A tale of two articles

In this article I will be looking at two magazine articles, one from British Archaeology and one from Current Archaeology. Both of these articles are on the Anglo-Saxon Execution Site found on the Weyhill Road in Andover during the building of the Aldi superstore and the excavation undertaken by Cotswold Archaeology.

When I initially read these articles I was surprised by how differently I felt after reading each one, and I wanted to take a little bit of time to explore that idea and wonder “Is it just me?”. How does the way that two magazines display and article on the same subject impact on the way people feel about it?

I will start by giving a brief review of each article.

British Archaeology May/June 2018 Issue Pages 36-41

BA cover 2.jpg

Title: The Excluded Dead by Jeremy Clutterbuck

Tagline: An Execution cemetery on Weyhill Road

Initial Impression:

When I first glanced at the article I was drawn in by its colour and then noticed how busy the article was, there were an abundance of pictures, diagrams and images to an almost distracting level. My eyes did not know where to look.

Layout:

As mentioned above the layout is very busy in the article, all the images, pictures and diagrams are very interesting but for this reader it made hard for pictures and text flow in an easy way whilst reading. The text is laid out in the usual style with the article divided into different sections:

  • An introduction below the main image of the article and above the title.
  • Then the following subheadings: Dense Cluster of Graves, Every 2-4 Years, The Handiwork of God.

Language:

The language varies from rather conversational to almost lectorial but not in a bad on inconsistent way. Conversational in the outlying of the projects and general information and more lectorial in the description of more technical details. A nice balance between the two that does not put you off and is engaging an interesting.

Pictures, Images and diagrams: As previously mentioned there a variety of pictures, images and diagrams, 17 in total! 

Pictures – Showing the site, aspects of the excavations, a couple of the skeletons and aspects of the skeletons showing where hands had been cut off and what it looks like now.

Images: Maps, grave goods

Diagrams: Temporal/Spatial visualisation of the diagrams, Pie char showing age demographic.

Content:

The content of the article itself covers a brief history of the project and the discovery of the site during the building of the new Aldi Supermarket in the introduction.

Dense Cluster of Graves: Gives a brief description of the location of site and other Anglo-Saxon sites nearby, its contest in the landscape, and what identifies it is an execution site rather than a more typical cemetery. It very briefly describes the types and styles of graves and how the people were treated.

Every 2-4 Years: In this section the graves and skeletons are described in greater detail, looking at temporal and spatial patterns, age and sex of the individuals, isotope data and radiocarbon dates. It also describes the small amount of ‘grave good’ found in relation to the burials.

The handiwork of God: The last section of goes back to look at the site in a wider context, and comparison to other sites. It describes the previous ideas about the execution sites that this discovery is starting to challenge and once again goes over what tis sties were for, how they used in relation to Anglo-Saxon and Norman law. This section however does  not provide a summary of the site and its finding or really provide any conclusion at the end. the article ends rather abruptly.

Overall Impression: The article is very attractive, if not a little cluttered. It is written in a good style, but does have a couple of issues I would like to address. The articles spends a lot of time putting the site in its wider context, nothing wrong with this, but this is repeated a lot in the later sections instead of a proper summary/conclusion of the site itself. It does make a very good job of pointing the uniqueness of the site compared to the other Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries, but it is disappointing that the article ends very abruptly.

Another slight nag in my mind is the layout almost feels amateurish, which is now helped by the fact is ends rather abruptly, almost a feeling like it has been cut down to size. I did enjoy reading the article, but was disappointed by the lack of detailed information on actual site, its discovery, excavation and results itself. Instead the article puts to much emphasis on the wider contextual information, which is very interesting, but not at the expense of extra detail that could of been included on the site.

Current Archaeology Issue 228 May 2018 Pages 22-28

 

CA .jpg

Title: Andover’s outcast dead 

Tagline: Exploring an Anglo-Norman Execution cemetery

Initial Impression: Not as colourful art the British Archaeology article, but less cluttered. The Photos/Images/Diagrams are spaced out more evenly and follow the flow of text more easily.

Layout: A clean and simple layout, with a nice flow of text and picture.

Language: A very similar linguistic style to the previous article. Simple and easy to read, with little jargon which is explained where it is used.

Pictures, Images and diagrams: 11 images split across the eight pages of the article, the majority of them are the same as the ones in the other article, but a few are different.

Photos: The majority of these are the same as the British Archaeology article.

Images: Some difference in the grave goods/objects found with the burials depicted.

Content: 

The article starts off in a very similar fashion to the British Archaeology article, describing the wider context of the area and of Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. It delves into a little more detail about the project and how the excavation of the site.

The article is broken up into the following sections:

The introduction: Dealing with contextual information on the location, discovery, the project, wider historical context.

A Cemetery Emerges: A more detailed view on the project and the discovery, a description of the graves and finds.

Superstitions and Surprises: Examines the Implications of how the bodies were treated in the time period, potential superstitious beliefs and practices associated with burial and treatment.

Meeting the Dead: Examines what we can tell from the remains, covering: Age, Sex, Stature, Pathology and Health,  Dating, Inclusion of ‘grave goods’.

Origins and Endings: Examination of Isotopes and where these individuals came from, were they local? Summary of the dates and what makes the site so important, its longevity.

Further Reading: Link to the interim report on the project.

Overall Impression: 

The article has a simple layout which creates a nice flow from text to images and diagrams. It has logical progression from setting the scene and discovery, information on the local area and the site in its wider historical context with comparisons. It covers detailed information about the graves, how the people were treated and what information can be learned from them. It finished with a nice rounded summary of what has been found out and the sites importance, with information for further research and reading.

The article felt very professional, but perhaps a bit too long.

Comparing The Two

 So how do the two articles stand up? How do they differ? I started by saying I got too different feelings form the articles when I initially read them, and that they invoked different emotions and reactions from me. I will briefly describe these.

The feeling I got from the BA article is that it felt incomplete, I did enjoy reading it, it felt amateurish in a way due to its slightly haphazard layout. With such a large emphasis in the article on its wider context and other sites it left little room for some of the juicy details on the site and left me with the impression, despite them stating how important this site was, that it felt less so. The Images and photos were of high quality, and the style was good but for me it was let down by the content and layout. However, the article really did make me understand about the local area and how these execution sites developed and are identified. The comparison to the other sites, both exaction and non execution sites did give a good range of information of how people were treated at the time.

I felt the CA article gave a more in depth  view of the people of the cemetery, I felt I understood more about them, how they were treated and their journeys, the article it self felt more rounded and felt like it ended in a more cohesive fashions.

So, is it important? Leaving aside the issues I felt with layout and design of the articles, does it matter that I got a very different feeling from each articles description of site? Combined they give a good view of the broader context, and of the site specific details and detailed information of some of the graves and individuals.  They both give two sides of the coins. If one article was to do this by itself in the magazine, not only would it take more space that the magazine could use for other articles on other site, it would also feel very drawn out. Different media also tend to present things in different ways, a similar length article in a book would give a different impression, as would a news paper article, or website blog/news site etc… They all have slightly different uses and aims in what and how they display their information.

What are your thoughts?

I would highly recommend reading both of these articles if you have not done so already.

Please note: I was not offered any incentives from any party to write this blog, I purely wrote for my enjoyment, and hopefully yours :).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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