Current Archaeology’s July issue offers a lot of good reading, of which I particularly like the stories on human origins (see below) and garden archaeology at Kenilworth Castle. But I have two complaints.
First point of criticism. The editors of CA have this weird habit of doing “media tie-ins” without any clear indication of authorship. In the past three issues were excerpts from a forthcoming book by Barry Cunliffe. They weren’t billed as written by Cunliffe. Instead you got the impression that a nameless writer had read his book manuscript and paraphrased it for the magazine. “Cunliffe believes this”, “Cunliffe says that”.
In the current issue this gets taken even further. Here’s a really interesting eight-page feature on the predecessors and origin of Homo sapiens. It has no by-line, but its intro hints that it’s got something to do with a BBC documentary hosted by University of Bristol anthropologist Alice Roberts. The piece is illustrated i.a. with three pictures of Roberts. But she isn’t the author of the piece, nor is one Chris Stringer who is mentioned in a box at the end as advisor to the series. Roberts hardly gets to say a word in the text, and Stringer isn’t quoted at all. To learn who is talking in this magazine article, you have to flip to the table of contents where we finally learn that CA features editor Neil Faulkner wrote it. But whose opinions is he relaying? His own? Alice Roberts’s? Chris Stringer’s? Other people’s mentioned in the piece?
Dear CA editors, it would strengthen the credibility of your excellent work if every piece in the mag had a clear indication of authorship.
Second point of criticism. On p. 26 editor Lisa Westcott gives a garbled (folk?) etymology of the word “bereaved”. In modern English it means “recently struck by the death of a loved one”. Westcott traces the origin of the word to Early Modern raiders on the Scottish border, “reavers”, suggesting that “bereaved” entered the English language as meaning “having been attacked by reavers”. This is a case where correlation does not entail causation. Both “reaver” and “bereaved” instead hark back to a common ancestor, the ancient verb “to reave” (cognate with Sw. rÃ¶va), meaning “to rob”. The entry of “bereaved” into English thus has nothing to do with Early Modern Scottish robbers in particular.