The fifth volume of Proceedings of the Danish Institute at Athens contains papers on a wide range of subjects. Their titles and page numbers are listed at the end of this review, after some methodological musings about periodicals.1
No one who has been aware of the output of over the years by Andreadaki-Vlasaki and Hallager will have any doubt as to the quality of their scholarship. In the first paper of the volume, dealing with clay tablets from Khania, they observe (17) that one of their Linear A tablets (which they suspect is as early as LM I A) may be the oldest inscription found there, and that at least two signs were previously unattested.
Christophilopoulou’s paper on late Geometric and early archaic houses and households at on Andros (at Zagora) and Siphnos is inspired by, among other things, Schiffer’s splendid dictum that ‘archaeological contexts are not systemic contexts’ — that is, excavated deposits are not necessarily snapshots of the use of space and the artefacts found in it at any one moment in the past. While I found it hard to match her first description of a Zagora house to the related plan (25 and fig. 1), and while it is hard to build much on the very imperfect Siphnian data, she makes a good theoretical case for the flexible and multiple use of domestic space, especially in one-roomed structures.
The next four papers present interim fieldwork reports. Dietz and others offer the first report on the Kalydon project (up to 2004). Its somewhat narrative opening is offset by splendid plans of surface remains, sherd densities, and geophysical surveys. A brief account of work on the rectangular theatre, again excellently illustrated, is followed by discussion of a fine Hellenistic house with a ‘cult room’ containing sculptures and architectural terracottas. Several groups of lamps are presented, commendably, as coherent assemblages. A short note on Roman houses on the acropolis, where work was still in progress, concludes the paper. Preliminary reports are politically necessary even if the interim conclusions are often revised later, but the importance of the data offered here speaks for itself.
Next come three papers on the Zea harbour project at Piraeus. The first is a a summative report, by Lovén and others, on several seasons’ work up to 2006. Again the quality of the discoveries is outstanding, as may be instanced by excellent photographs of the underwater remains of shipsheds (mostly from above the water yet very clear).2 The complexity of the architecture, evidenced by underwater structures and open-air rock-cut foundations, chimes in well with current work elsewhere on Greek shipsheds that highlights the colossal investment some cities made in naval constructions. At Zea, at nearby Mikrolimano (Mounichia harbour), and on the Mounichia acropolis the Danish team has added substantially to our knowledge of the Piraeus fortifications (some 2 km long). Three specific towers are the subject of Nielsen’s detailed chronological and architectural study that follows — again superbly illustrated. Schaldemose’s report on the roof-tiles and hypothetical roof architecture of the shipsheds is essentially work in progress.3 Though much of her short paper is concerned with technicalities, she notes that this was one of the largest roofed structures anywhere in classical Greece (94).
The last three papers take us away from archaeological fieldwork. Jeppesen begins his long paper on the Parthenon frieze by raising doubts about the reconstruction in Berger’s 1996 edited volume, on the basis of iconography and layout. The folded cloth, he argues, cannot be Athena’s peplos since it is smaller than the sources imply (109). On the basis of attributes, the Athena is not Athena Polias (112-13). The ten tribal heroes are not present on the east frieze (103-8); some of the figures in question are the phylobasileis in charge of phratries, others are Attic heroes. The drama of the whole frieze involves Aigeus and his son Theseus, here acknowledged as a pan-Ionian figurehead (115). Brief discussions follow of literary sources, of the figures on the east frieze (123-35), and of the processions on the other three sides (135-42). Detailed reconstruction of the action (142-60) leads to the conclusion that the frieze depicts ‘the time when Theseus had come to Athens and had been recognized by Aigeus as his legitimate son and heir’, and that the procession is the Anarrhysis, day 2 of the Apatouria. An appendix (162-9) gives further figure-by-figure analysis of the figures on the east frieze in support of these conclusions; here Jeppesen proposes (166) that the seated deities are ‘those to whom sacrifices were brought at the altar of the Twelve Gods’, proving that the drama is not set on the Acropolis. This level of detail is probably justified in such a contested field, but the complexity of exposition could have been mitigated, particularly for those who (like me) are not specialists in classical art, by giving more signposts. Whatever response the conclusions may provoke, there is no doubting their importance as a contribution to debate. Their publication here (and online at the DIA website) confirms that what might be called a minor journal — on this point see below — can contain first-class work.
