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understanding why change happened. Instead I will present a study of
human identity in earliest prehistory. My basic point is that the study of
change, and I do not deny that it has taken place, has to acknowledge
the material basis of human identity. The construction of the self and
personhood, what I understand as human identity, was always local rather
than universal. Identifying what needs to be explained in the change
between such apparently universal categories as hunter to farmer or archaic
to modern human mis-represents the ways in which material culture is
woven into our identities. Hence my emphasis on how artefacts, the
archaeologist™s bread and butter evidence, act as material metaphors
for that hidden, inner identity. Metaphors in earliest prehistory need to be
especially well anchored and I will argue in Part II that this was achieved
through the hominin body since it provided at all times and places the
reference for sensory and emotional experiences about the world. Major
turning points such as language and art must have affected these hominin
experiences. Notwithstanding, I will argue that such developments,
however significant we regard them, were not origin points for a radically
new hominin identity from which we can trace the beginnings of our
own humanity. Artefacts are much older than words. Tools and techniques
have always had a metaphorical relationship with the hominin body and
identities have been formed from this interaction.
6 Origins and Revolutions

These relationships between artefacts and bodies are examined in Part II.
In particular I set out a scheme for the study of material culture through the
categories of instruments and containers that are proxies for parts of the
body, and from which they derive their symbolic force. Material metaphors
of this kind are comparable to the more familiar linguistic rhetorical
devices by which something is understood in terms of something else. I set
these material proxies in a framework where identity is created through
social practices that enchain and accumulate and actions that consume
and fragment.
Finally, in Part III I apply my concept of change to the prehistory of
a social technology that spans almost three million years. I will show that
change in this vast time period can be understood without recourse to either
revolutions or the identification of specific, singular points of origin. There
were no step-changes, only gradients in the respective authority of
commonplace material metaphors that organised the world of experience.
The dominant archaeological approach that seeks to establish rational
associations in order to explain the variety of artefacts is supplemented
in my account by a relational perspective that brings the body as well as the
mind into consideration. What we regard as change depends on how we
view artefacts as material proxies for identities derived from the active body
and the inner self. The former is hidden to the archaeologist, the latter to
I also tackle in Part III the question of whether agriculture did in fact
change the world. Here is a historical tipping point not only for
archaeologists but for all those seeking an origin for the modern world.
My answer to the question is a negative in terms of the material basis of
human identity. To make my point I concentrate on a neglected category in
archaeology enquiry, children. I use the concept of the childscape, which
I define as the environment of development, to provide a context for
understanding how such an apparently fundamental change as growing
crops and raising animals occurred. To assist this undertaking I examine
two primary metaphors, the giving-environment and growing-the-body,
that impacted on the childscape and the material project we call
agriculture. I question the view of a number of archaeologists that humanity
is no older than the earliest evidence for cultivation.

Rational and relational approaches
The difference that exists between my approach to change and the more
familiar framework of the Human and Neolithic Revolutions is captured
Prologue: the longest of long revolutions 7

in the opposition of mind and body. The tension provides another tussle
between rational and relational accounts of the ways in which people
engage with their material worlds.
Two examples will help to set the scene. Phenomenologist Maurice
Merleau-Ponty (1962:147) contended some time ago that ˜bodily experience
forces us to acknowledge an imposition of meaning which is not the work of
a universal constituting consciousness™. Yet evolutionary psychologist Robin
Dunbar (2003:163) has recently declared that ˜what makes us human is not
our bodies but our minds™. A theme of my book is to bring these positions
together using material culture as the focus.
The start of Williams™ Long Revolution furnishes two famous Latin
sound bites in support of these opposite views about the authority of mind
and body, rational and relational, for understanding the on-going global
project of Modernity. Both come from the seventeenth century; ˜Cogito
ergo sum™ (I think therefore I am) and ˜Habeas corpus™ (You should have
the body).

Improvement of the mind
Cogito ergo sum, in the hands of the mathematician and philosopher Rene
Descartes (1596À1650), privileged the mind over the body by dividing the
world into oppositions that included subject and object, nature and culture,
individual and society, structure and process. In Descartes™ paradigm, the
internal mind understood and interpreted the external world in a rational
manner. The rewards of this way of thinking have been immense and
included scientific and medical advances. Applied to the past, the rational
paradigm sees our improving minds as driving history forward while below
the neck our bodies stayed the same, merely executing orders from above.
The benefits of progress can be measured by material items such as
ploughs, steam engines, longevity, digital watches and the release from
toothache. It is therefore un-surprising that the systematic study of the past
followed, rather than preceded Descartes, and that the step-changes which
archaeologists have used to structure their accounts of prehistory since
the early nineteenth century embraced a progressive view of our history. For
instance, when trained by a rational education the mind could be improved
to the benefit of the individual and wider society. By analogy, the story of the
past became one of improvement as our species changed from a natural
into a cultural being. The perception of such a transition in part explains
the interest in the skulls of our earliest ancestors and the importance
attached to their size, shape and by inference their contents.
8 Origins and Revolutions

