Method and theory of V. Gordon Childe
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This thesis examines the work of V. Gordon Childe (1892-1957). one of the most outstanding figures in the development of archaeology. Childe was unique among his contemporaries not only for his exceptional achievement in synthesising European and Oriental prehistory on a hitherto unprecedented scale, but also for the depth of his methodo¬ logical, theoretical and ultimately philosophical enquiry into archaeological procedure. Although Childe himself especially valued his contribution to archaeology as the originator of new interpretative concepts and methods of explanation, his explicitly theoretical work is not widely known today and indeed was largely ignored by his contem¬ poraries. Here an attempt is made to redress the balance, not by depreciating Childe's role as a synthesiser, nor by overstating his explicit concern with theory, but rather by viewing both these aspects of his work as integral parts of an overall enquiry into prehistory. The thesis thus begins with an outline of the develop¬ ment of Childe's synthesis of European and Oriental prehistory in relationship to the development of his theoretical frame¬ work. This is followed by a more detailed analysis of the theoretical content of the synthesis itself and by a closer examination of his work on archaeological classification, historical theory and philosophy of knowledge. In tracing Childe's intellectual genesis and development from his entry iiinto archaeology in the early twenties to his tragic death in 1957, one follows a remarkable Journey through philolo¬ gical theory, Oriental diffusionism, functionalism, Darwinism and Marxism. The picture which emerges is one of an archaeologist grappling with complex and often contra¬ dictory theoretical systems, in an attempt not only to perceive the patterns in prehistory, but to understand the historical process itself.