Corso’s paper has less grandiose aims, but does deal with ‘the most copied statue in Antiquity’ (175), the Knidian Aphrodite of Praxiteles. Exploring the Athenian Konon’s links to Knidos — specifically the founding by him of a sanctuary of Aphrodite Euploia — and evidence of links between his son Timotheos (the famous general) and the workshop of Praxiteles, Corso suggests that it was precisely because of the Timotheos-Konon connection that the Knidians commissioned the statue from Praxiteles. Events are contextualized within the career of Maussollos, and the innovative naked representation of the goddess is linked to Praxiteles’ closeness to Plato and the latter’s theory of absolute qualities. Exhaustively documented, this second adventurous art-historical paper will maintain the reputation of the journal, whether or not experts on art history find it persuasive.
The final paper, Bek’s theoretical discussion of landscape perception (first aired at a 1998 conference), reminds us that the DIA is not just a classical but a cultural institute. Starting from observations about the absence from European languages before the 16th century of words corresponding to ‘landscape’ in its general sense, she moves to a priori theorization about human vision. The Renaissance brought a new emphasis on horizontality, as opposed to ‘the vertical field of vision’ with which the brain presents itself (201). Euclid’s ‘cone of vision’, emphasizing the object closest to the beholder but not conceiving it as having depth, was exploited by Vitruvius with respect to wall-paintings, though his topiagraphia ( sic)4 is concerned more with the arrangement of value-laden motifs than with integrated landscape depiction. It was not before the Hellenistic period that ‘a more pictorial totality’ of sanctuary complexes was designed (209), perhaps reflecting a distrust in the ultimate solidity of objects. In appreciating what we call natural landscapes, then, the Greeks will have fixed on ‘the solid forms of capes and islands, cliffs and rocks that made up the fix-points for the sailor’, not on ‘landscape as a totality to be perceived visually, or conceived of as an aesthetic category’ (211). This is a potentially important exploratory paper, whose implications deserve to be examined by both art historians and archaeologists.5
The production of the volume is generally good, though in the review copy pp. 89-94 are somewhat insecurely ‘tipped in’ (perhaps a commendable measure to replace faulty originals). The page size is generous, as wide as A4 but shorter. The text is set in Caslon, adequately large (12 point?) but without ‘real’ italics (the letters merely lean over — look at the lower-case ‘a’s; this was not the case in volumes 1-4) and with an inelegant change into another font for Greek (which, whenever it appears, has a fair smattering of errors). The two-column layout makes for easy reading. Plentiful monochrome illustrations, integrated into the text, show well on the clay-coated paper. The order of the papers has clearly been carefully thought out. One final, rather obvious, point should be made: though it is a Danish journal, it is in English (idiomatic, clear English, with only a few exceptions in two papers).
Certain general questions face the reviewer of what appears, at first sight, to be a volume of a journal. PDIA has in fact appeared somewhat irregularly (1995, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2007 — despite the statements, in the prefaces to volumes 1-3, that biennial publication is planned) and has no titular year (though here, for the first time, the year of publication appears on the title page), no abstracts, and no visible ISSN. Is it a journal or is it another kind of work, such as one in a series of occasional volumes of studies? It is shelved as a periodical in the library of the Institute of Classical Studies in London. It shares various features with many journals: soft cover (with a single colour illustration filling both front and back cover), no index (though some journals have them), no necessary connection between the subjects covered. Even the fact that one paper (Jeppesen’s) is available for free download from the Danish Institute at Athens distinguishes this from a multi-authored or edited volume. The ISSN website defines a serial as ‘A publication . . . issued in successive parts, usually having numerical or chronological designations and intended to be continued with no predetermined end. . . Serials include periodicals . . .’ One is left to infer that a periodical (or journal) appears, or is intended to appear, at stated intervals, perhaps regular intervals but not necessarily so. On this point it is worth noting that if PDIA 3 had appeared in 2001 the series would in fact be exactly triennial. On this basis it clearly qualifies as a serial and a periodical (journal). While it does not yet feature in Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory, this may be a coincidence, since similar journals of foreign institutes in Athens do appear.
PDIA is thus one of a plethora of journals from individual European research entities. Some appear on line as well as on paper, with or without a ‘moving wall’. The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (located in Europe, but of course with a base elsewhere) has put on line most of its publications more than a few years old. The British School at Athens is reported to be about to do the same with its Annual. Swathes of publications from other foreign institutes in Greece, and from national institutes and academies elsewhere, are now available for download; an outstanding example is the government-supported portal Hrcak, which gives instant access to 185 Croatian journals. At the time of writing, however, the website of the Danish Institute at Athens offers us only the tables of contents of PDIA (without page numbers), plus the single paper already mentioned.