The archaeological contribution to this story has been to provide
tangible proof of the pace of change in the classrooms of human evolution.
For the most part the record card of material evidence is filled with phrases
such as ˜slow progress™, ˜could do better™ and ˜nothing to report™. This state of
affairs changes with the first of my two revolutions, the Human Revolution.
The period starts 300,000 years ago with several hominin species found in
the same geographical localities. It ends with a single global species, Homo
sapiens, ready to move on alone and turn its back on hunting and gathering.
During this time the curriculum has been expanded from an early
emphasis on survival and natural history to include advanced crafts,
religious studies, music, languages, global geography, multi-culturalism
and art classes. The Neolithic Revolution, beginning some 15,000 years ago,
quickens this pace further, suggesting to some that this was the time when
we truly appeared, as if woken from a very long daydream at the back of
a stuffy classroom.
Archaeologists see two of their goals as deciding on the temporal and
geographical origins of the expanded curriculum, outlined above, and
commonly called modern behaviour. It was certainly a revolution as judged
by the almost three million years of stone tool use that preceded it. But
compared to say the American or French revolutions of the eighteenth
century the terminology sits awkwardly. It is the significance for us of
the origins of these modern humans, rather than the time it took for them
to appear, that is truly revolutionary.

A whole body
The Cartesian system has of course had side effects. Scientific and medical
advances have not all been beneficial. But rather like the NRA slogan
˜People, not guns, kill people™ this is seen neither as the fault of the
technology nor the system that produced it (Robb 2004:131). Instead, it is
people who are the weakest link. The rational mind both identifies and
provides material solutions to problems. For example, our bodies wear out
and are susceptible to disease. With this problem in mind solutions can
be sought. The result is the treatment of the body as another piece of
technology, ˜machines of meat™ as the novelist Kurt Vonnegut once
described them. ˜My body let me down™ just as ˜My memory is going™ beg
for an applied solution that will make them better instruments for serving
the mind. Both depend on the mind making a judgement about ourselves
that curiously distances one set of faculties from another as in the
opposition between subject and object, internal and external states.
Prologue: the longest of long revolutions 9

This is why Habeas corpus extends the argument in important ways. The
move from a philosophy of the mind to the legal imperative of the body
reminds us that to be a person we not only need to think but also to be seen
and heard. Habeas corpus enshrined, in an Act of Parliament of 1679,
a much older common law principle that there could be no imprisonment
without legal hearing. Physical presence before witnesses recognised the
materiality of being a subject of flesh and bone rather than just an object
animated by thought. Or at least that is how I see these oppositions in the
seventeenth century as philosophers and lawyers now defined what it was
to be an individual in a rapidly changing European world (Williams
1965:Chapter 3).
The Long Revolution therefore gives the on-going project of hominin
evolution a choice of starting point, mind and body, rational as well as
relational. My intention is to re-unite the mind and the body in our
understanding of the past by showing, through the study of two so-called
revolutions, that they bring different perspectives to the central archae-
ological issue of change. This standpoint involves both the description
and explanation of change from material evidence. This body-whole
perspective is not new and draws on critiques in many disciplines, including
archaeology, of the Cartesian system of how we understand the world.
The unification is necessary to achieve what I hope will be a fresh under-
standing of why things changed in the past, based on a different
appreciation of the material evidence. The point I do carry forward from
the Cartesian system is that our bodies are a social technology. But they are
also, as the anthropologist Marcel Mauss insisted, techniques. Bodies are
material projects comparable to those of building a house or planting a field
of barley. They are always cultural as well as biological artefacts, just as
artefacts are similarly social and natural things. I will argue that to
understand change we need to dig beneath the surface and view our
evidence through other prisms than origins research and by analogies other
than that of revolution.
chapter 1

The Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic took place in the grey night of remote prehistory
Gordon Childe What happened in history 1942

