“British Archaeology”

I edited British Archaeology, the Council for British Archaeology’s magazine, for 20 years until 2023. All my front covers are shown below (16 of them bearing my own photos), with one of my favourites here, featuring a covid-era photo in 2021 by Alexander Jansen, technician in digital & visual archaeology & heritage at Durham University. Also below you can see a tribute to the late Bill Tidy, who drew cartoons for the magazine for more years than I edited it.

“I’ve always had an interest in our ancestors and what they perhaps left behind. I like to pick up British Archaeology because it offers so much interest and insight into what we might find of those people from many, many generations back.”
 Michael Buerk, BBC TV journalist and news presenter

British Archaeology looks at latest digs, archaeology news and latest scientific methods that, we hope, will make the uncovering of past generations that much easier in future. It’s a really smart read.
Phil Harding, excavator and TV archaeologist

© Bill Tidy, drawn for British Archaeology
© Bill Tidy, drawn for British Archaeology

I was proud to host the late Bill Tidy as our regular cartoonist. Well known to people of a certain age for his cartoon strips the Cloggies and the Fosdyke Saga, and – a memorable part of my school days – Grimbledon Down in New Scientist, his work accompanied the Spoilheap column in every issue. Bill talked about his passion for archaeology in an interview in the Derby Telegraph. I interviewed him for British Archaeology in his studio in 2014:

The magazine is reviewed here, and you can read my British Archaeology posts here. For more about the Council for British Archaeology see its website, and its Wikipedia entry.

The magazine began in 1995, as a development from the newsletter that reached back in various forms continuously to 1951, and the Council for British Archaeology’s origins in 1944. In 1995 British Archaeology had 16 black and white pages and a colour cover, and succeeded what had been called British Archaeological News. Its editor was Simon Denison, a journalist with an interest in archaeology who has since gone on to be a documentary landscape photographer of no mean achievement.

Simon was editor when British Archaeology was relaunched in 2000, with a striking design by Simon Esterson. This Simon is a leading editorial designer, and even if you’ve never seen a copy of British Archaeology, you may well have enjoyed his work – he oversaw the Guardian newspaper redesign in 1999, for example, was responsible for the architecture magazines Blueprint and Domus, and is creative director of Eye (and frequent blogger), the international review of graphic design. I worked with Simon Esterson on my first eight issues, after which production moved from London to the south-west.

I started with 46 wire-bound pages including the cover. My last issue with Simon had 56, and was perfect bound. Subsequent cost savings enabled me to add a further 12 pages, which is where the magazine presently is. My goal is that British Archaeology should publish the best and most interesting of what is happening today in its field (and sometimes things we might wish were not happening). The quality of unsolicited submissions, readers’ letters and general feedback – and rising circulation – suggest that I’m getting at least something right. But a magazine is only as good as its next issue: and you never know what that might hold.

How to find it You can buy British Archaeology in UK shops (if you can’t find it, just ask in your local WH Smith and they will get it for you) or have it delivered to your door as a subscriber. There is a digital subscription option that gives you a magazine you can read online, on your computer, smart phone or tablet including iPad and Android (you can see a complete issue here). There is also a British Archaeology App. Members of the Council for British Archaeology get the magazine mailed to them, as well as free access to the digital magazine and extensive archive (with an extremely useful search facility), as part of their membership benefits.

2 thoughts on ““British Archaeology”

  1. Dear Mike Pitts,

    Very interested by your various comments on Stonehenge.
    There is possibly some oblique folk memory and commentary on the possible mentality behind its construction in the Mabinogion (although actually written down much later), where there is a reference to “the land growing weak and dying as the King dies”.
    The only “King” that causes the land to grow weak and die when he/it weakens is the solar disk itself and its seasonal variation – a fairly obvious life cycle/death cycle to the ancient inhabitants, might have been a carry over from the ancient oral traditions that precceeded the written text perhaps ?, food for thought.

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