For many research institutions, a house journal is a badge of honour, a laudable ambition, even a way to a seat at the top table; yet some choose not to undertake the labour and expense, perhaps aware that others have started a journal but failed to sustain a regular publication schedule. Foreign institutes in Greece are of course required to publish their field research, and at present hard-copy publication seems to be the default option — and perhaps a legal requirement. If that it were not so, would it not make sense for a small institute to save the expense of printing and distribution and confine itself to on-line publication? Might it not also be better for authors’ careers to place their work in more widely circulated, more ‘prestigious’ venues? We can answer both questions in the negative very readily if we only recall the diplomatic value of exchanges of publications between cultural bodies, and between foreign institutes and the authorities of their host countries. The impact of such face-to-face courtesies cannot be overstated, as anyone knows who has worked in the Mediterranean.
How, then, does PDIA rate against internationally prominent journals? In the last few years European and especially British academics have been alarmed (perhaps unduly so) by the on-going development of the European Research Index for the Humanities. A research project initiated and funded by the non-governmental European Science Foundation, it is conceived as a counterweight to databases such as ISI Web of Knowledge which, it is generally agreed, understate the range and impact of European research. At present ERIH has only reached the stage of listing journals (including non-European ones in which European research appears) — and it has received a bad press, chiefly owing to the initial sorting of journals into three categories, A, B, and C, equating roughly to international, national, and local. However one reads such a classification, it looks very much like a qualitative hierarchy.
In response to criticism, in the last couple of years the ERIH team (whose principal members are distinguished academics) has issued ‘health warnings’ to the effect that the categories are measures of a journal’s reach and purpose, not its quality, and that the draft lists should not be used to judge the quality of works or authors (though anecdotal evidence suggests that these warnings are sometimes ignored). Conversations with members suggest that they plan to abandon the ABC categorization once the initial phase is completed, though they argue that some form of classification (beyond a simple ‘kitemark’ or filtering out of journals) will always be needed since ERIH is partly intended to be a research administration tool, not just a research aid. However, they stress that the only valid comparisons ERIH will support (as even a basic knowledge of statistics and a moment’s reflection will make obvious) are those framed in the aggregate — such as comparing the impact of research by country or discipline but not by department or, a fortiori, by individual scholar.
Some way down the road, it is to be hoped that ERIH will play a valuable role as a portal for European humanities journals and a source of reliable data about them. Clear facts such as size of print run, number of online hits, nationalities represented among authors, editorial policy, names of databases in which a journals is indexed, and so on — the same kind of data as Ulrich’s offers — would allow journals to be compared in various ways (including ways not yet imagined) for a range of legitimate purposes. Peer emulation might even lead to a general levelling up of journal editing and presentation.
There is a stronger view (which I do not share) that ‘metrics’ alone are adequate for grading research. Recently the Times Higher Education (formerly The Times Higher Education Supplement) reported that a team from the Australian National University researching the last two UK Research Assessment Exercises (which were based primarily on peer review by carefully selected panels of academics) had concluded that ‘peer review is not the most appropriate model for research assessment’ and that ‘a “metrics-based model” will eliminate indirect biases’.6 If followed through, this might involve the assignment of ‘impact factors’ to journals, as happens in the sciences.
As things stand, anything that smacks of the simple grading of humanities journals arouses vehement resistance in the UK. But some kind of formalistic comparison between journals, or articles, seems unavoidable in the near future. Since Western governments are moving towards metrics-led assessment, it would be better for them to be using criteria that subject practitioners have played some part in devising, rather than anything one can imagine civil servants inventing on their own. So simply boycotting ERIH (for example, by declining to volunteer circulation data or the national affiliations of editorial board members) may be counter-productive. And the ERIH project members have repeatedly urged those who would prefer ERIH to take a different shape to volunteer suggestions to the team.
PDIA, at any rate, is a splendid example of why any simple attempt to grade journals hierarchically would have adverse effects, would be impossible to implement in most cases, and, in the end, would be of little use. With a presumably modest paper circulation and virtually no online presence, PDIA probably has limited ‘reach’. Furthermore, a journal without an ISSN fails one of the basic tests for inclusion in ERIH. One might be tempted to infer that papers in such a journal must be of lower quality. Yet PDIA does appear in the draft ERIH list for Classics (though oddly not in the Archaeology list); and there we discover that it does, in fact, have an ISSN (1108-149X — visible nowhere, as far as I can tell, in volumes 1-5 but confirmed by web searches). Furthermore, the quality of the 40 papers in the five volumes is generally very high. As for impact, I would be fascinated to see, for example, reliable citation data (which may not exist) for classic papers such as Houby-Nielsen’s two studies of grave goods,7 or for the many important preliminary excavation reports.
