Given its geographical position as the bridge between ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia and Egypt and its vast importance to many of the world’s religions, the Land of Israel holds a wealth of archaeological interest. Indeed, there are estimated to be over 30,000 sites of antiquity in Israel, most of which have never been excavated. Archaeological research in the area dates as far back as the 15th century. While this earlier research was generally done by Christian archaeologists acting on behalf of the Church and powerful European nations, the practice became more secularized as the area fell under British control following World War I, becoming more focused on the historical and scientific knowledge gained from excavation outside of the context of a specific religion.
In 1961, in London, Professor Yigal Yadin, Dr. Alec Lerner, Leon Shalit, and Dr. Richard Barnett founded the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society (AIAS) to raise awareness of the rich and fascinating archaeology of Israel and the Middle East from a secular and apolitical perspective. In 1982, the AIAS began publishing an annual bulletin of its activities that promoted its scholarly research. In 2009, this bulletin was renamed Strata, and since then, it has become one of the leading British-based international academic journals on the archaeology of the Middle East. Atla proudly indexes Strata in the Atla Religion Database® and houses the full text of the journal in Atlas® and Atlas PLUS®. Atla Product Specialist Todd Aiello and Content Acquisitions and Development Manager Burke Gerstenschlager spoke to Strata Editor-in-Chief Professor Ken Dark about the journal’s history and academic scope.
From its formation, the AIAS provided a membership organization for both professional archaeologists and scholars in related fields to share their research and help further develop the field in Israel. From the time of its publication, its annual bulletin recorded the Society’s activities and encouraged interest in the archeology of Israel. Gradually, it developed into a more research-oriented publication, aiming to publish new archaeological discoveries and research from the area. This change in scope led the journal to formally change its name to Strata while under the guidance of the Editor-in-Chief at the time, Professor Joan Taylor. The publication was named after the plural of the word “stratum,” meaning the layers found in archaeological excavation, appropriate for an archaeological journal covering the whole range of successive periods of the region’s archaeology.
Today, Strata is one of the best-known journals in its field and is widely referenced by Israeli and other professional archaeologists in its region. Its contributors include leading scholars from Britain, Israel, and other experts the world over. Scholars regularly offer their works for consideration as the AIAS issues a call for contributions each year, and the journal also actively recruits authors to contribute papers that they encounter at the many academic conferences they attend and from the professional contacts in the Society’s network. Content is selected for its academic rigor and the originality of its contribution to the field, and all papers are subjected to peer review.
When asked what we cannot afford to exclude about Strata, Professor Dark said,
The archaeology of Israel and surrounding areas is a fascinating subject, and this journal gives you the chance to learn about recent discoveries and highlights from leading professionals. Strata is a key journal in its field, publishing very high-quality original academic papers. The journal isn’t affiliated to any political or religious position or perspective, which is an important observation to make for any journal publishing Middle Eastern archaeology.
You can find the full text of Strata in Atlas and Atlas PLUS. Recent articles include stories on cult practice at Geshurite Bethsaida, the so-called ‘Client Kings’ of Judaea and Nabataea, a key motif on the largest coin issued by King Herod, a painted tomb from Ḥanita, an intriguing study of the detritus of a 19th-century excavation at Jerusalem, and a paper written by Professor Dark before his time as Editor-in-Chief on archaeology and the origins of Christian topography and pilgrimage, which was the publication of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s prestigious Henry Myers Lecture.
With an abundance of historical material still to be discovered in Israel and throughout the Middle East, Strata will undoubtedly continue to be a vital record of the amazing work done by archaeologists and scholars of antiquity.
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