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Changing Methods and Aims in Prehistory: Presidential Address for 1935

  • V. Gordon Childe (a1)


This is the first Presidential Address to be delivered before our Society since it has become the Prehistoric Society without qualification. It seems therefore appropriate to choose in preference to any particular problem the general topic of the aims and methods of our science. The last ten years have witnessed an extraordinary increase in the data available to the prehistorian and a remarkable expansion in the field he must survey. For this very reason we have been led to a revaluation of the methods and concepts to be employed in the interpretation of our material. To arrange and classify data pouring in from every corner of the world parochial categories that worked well enough for local collections can no longer serve.

Prehistoric archaeology has twin roots and a dual function; it tries on the one hand to prolong written history backward beyond the oldest literary records, on the other to carry natural history forward from the point where geology and palaeontology would leave it. In practice prehistoric remains were first systematically studied with a view to supplementing the information about Celts, Druids, Britons, Picts and Germans provided by ancient authors. But it was the union with geology after the acceptance of Boucher de Perthe's discoveries that made prehistory a science.



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page 2 note 1 Musée préhist., 1881, revised 1902.

page 3 note 1 Studier öfver den yngre stenaldern.

page 3 note 2 Ant. J., II, p. 27.

page 4 note 1 Cf. Menghin, , W.P.Z., xiv, p. 31.

page 4 note 2 Appendix to the 3rd edition of Hoerncs' Urgeschichte der bildenden Kunst.

page 5 note 1 L'Anthr., XXXIII–XXXIV. The idea of distinct cultures is however already implicit in his famous ‘Subdivisions.’ C.I.P., Geneva, 1912, p. 173.

page 5 note 2 Man, XXVI, 6.

page 5 note 3 Proc. P.S.E.A., V, p. 260.

page 5 note 4 Archaeology of Cambridge Region, p. 18.

page 7 note 1 J.R.A.I., LVII, p. 22; cf. de Pradenne, Vayson, Antiquity, IX, p. 309.

page 8 note 1 Op. cit.

page 8 note 2 Weltgeschichte der Steinzeit, pp. 154, 270.

page 8 note 3 Man, XXXV, 89.

page 9 note 1 J.R.A.I., LXII, p. 1.

page 10 note 1 Antiquity, I, p. 280; cf. Karslake, in Ant. J., XIII, p. 458.

page 13 note 1 Ancient Egypt and the East, June, 1935.


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