology
Dr Seamus Ross, The British Academy
Dr Julian Richards, University of York

The editor of Internet Archaeology is Dr Alan Vince, University of York

British Library R&D Report 6250
© The British Library Board 1996
© Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Bodies 1996

The opinions expressed in this report are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the sponsoring organisations.


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This report of the conference was prepared by The Marc Fresko Consultancy Telephone +44 181 645 0080 E-mail

Converted to HTML by Isobel Stark of UKOLN, July 1996