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Gordon Childe


Cycladic research at the British School in Greece
Colin Renfrew Archaeologist
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Drove out, to the British School in a rather old car that I'd bought, with Peter Warren whom by then I'd got to know better and we drove through Yugoslavia in rather difficult conditions. We were overtaken by a sledge at one point, a horse drawn sledge, in very slippery circumstances, and so got - got settled in Athens and then began serious Cycladic research. And that was fun because it obviously meant travelling in the islands which, in those days, were not very mechanised so a lot of the site visits, if they were any great distance, one did well to get a guide to take one to that part of the island and hire a donkey or hire two donkeys and so started off in February, I think, 1963, going to Sifnos and then down to the Island of Melos where there was a very important site that had been excavated 50 years earlier, called Phylakopi and so visited that site, which I later on excavated again. So those were exciting days to see all these sites one had read about in the literature. And then later that year, when I was visiting Naxos, the main Cycladic island, and then the smaller islands off Naxos, I went down to Keros where I've spent a lot of time since and was the first archaeologist to visit this very seriously looted site on the uninhabited island of Keros and see the enormous amount of destruction there had been and fragments of figurines and marble bowls and so on all over the surface. So in retrospect, one was seeing really very interesting things just about every day there, and so I made it my business to visit all the known sites and to go to the museums. Had very good support from the Greek authorities to get inside the museum cases and draw and photograph objects and so on, so that the - the study went quite well really, and when I came to write it up I by then knew - knew the Cycladic material quite well and it seemed to me that most of the links that had been proposed between the Cycladic islands, for instance, by Gordon Childe, between the Cycladic islands and Spain or the Cycladic islands and the Balkans, were completely illusory. They were built on rather superficial resemblances sort of superficial similarities in figurines and it was really because people in Iberia or, indeed, people in Bulgaria and Rumania were looking for links that they could link up with in the Mediterranean in order to - to establish a chronology and I came to the view that most of these links were not well founded and were rather illusory, and as it turned out, that - the new radiocarbon dates that were coming in harmonised with that so that led to some very interesting conclusions really.

Baron Renfrew of Kaimsthorn is a British archaeologist known for his work on the dispersal of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and the prehistory of PIE languages. He has been Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge as well as Master of Jesus College and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Listeners: Paul Bahn

Paul Bahn studied archaeology at Cambridge where he did his doctoral thesis on the prehistory of the French Pyrenees. He is now Britain's foremost specialist on Ice Age art and on Easter Island, and led the team which discovered Britain's first Ice Age cave art at Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire, in 2003. He has authored and edited numerous books, including Journey Through the Ice Age, The Enigmas of Easter Island, Mammoths, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art, and, with Colin Renfrew, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice which was published in its 5th edition in 2008.

Duration: 3 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 14 May 2009