1925; in 1927 he became professor of prehistoric archeology at Edinburgh. He held the directorship of the London
institute from 1946-56.
Even to begin to understand the man, it seems necessary to stress Childe's early training in the humanities, as well as his early commitment to historical materialism. As a
classicist, Childe's original approach to prehistory was by way of comparative philology. The Aryans (1926) still showed clear traces of this stage, but his attempt to establish a chronological framework for central
Europe by comparative artifactual stratigraphy fascinated him far more than his "naturally fruitless" efforts in philology. Childe loved tangible evidence for interpretative purposes and the artifacts yielded
this, although most clearly and comprehensively—for the time ranges and areas of his greatest concern— in the more material realms of culture. This led him to increasingly materialistic interpretations, but as Sir
Mortimer Wheeler remarks, his Marxism colored rather than shaped his interpretations. Clearly, however, his two bestread books, Man Makes Himself and What Happened in History, have had far greater vogue in the academic
context of the social sciences than in the humanities.
Although Childe loved the artifacts he could understand, he never forgot the "Indian behind the artifact" and scolded his colleagues roundly
if they did: e.g., "Menghin insists so strongly on an axe as an expression of a historical tradition that the reader may forget that it is an implement for felling trees." He had a fine sense of the necessary
interrelatedness of different kinds of artifacts in a given assemblage and of the interpretative implications of these interrelationships for understanding cultures which once lived. He stimulated many younger
prehistorians to think in like terms. He was not known as a specialist in any one category of artifact; his Bronze Age (1930) was to him a vehicle which allowed the delineation of the course of his "second
revolution" in Europe. The anonymous author of Childe's obituary in the London Times gives Childe's own view of his contribution to knowledge as Iying in " 'interpretative concepts and methods of explanation'
rather than in the assembly of fresh evidence." He is said to have been an indifferent excavator, per se.
Childe's natural gift for seeing the woods as well as the trees, his incredible grasp of
detail, his wide acquaintance with colleagues in all corners of Europe, and his industriousness in pursuing their works in odd journals, was coupled with his great good fortune in appearing at a time when synthesis was
badly needed and to a fair degree possible. Ex oriente lux had been popular theory with at least some prehistorians even before Montelius' Der Orient und Europa (1899), but Childe made his first excursion into the Near
Eastern literature in preparation for the writing of The Most Ancient East (1928). Here, the delineation of his first or "foodproducing revolution," toward which he had been stimulated by Elliot Smith's and
Peake's speculations, began to take on its familiar dimensions. His Bronze Age also benefited greatly from this first Near Eastern excursion, and it is here that the "second revolution" comes into relief. His
growing maturity as a synthesizer appears succinctly in his presidential address to the Prehistoric Society in 1935, which foreshadows his interest in Man Makes Himself (1936). But neither Haddon (History of
Anthropology, 1934) nor Lowie (History of Ethnological Theory, 1937) appeared to be conscious of him.
Other people, including Toynbee, did notice his work. In The Most Ancient East, Childe had followed
Brooke's speculations on the northward retreat of the Atlantic storm track and the supposedly enforced propinquity of men, plants, and animals as a determinative force in the appearance of foodproduction. Toynbee made
this speculation the "challenge" for his "Egyptaic" civilization. Childe's impact on American anthropological thought became increasingly apparent after his participation in the international
congress on early man in Philadelphia in 1937 and his lectureship at Berkeley following it. In making the 1933 supplement to his classic Anthropology, Kroeber had been conscious of Childe only as the coauthor (with
Burkitt) of a chronological table; in the 1948 edition of Anthropology, Kroeber explicitly mentions Childe's influence and cites him often.
Childe did not mind that his materialism made him a convenient
whippingboy for pedagogical purposes. He never married, could indulge his whims, and did so. I remember the impact his black broadbrimmed Australian hat and flowing cape made on the driver of a Chicago bus late one
evening in 1939 when he was being returned to his downtown hotel. He must have had to look hard to find a quotation from Stalin which could be dragged into the conclusions of his Huxley lecture with any pertinence at
all, but he did barely manage it. The last time I saw him, in 1955, we dined very well at his club, but he told me impishly that he had purchased the trousers he was wearing in Belgrade in 1930 and weren't they still
fine—in fact, they were frightful, and he knew it. No warmer or more generous or more humanitarian revolutionary ever lived, and he extended his warmth to any serious student regardless of age. Wheeler reminds us that
"in these days of specialization it is not easy to find a leading prehistorian who, after a satisfactory dinner enlivened by a favorite hock, can take down a Pindar from his shelves and declaim an ode in its proper
Gordon Childe's writings give us an overview of the culture history of the Western cultural tradition from a rational-utilitarian point of view. He was as sensitive to factors of diffusion as
to those of cultural evolution. His writings are full of clear and concise perceptions and they have had a natural appeal to an anthropology which was, very rightly, beginning to concern itself with generalities about
extinct cultures as well as with living ones. Although he never completely divorced himself from the words, he (more than any other scholar) rescued Lubbock's neoGrecisms "paleolithic" and
"neolithic" from the evolutionary straitjacket into which de Mortillet's "loi du progres. . ." and "loi du developpement similaire" had cast them. There is no better definition of
"neolithicness" than his " 'a selfsufficing foodproducing economy' " (Anthropology Today, 1953). On a higher level, his short paper on "The Urban Revolution" in the Town Planning Review
(1950) is a gem and shows his consciousness of the comparative value of the civilizational bursts in the New World. In later years, he became concerned that people in the United States took him to be a specialist in the
Near East, which he roundly asserted he was not, although he did make several tours of the area, knew its literature well, and spent a few postwar weeks of digging with Garstang at Mersin.
overviewer, like Childe, especially a rationalutilitarian oriented one, is bound to oversimplify if the subject matter be man. Thus Thorkild Jacobsen (1945) could justifiably complain that "Childe speaks as if the
invention and introduction of writing were a measure proposed by a panMesopotamian congress of priests and adopted—as scholars may adopt a uniform terminology or other set of symbols at a scientific congress—in
consideration of its present and future utility . . . but great intellectual achievements do not happen in that manner." Still, Jacobsen would be the first to admit that no professional Near Eastern
culturehistorian had bothered to or been able to produce a "What Happened in History" for the Near East which can touch Childe's in general provocative usefulness. Nor, curiously, has a generalizing
Americanist counterpart for Childe yet appeared, although one or two may be on the horizon. For archeology, as Wheeler writes, Childe "made the study of man as nearly a science as perhaps that wayward subject
admits." It is doubtful whether a man of less than Childe's stature as a humanist could have achieved the same result. We shall miss Gordon Childe's rare combination very much.
ROBERT J. BRAIDWOOD, Universily of Chicago