Meredith Morris-Babb, University Press of Florida acquisitions editor for archaeology, shares her thoughts on the cancellations of this season’s archaeology meetings and introduces the new and exciting archaeology titles in our SAA virtual booth.
SAA 2020: The Conference that Wasn’t
This year I had planned on back-to-back archaeology conferences—AAPA in Los Angeles and the next week the massive SAA meeting in Austin. I am not a fan of L.A., but I love the physical anthropology folks—my favorite exhibitor remains Bone Clones. I was really looking forward to seeing the bats, eating at Franklin’s, and holding our editors-tell-authors-how-to-do-it panel/workshop “Go Figure.” We did one last year on edited volumes and this year we were going to teach authors about submitting illustrations for their books or journal articles—line art, maps, charts, photos, and tables. We are thinking about doing this virtually in the summer, so we shall see. Anyway, it was going to be a really hard, busy, exhausting two weeks, and I could not wait. Nothing fuels an editor’s fire like a conference.
I was most excited about seeing old friends and authors and meeting new ones. Each year I have about 30–40 appointments for this meeting—new projects I heard about or found in the program, projects in process, series editors, and already published authors. We have a great many friends of the press, and I love seeing all of them come by the booth. This year I was planning to highlight a few projects—our first project with scattered print-on-demand art, edited by Brett Houk: Approaches to Monumental Landscapes of the Ancient Maya, a wonderful book sponsored by the Applewood Foundation. In fact, we had a lot of new Mesoamerican titles to highlight—and I am very proud of this growing part of our list. We had been exclusively publishing Maya studies for a while, but now we have expanded our lists to all of the Mesoamerican territories—Chile, Peru, Amazonia, Central America, western Mexico—it has been fascinating to learn of all these different cultures, communities, and lifestyles. Archaeologists are also enthusiastic adopters of technologies, so our books feature a variety of methodologies—LiDAr, landscape ecology, underwater archaeology, physical anthropology, RCD, isotope analysis, and even architectural planning. Our two flagship archaeology journals are gaining steam and fabulous submissions.
The new Mesoamerican titles feature a first-time book on western Mexico, ontological meanings in the Andes, migration patterns in Central America (an incredibly relevant book for today’s migrations), and maritime communities in the Galápagos and the Andes. Then we have the zooarchaeology—this year featuring volumes on the variety of ways humans interacted with bears and dogs. And I admit to having a very special place in my heart for the physical anthropology list—how can you not get a kick out of researchers who thrive on trauma, warfare, and head wounds? Seriously, I have learned the most from that subgenre of our list—how much health and wellness are determined by our environment and lifestyle choices. Wealth and power determine health and longevity. Seems some things never change. Tragically, we put out a volume this year on the bioarchaeology of massacres, led by a researcher from UNLV; the book went into editing just as the shooting occurred in Las Vegas. As I said, some things never seem to change.
I find our ancient ancestors were so much more clever, creative, and spiritual than modern people ever give them credit for being. As one reader wrote, “We never give our ancient ancestors enough credit,” and they are correct. This is a trend we are seeing in papers and book submissions—much more credit, care, and credence given to local cultures and their understanding of their past. There is a touch of cultural deafness in a researcher from somewhere telling local communities how their ancestors slept, ate, felt, and created. Oftentimes the ethnographic record has the linkages there, and now modern archaeologists are paying attention to the local voices and that wisdom. We are seeing this in a number of books in press and under contract. And there are lessons to be learned about dealing with massive deaths from disease. Just ask the Maya.
So back to the conference that wasn’t. I have had 12 Zoom meetings with various author groups I had standing appointments with and a dozen or more email exchanges with other potential book authors and editors. With any luck, we will have contracts for projects including a genetics primer for archaeologists, a couple of books on climate change and adaptations, possibly a new series on religion and archaeology, and citizen scientists in archaeology.
The diversity of the Florida archaeology list is its greatest strength—we have a book for just about everyone. So hopefully, next year in San Francisco, you will see the books I describe above along with volumes on how the discipline deals with NAGPRA, magic, Maya economies, leprosy, Spanish entradas, Viking textiles, activism, fairness, and things that repulse us. I just love this discipline.
View our new archaeology titles in our virtual booth and use code SAA20 for deep discounts and free shipping on all orders.
View our ad in the annual meeting program.
If you were hoping to meet with Meredith at our booth to discuss a book project, feel free to get in touch.