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Developing my theory on Cycladic cultures and radiocarbon dating


Gordon Childe
Colin Renfrew Archaeologist
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I never heard Gordon Childe lecture, sadly. He committed suicide, I think it was 1957 or '58, I think I may have caught sight of him once in the Institute of Archaeology in London when, as a schoolboy collecting coins, I used to go to the annual meeting of - of the British Numismatic Society. They used to hold a conference and that was an interesting experience and that happened to be held in the Institute of Archaeology in Gordon Square, but I never met Childe, but his book, "The Dawn of European Civilisation", was published in 1925 and really from then on became the basic text particularly for the Neolithic and early Bronze Age of - of Europe, and I became more and more uneasy with the general theme that the things that happened in Western and Northern Europe were in a way the result of what had been happening in - in the East Mediterranean and in the Aegean, and he had a position which could be called a diffusionist position, the diffusion of civilisation from civilised lands, Egypt and Suma, the sort of spread of civilisation to the Aegean and then outwards. He used to speak of the - the - the irradiation of European barbarism by Oriental civilization. And so that was his general position and he'd really written this book, "The Dawn of European Civilisation", with that as a central theme. The book had gone into a number of editions, which had had lots of updates, and the most recent was, I think, in 1956 or '57, but the general theme still underlaid the book and when I'd been in - in Spain, I'd come to doubt the megaliths of Western Europe were derived from the Aegean which was the generally held view, it was a view that - that Glyn Daniel had put forward in 1935.

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: 2 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 14 May 2009