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The Dawn: and an Epilogue

  • Stuart Piggott

A YEAR before the first number of ANTIQUITY appeared, its founder reviewed a new publication for the Antiquaries Journal. ‘This book,’ he began, ‘is the most important of its kind that has hitherto been published…. Never before has the whole field of European origins been surveyed by a specialist who can also generalize, who writes clearly and intelligibly, and who is apparently familiar with all European languages. Its publication brings us appreciably nearer to the ultimate goal of our study.’

Crawford saw that Gordon Childe’s The Dawn of European Civilization, in its first edition of 1925, marked the beginning of a new era in archaeological studies in this country. I suspect that he was one of the very few British prehistorians at that time who realized the fact and appreciated the implications. More than thirty years later a revised sixth edition has been published, appearing almost simultaneously with the tragic news of the author’s death in his native Australia. For a full generation The Dawn, as we have all affectionately called it, has been with us, the indispensable reference-book for student, teacher and interested layman, our Ariadne-clue in the labyrinth of Neolithic and earlier Bronze Age Europe.

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1 Antiq. Journ., VI (1926), 89-90.

2 R. Munro, The Lake-Dwellings of Europe (1890), v, vii.

3 A. J. Evans, ‘On a Late-Celtic Urn-field at Aylesford, Kent’, Arch., LII (1890), 1-74.

4 In his report on Excavations at Hengistbury Head (1915).

5 I had been using this concept for prehistory in lectures in 1957-58, unaware that Mr R. W. K. Hinton was doing the same in the context of modern history at Cambridge, until his broadcast on this theme at the beginning of this year (printed in The Listener, February 6th, 1958, 233). The idea is implicit in Frankfort’s claim ‘that a viewpoint whence many seemingly unrelated facts are seen to acquire meaning and coherence is likely to represent a historical reality’ (The Birth of Civilization in the Near East (1951), 21).

6 C. F. C. Hawkes, ‘Archaeological Theory and Method: Some Suggestions from the Old World’, Amer. Anthrop., LVI (1954), 155-68.

7 But cf. M. A. Smith, ‘The Limitations of Inference in Archaeology’, Arch. News Letter, VI (1955), 1-5.

8 Collingwood’s discussion of the nature of archaeological evidence is contained especially in The Idea of History (1946) and his Autobiography (1939); Frankfort’s in The Birth of Civilization in the Near East (1951), especially Chapter I.

Professor Piggott here reviews the sixth edition of The Dawn of European Civilization published a few weeks before the death of Professor Gordon Childe (pp. xiii + 368, 159 figs, 4 maps, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957, 42s.) and The Prehistory of European Society (pp. 183, 2 maps, Penguin Books, 1958, 3s. 6d.)

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
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