Evolutionism and Arch(a)eology

  • Guy Freeland
Part of the Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 2)


A difficulty with commemorative volumes is that the author tends to feel a certain compulsion to make the strongest case to which the arts of sophistry can aspire for the commemorated hero. Writing, as I am, on evolutionism on the eve of the centenary year of the death of Charles Robert Darwin, I cannot but feel the undertow of long-established cultural mores encouraging me to argue the thesis that The Origin of Species, if not the sole fans et origo, was at least the major formative influence in the development of modern arch(a)eology.1 The straws at which counsel for The Origin could clutch are not difficult to discern. Wasn’t it Darwin’s Origin of Species which, in spite of the fact that Darwin barely mentions the matter in The Origin, opened up the whole question of the descent and antiquity of man? Wasn’t arch(a)eology one of the principal beneficiaries of the vastly expanded horizons of the prehistory of man? Aren’t the concepts of the evolution of culture and of societies, a legacy of Darwinism, central to arch(a)eological thinking? Hasn’t post-Darwinian arch(a)eological theory been dominated by the clash between evolutionists and diffusionists? And, as a final accolade delivered in good time for the centenary of the Master’s death, hasn’t the sustained attack on diffusionist theory, particularly since the advent of the so-called Second Radiocarbon Revolution, left the field clear for a new chapter in the history of a triumphant evolutionary arch(a)eology?


Nineteenth Century Organic Evolution Cultural Evolution Physical Anthropology European Arch 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guy Freeland
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New South WalesAustralia

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