History of the Journal
The hard-copy version of Southern African Field Archaeology developed out of the vision of Dr Johan Binneman at the Albany Museum, Eastern Cape, in 1991 assisted by co-editors Drs Lita Webley and later Alex Schoeman. The aims were to communicate basic data to professional archaeologists and the public. The journal deliberately avoided any attempt to compete with the existing South African Archaeological Bulletin and set out to cover a broad field of archaeological matters, including previously unpublished site reports, the so-called ‘grey literature’ (i.e., CRM reports), conference and workshop proceedings as well as short reports by students on their graduate projects. In the first issue of FIELD, the editors discussed the importance (even the moral obligation) of professional archaeologists to make their research findings available to the wider public. The intention of the journal was therefore to provide a platform for the dissemination of archaeological information in its broadest form.
FIELD achieved accreditation from the then Dept of Education and Culture of South Africa (now Department of Higher Education) in 1995, thanks to the dedication of the editors and the support of many in the archaeological community. Guest editorials (later called ‘Opinions’) were solicited from various archaeologists and the editors deliberately encouraged vigorous debate. Topics such as the prospects of archaeological employment for graduate students, archaeo-tourism, the inclusion of archaeology in the school curriculum, the issue of human remains in museums, indigenous intellectual property rights and archaeology, free access to museum databases for CRM work and the South African National Heritage Resources Act (No. 25 of 1999) were addressed and responses encouraged. The final two print volumes were combined in the 2006/7 publication with the opinions piece devoted to the topic of ‘Archaeology at Museums’.
Discontinuation of the journal due to financial and human resource constraints left a substantial, regional dissemination gap. At the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists meeting of June 2019 in Kimberley, South Africa, Prof. Willem Boshoff (University of South Africa) proposed the revival of the journal, and the motion was accepted by the archaeological community of the sub-continent. In 2021, Prof Marlize Lombard (University of Johannesburg) joined Prof. Boshoff with the aim to redress the fact that African voices are largely silent in the open-access publication arena, and that many African scholars, students and practitioners are unable to access publications on the continent’s heritage because of cost structures dictated by the global north. Their vision for the revival of FIELD was to change this dynamic by providing free open-access publication to Africa-based authors allowing them to fully participate in knowledge production concerning all aspects of the continent’s heritage – building onto the original mandate of disseminating archaeological information in its broadest sense. The vision was realised when Dr Dipuo Kgotleng (University of Johannesburg) was awarded a grant to kickstart online production of FIELD from the Wenner-Gren Foundation in June 2021.