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Remarks to the publication of archaeological experiments

Martin Schmidt (DE)
How to publish Experimental Archaeology?
EuroREA is a magazine dedicated to publishing reports on experiment and education in archaeology. But what are the ways of publishing archaeological experiment? We asked this question and here we present the answers we received.

Martin Schmidt Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hanover, Germany (Translation Roeland Paardekooper).
Archaeological experiments are published in a large variety of ways. To me, it seems that most of these are experience focused rather than result oriented messages, or rather essays (see as well Kelterborn 2001, 1987 and this volume). Often, older experiments are not observed or are hardly known and apparently little read.

Lots of information is left out, either deliberately or not. The publication of an archaeological experiment should – just as with an excavation report – be understandable and replicable to outsiders. If no more can be understood from a publication than that someone has done this or that, it is useless and superfluous. All in all, I would prefer a tight, pragmatic and precise way of writing. Epic descriptions distract rather than that help making things clear.

It will nevertheless be impossible to publish an ideal publication. But this should not stop us spending effort on a report.

Apart from that, it would be desirable if in every country at least one single (open air) museum or university institute would be appointed to collect the publications centrally so that they can be made available to as many users as possible.

How experiments should be executed has often been described (for example Kelterborn 1987, and this volume; Schmidt 1993). From this, I think, the following important points of departure for the publication of an experiment can be made:
What is it about? Is this about a real experiment or a preliminary test? Or is it a repeated experiment? Or a presentation / show or did you actually simply want to try something out without higher pretensions?
A clear description of the archaeological starting point and its environment.
Hence, what does the hypothesis look like? What do I want to learn from the experiment?
Which relevant experiments and which ethnographic observations were already made on this subject? What separates the new experiment from the old ones?
Exact description of the executed experiment.
Unrelenting mentioning of problems and possible mistakes: this point is extremely important for a valuation by outsiders. Were there any technical problems, was technical equipment missing? Were the materials and tools, the environment fit? Did the persons involved have enough knowledge and experience?
Reflection: was the experiment – looking back at the hypothesis – right? When repeating, what should or could be done better or different? How could or should follow up experiments be designed? Partly this is about technical questions, but as well about the production of new hypotheses.
Extended list of literature. Often it appears, older experiments are hardly known. In this list, only those publications should be listed, which were actually used. Quoting without using publications only leads to confusion for the reader of the report.
Sufficient attachments with images, tables et cetera. In general, many technical parameters and observations can be better and more clearly presented in a table instead of hiding them in endless descriptions. As space in publications is limited, images and graphs should give information. Images with craftspeople at a camp fire or a graph with a lonely find on a map of Europe are generally speaking superfluous.
The publication of an archaeological experiment should – just as with an excavation report – be understandable and replicable to outsiders. If no more can be understood from a publication than that someone has done this or that, it is useless and superfluous.


Wie sollte Experimentelle Archäologie publiziert werden?
Archäologische Experimente sollten so prägnant und genau wie möglich veröffentlicht werden. Eine standardisierte Publikation eines Experimentes sollte die folgenden Gliederungspunkte aufweisen: Einleitung und Ziele, Materialien und Methoden, Resultate, Diskussion und Ergebnisse. Eine klare Erläuterung der Begründung des Experimentes ist erforderlich. Das Festsetzen klarer Ziele hilft auch bei der Erarbeitung einer klaren Methodik. Die Publikation sollte einen Diskussionsteil über andere, ähnliche Experimente enthalten, so dass der Leser nicht mit dem Eindruck hinterlassen wird, dass die Autoren nicht umfassend die Literatur studiert hätten, nicht von den Fehlern anderer gelernt hätten oder nicht auf vorhergehenden Arbeiten basieren bzw. deren Ergebnisse nur wiederholen würden. Die Veröffentlichung sollte leicht verständlich und durch Außenstehende wiederholbar sein, d. h. dass z. B. darzustellen ist, wie und wo die Beobachtungen festgehalten und womit sie durchgeführt wurden. Die gewonnenen Daten sollten in Tabellen, Graphiken und anderen Arten von Illustrationen aufgeführt werden, um dem Leser eine eigene kritische Bewertung des Experiments zu ermöglichen. Der Diskussions- und der Ergebnisteil sollten sich auf die ursprünglichen Ziele beziehen.

Publier les expérimentations en archéologie
C‘est ďune façon claire et concise qu‘il faut publier les expérimentations en archéologie. Une publication standard devrait impliquer les parties suivantes: introduction et objectifs, matériaux et méthodes, résultats, discussion et conclusion. On devrait mettre en évidence les raisons qui justifient la réalisation ďune telle expérience. La fixation des objectifs clairs permet ďélaborer une méthodologie claire. La publication devrait impliquer une discussion sur des expérimentations pareilles pour que le lecteur ne souffre de ľimpression que ľexpérimentateur devrait étudier davantage, tirer une leçon des erreurs des autres et renouer avec les travaux accomplis, pas redécouvrir. La publication devrait être facile à comprendre et encore rendre possible la répétition de ľexpérimentation aux autres ce qui impose, par exemple, ďindiquer comment, où et avec quoi on a pris les données numériques. Les résultats devraient être présentés sous formes des tableaux, des graphiques et ďautres figurations pour faciliter ľappréciation de ľexpérimentation au lecteur. La discussion et la conclusion devraient avoir rapport aux objectifs de début.