Month: June 2017
Categories: Modern
Tags: ,

Month: June 2017

Ancient History Does Not Have Journal Rankings

Since you are putting up with me getting a bee in my bonnet about academic culture, how about these nice birds on the medieval city wall of Tallinn, Estonia?

Over on Crooked Timber, John Quiggin asks:

As far as economic research is concerned, less is more. More precisely, an academic economist with a small number of publications in top-rated journals is better regarded by other economists than one with an equal (or even somewhat larger) number of ‘good journal’ publications along with more research published in less prestigious outlets. I can vouch for that, though it’s less of a problem in Australia than in less peripheral locations. I have the impression that the same is true in other fields, but would be interested in comments.

Comments there and on his blog are closed, so I will comment here.

Due to my profession, I spend a lot of time talking to people in classics, ancient history, Assyriology, philology, etc. And I have never heard anyone in that field dismiss a work because of where it was published, or suggest that it should be taken seriously because of where it was published. I have not heard that kind of trash from the most nervous young researcher putting others down to hide their own fear, or the grumpiest professor who wishes that he (its usually a he) had picked another trade.

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Dungeons and Historians

A tunnel into darkness under Schloss Neuhaus in Südtirol. Any similarity to the tunnel under the Playmobil pirate island is totally coincidental; I can’t comment on whether there were any giant centipedes, gnolls, or 10′ deep pits inside, although for enough money I might sell a badly-drawn map and some cryptic warnings. Photo by Sean Manning, April 2015.

A few weeks ago, Martin Rundkvist published a light-hearted post on how archaeology spoiled his ability to enjoy dungeon fantasy (the kind of fantasy inspired by D&D, where humans and humans-with-funny-ears venture into underground compounds full of monsters and loot). I think I underwent a similar experience, although it started earlier and the details varied (elementary-school-me worked his way though a library of terrible TSR and Star Trek novels, but teenaged-me never learned the cloak trick). So I have a different perspective on some things than he does. Martin points out that the idea of a handful of heroes assaulting a fortress full of fighters is absurd. But stories about professional dungeon-crawlers and monster-slayers tend to be much more like the Iliad or Beowulf, where a hero can cut through entire armies (with nameless buddies to finish off the wounded) or slay a monster who has ripped up a hall full of warriors, than like our world, where “not even Hercules can fight two.” And everyone knows that dungeons are shaped like that because it is easy to draw on graph paper and copy onto your battle mat, not because it is ‘realistic.’ So this week, I would like to give my historian’s perspective on some of the issues which he looked at from his archaeological perspective.

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