Changing trains
In 1934 the archaeologist Gordon Childe made a short trip to the Soviet
Union. For twelve days he visited colleagues in museums and archae-
ological institutes in Leningrad and Moscow. He saw the country from the
train and he returned laden with books and information about the origins of
the Indo-Europeans. He also learned first-hand about theoretical upheaval.
The Soviet archaeology he encountered was a fully fledged state instrument
charged with the investigation of pre-capitalist societies and the history
of material culture. Indeed, the word archaeology was prohibited and
the names of the major institutes had been changed accordingly (Trigger
1980:93). By coincidence the leading archaeologist prior to the Russian
revolution of 1917, N. Y. Marr, died in the year of Childe™s visit. Marr™s brand
of Marxism as applied to prehistory stressed that social development was
a staged process that took place independently, and therefore in parallel,
in different geographical areas. There was little room for diffusion and
migration as explanations for change until Marr was denounced by
Stalin in 1950 (McNairn 1980:154, 165).
The movement of peoples was Childe™s preferred mechanism for the
archaeological variety he had already seen first-hand in museums across
Europe. In this device at least he shared common ground with another
of his contemporaries that he outlived, the ultra-German nationalist
Gustav Kossinna who had died in 1931. Kossinna™s views of Aryan racial
superiority led him to propose a homeland for their origin among northern

The Neolithic Revolution 11

Nordic peoples. From there, he argued, sprang all that was progressive and
valuable about a European past (Barkan 1992; Harke 1992; Malafouris 2004;
Veit 1989). Kossinna™s agenda was to find archaeological evidence that
would demonstrate this. Childe was opposed to Kossinna™s programme on
political, moral and scientific grounds. While he shared the view that as
peoples moved so prehistoric cultures ebbed and flowed, he neither
subscribed to racial superiority as a motive force nor to a northern home-
land as a significant origin point, arguing rather for the importance of the
east. Europe, he claimed, fell under the light from the east, ex oriente lux.
He was to later write of his early syntheses that ˜the sole unifying theme
was the irradiation of European barbarism by Oriental civilisation
(Childe 1958b:70)™, and he directed his considerable powers of archae-
ological synthesis and philological analysis to showing this was indeed
the case.
Kossinna™s legacy is well known and infamous (Klejn 1999). Two years
after his death the Third Reich was founded, and his agenda was
enthusiastically taken up by the Deutches Ahnenerbe, or German ancestral
heritage, an organisation whose purpose was to use history and science to
justify German superiority. The Ahnenerbe was a major National Socialist
project, established by Heinrich Himmler in 1935 and generously endowed
at Wewelsburg Castle, the ritual headquarters of the SS. Archaeology
figured prominently in the justification of invasion and suppression of the
free nations of Europe.
Childe would have been familiar with such overt nationalism as he criss-
crossed Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. His travels linked archae-
ological provinces together in great chains of historical connections based
on the similarity of their prehistoric artefacts, although instead of railways it
was the great route-ways of the Danube, the Rhine and the shores of
the Mediterranean that tied the prehistory of the continent together.
He strengthened these chains by binding them ultimately to chronologies
derived from the text-aided archaeology of the Near East and Egypt. He was
not the first archaeologist to do this but he was the most successful.
So it is interesting to think about what else Childe might have glimpsed
through the train window during his visit to the Soviet Union in 1934.
Almost certainly he would have seen the effects of Stalin™s programme
of agricultural collectivisation. Beginning in 1929 the working practices of
generations of farmers had been bulldozed aside according to the dictates
of centralised state planning. Collectivisation, exacerbated by drought,
is largely held responsible for the famines of 1932À3 when five million
12 Origins and Revolutions

peasants are believed to have died. Although an archaeological justification
for such programmes was never sought, the idea that the movement of
peoples, whether by choice or by force, was an inevitable process that drove
history cannot be escaped.

Childe™s two revolutions
It was immediately after his return from Russia that Childe began to re-work
his synthesis of European prehistory. He started in 1935 with his Presidential
address to the newly formed Prehistoric Society. Entitled ˜Changing
methods and aims in prehistory™ he re-visited the tri-partite division of the
past that had existed ever since C. J. Thomsen, in 1836, had ordered
the collections of the National Museum in Copenhagen into cabinets
containing stone, bronze and iron objects (Graslund 1987). Subsequently
these three ages had been much refined and subdivided, and in 1865
Sir John Lubbock, in his book Pre-historic Times, had separated the earliest
into an Old and New stone age, or Palaeolithic and Neolithic. These terms
now marked the difference in technology between hunters and farmers
(Brown 1893:66).
Childe was as enthusiastic as the next archaeologist for refining the
contents of those cabinets and adding geographical as well as chronological
detail through excavation. But by 1935 he had lost patience with mere
cataloguing. ˜What then™, he cried to the Prehistoric Society (1935a:7), ˜is to
become of the hallowed terms Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron
Age?™ His answer now looks simple, but at the time it was radical. ˜I should
like to believe that they may be given a profound significance as indicating
vital stages in human progress. I would suggest that the classifications
Old Stone Age, New Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age draw attention to
real revolutions that affected all departments of human life™ (Childe
For Childe these revolutions were primarily functional-economic stages
where the Neolithic meant food-producing, an interpretation apparently
backed by the first appearance of artefacts such as polished axes, pottery and
weaving as well as evidence of domestic animals and crops. However,
his insistence that revolutions affected all departments of human life
opened the door to considerations not just of economy but also of language,
religion, politics and science. Although he did not specifically refer to
a Neolithic Revolution in his 1935 address, the groundwork was laid so that
by 1942 in his best-selling What happened in history, where the lack of
a question mark should not go un-noticed (Whittle 2003:163), revolution
The Neolithic Revolution 13