So on these measures PDIA does begin to look like a high-class journal, and offers clear evidence that one cannot grade a journal on the basis of formal criteria as a way of grading papers within its covers. Nothing can be assumed a priori about the relative quality of papers in journals of different standing, or even of different papers in the same journal. Papers must be evaluated on their merits. Recently I was invited (and declined) to comment on internal promotion procedures at a (non-UK) university which had explicitly asked me for a list of the most prestigious journals in my subject — presumably to help sort the wheat from the chaff among candidates. The assumption was, no doubt, that such a benchmark would allow them to establish the lower quality of other journals — and thus of the authors in them. Academics, be warned!
That said, editors can do their contributors a big favour by ensuring that an ISSN is clearly displayed and that their journal is brought to the attention of major databases such as Ulrich’s. On-line availability, too, whether or not free at the point of use, is almost a sine qua non today. PDIA is, without doubt, a journal with first-class content, but there is a risk that its papers may have less impact than they deserve — even though scholars outside classical archaeology would gain much from them.
Maria Andreadaki-Vlasaki and Erik Hallager, ‘New and unpublished Linear A and Linear B inscriptions from Khania’. Pp. 7-22.
Anastasia Christophilopoulou, ‘Domestic space in the Geometric Cyclades: a study of spatial arrangements, function and household activities in Zagora on Andros and Kastro on Siphnos’. Pp. 23-33.
Soren Dietz, Lazaros Kolonas, Ioannis Moschos, and Maria Stavropoulou-Gatsi, ‘Archaeological field work in ancient Kalydon 2001-2004: first preliminary report’. Pp. 35-60.
Bjorn Lovén, George Steinhauer, Dimitris Kourloumelis, and Mads Moller Nielsen, ‘The Zea harbour project: the first six years’. Pp. 61-74.
Mads Møller Nielsen, ‘Three pieces of the Piraean puzzle: towers M-T1, P-T1 and P-T2’. Pp. 75-88.
Mette K. Schaldemose, ‘The Zea shipsheds: new remarks on a tile deposit and other related finds’. Pp. 89-100.
Kristian Jeppesen, ‘A fresh approach to the problems of the Parthenon frieze’. Pp. 101-72.
Antonio Corso, ‘The cult and political background of the Knidian Aphrodite’. Pp. 173-97.
Lise Bek, ‘Sight, object, space: the notion of landscape in antiquity as a functional or an aesthetic category’. Pp. 199-212.
1. The reviewer is grateful to the editors of BMCR for very full comments on an earlier draft. Naturally they are not responsible for the views expressed here, or for any errors that may remain.
2. If I am not mistaken, the enlarged colour photograph on the jacket was taken just before or after fig. 5 on p. 65, which shows the same colonnade, since what appears to be a cigarette end has floated a few metres along while maintaining its orientation. Whatever the object is, it reminds us that these are photographs taken from above the water, and gives the eye a useful indication of how close the remains are to the surface.
3. At 97 she refers to the autumn 2006 campaign as in the future, though the results of a 2006 campaign are reported by Lovén and others (61, 67, etc.); and earlier (93 n. 20) S. cites existing correspondence dated September 2006. One sees here some of the disadvantages of delayed publication.
4. This term is not in Vitruvius’s text, though he uses topium twice at 7. 5. 2. See B.’s modification of her own view at 204 n. 10.
5. Readers may find it interesting to juxtapose Bek’s paper with Y.-F. Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (London/Minneapolis, 1977). On the question of ancient notions of perspective, many years ago I heard Ernst Gombrich on the BBC World Service reccalling how he had said to a colleague who had maintained that the ancients didn’t see space as we do because they didn’t know that light travels in straight lines, ‘Do you mean to tell me that a Roman couldn’t hide behind a column when he wanted to?’
6. Zoë Corbyn, ‘A person on the panel is a clear pointer of departmental success’, THE 1888 (19 Mar. 2009), pp. 6-7.
7. S. Houby-Nielsen, S. 1996. “Burial language” in the archaic and classical Kerameikos’, PDIA 1 (1996), 131-91; ead., ‘Revival of archaic funerary practices in the hellenistic and Roman Kerameikos’, PDIA 2 (1998), 127-45.