I'm struck by their latest project, called 'Publish or Perish':
Today, if there is no scientific need or a rescue purpose, the general attitude is leaning towards not to excavate. And, if there is a real need for an excavation, that ‘need’ and purpose has to be definitely included in the ‘final report’. We also have to remember that, first of all and before the ‘report’, there must be a “final” for the archaeological excavation, which is very rare in our country.The list that follows is pretty depressing: by TAY's reckoning, barely 10% of sites in Turkey have final reports, and many projects keep digging every year and only publish a paper here and there.
At that point, our discussion at TAY turned to “final reports” and we wondered how many archaeological excavations we had in Turkey and how many of them had their “final reports”. This was not a very easy question to answer. Apart from “final reports”, there was not an archaeological excavations list for Turkey.
So, at first hand, we began preparing that list, which took unnecessarily long time. Main reason for this delay also proved our main idea; there was not many ‘final reports’.
This is not to say that _nothing_ has been published from these sites, which makes the list a little bit unfair. For example, the Summers' team at Kerkenes Dağ publishes quite a lot: annual excavation reports, popular bulletins, and papers yearly in Anatolia Antiqua or Anatolian Archaeology. The same can be said of Gates and Redford's work at Kinet Höyük/Issos (also see here). But it's true that neither has a book that can serve as a reference work for the site, as far as I can tell. Which means that if you want to know something about the excavations, you have to work your way through a lot of diverse material to get an overview of what's going on.
And many sites, of course, have no publications whatever.
Way back in '89, Chris Tilley famously observed that 'digging is a pathology of archaeology': a disease. His point was to say that excavation is not the point of archaeology, but a distraction from the real work of interpreting past human experience. Excavation gives the archaeologist an ego boost and makes us feel like we're 'adventuring' or 'having an authentic experience'. But for sites it's an illness: excavation destroys deposits and exposes materials, like ancient walls, that may require long-term conservation.
Given that, I like TAY's attempts to 'name and shame' and create peer pressure to publish data. Because, really, if you're not publishing data, why are you digging? You should be ashamed of yourself. (Actually, you should stop digging first, then feel ashamed.)
However, I wonder if it isn't time to jettison the notion that 'final publication' has to be in book form. There's no reason excavation records can't be presented to the public as a website, wiki, or other form of online database. (Especially given the state of the publishing industry, where high costs and low print runs ensure that most publications exist only in the most specialized university libraries.) One problem with even the best-kept archaeological data is that it is usually treated as the private property of one particular professor, and not made accessible to the publics for whose benefit archaeology claims to work. In an age where everything is going open-source, archaeological information should follow suit.
Anyone know examples of best practices for online final publications?