had arrived. In this book Childe set out the evidence for two prehistoric
revolutions, Neolithic and Urban, which by analogy to the Industrial
Revolution of the eighteenth century resulted in population growth (Childe
1935a:11). The analogy was primarily justified by the spectacular archae-
ological evidence for Neolithic village settlements and the first cities,
what Childe referred to repeatedly throughout his subsequent career as
representing an ˜upward kink in the population graph™ (Childe 1958a:71).
This analogy was first applied by Childe to his Urban Revolution and only
later to the earlier Neolithic Revolution (Greene 1999:99). However,
the Industrial analogy also suggests a further link to the development of
democracy and systems of self-government that, as Williams (1965:11)
showed, is never a simple relationship.
In What happened in history Childe used the terminology for social
development put forward by Lewis Henry Morgan in Ancient society (1877),
a book based mainly on the author™s anthropological knowledge of North
America. Morgan™s three stages were savagery (hunters), barbarism
(farmers) and civilisation (urban life). Barbarism was the turning point
for human society because according to his scheme agriculture appeared at
this time.
Morgan was Karl Marx™s anthropologist, the source of his views on
pre-capitalist societies, and his influence is obvious in Frederick Engels™
1884 (1902) writings on the origins of the family and the state. But even
though Childe (1935b:152) pronounced Morgan™s ethnography ˜antiquated™,
the influence of Engels™ writings, and the result of those twelve days of
conversations with Soviet archaeologists, made him realise that the three
terms were helpful for historical analysis (Trigger 1980:95).

Locomotives of change
Before describing Childe™s two revolutions in more detail, I think it is worth
asking why the concept of revolutions has such a historical appeal, spanning
all aspects of the modernist project from the paradigm shifts that create
scientific revolutions (Kuhn 1962), to the barricades thrown up by the
intertwined democratic, industrial and cultural revolutions that challenged
and changed political authority (Williams 1965).
The standard answer for archaeologists is that Childe was a Marxist
(Trigger 1980), albeit an ambiguous one on occasion (McGuire 1992;
McNairn 1980). Peter Gathercole (1994) has argued that books such as Man
makes himself (Childe 1936) reflected the desire of the Left in the inter-war
years to make a significant contribution towards scientific progress and
14 Origins and Revolutions

hence the flagging cause of socialism. However, if Childe™s Marxist beliefs
were the reason, then why did someone who published so copiously and
across so many disciplines À 22 books and more than 200 articles between
1923 and his death in 1957 À take so long to come up with the idea? The
analogy to the Industrial Revolution is, let™s face it, un-subtle; especially
when, as Kevin Greene (1999:99) reminds us, the term was coined by
Arnold Toynbee as long ago as 1884.
While Childe gained something from his trip to the Soviet Union,
seventeen years after its own historic revolution, the trip can hardly be
described as his road to Damascus. Indeed such conversions do not
characterise Childe™s academic career, which developed themes but never
emulated the stadial models of change that he favoured.
And what bigger theme than ˜what happened in history?™ If Childe
was either going to describe what occurred or take up the challenge of
answering the question, then he needed a driving force. Prehistory did not
supply him with one but European and North American history certainly
did with its emphasis on revolutions as indicators of fundamental political
Revolutions come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of success, from
gunpowder plots to bloodless coups, civil wars, popular uprisings
and palace revolutions. They can be approached as universal stages in
development or seen as the result of contingent factors tied to a particular
time and place (Stone 1966). They can be analysed either for their timeless
variables by social scientists such as Childe or for their particular
personalities by historians proper. So useful are revolutions in accounting
for change that many historians regard them as the locomotive of history
(Clark 2003:33).
But where exactly is the engine headed? Jonathan Clark (2003:42)
suggests that revolutions are merely convenient historical concepts
for explaining the formation of the nation-state. Consequently they are
a much-needed force for driving forward the modernist project. From this
perspective revolution is the engine that explains how our current political
systems came into being and how an older European past, composed
of tradition, was transcended. Science, the state and a global economy
resulting from both imperialism and colonialism are all pillars of mod-
ernism, and much of history and social science is devoted to understanding
how they arose.
The target becomes clearer if we focus on the big revolutions that have
been most discussed and picked over. At the highest level there are
the twinned Industrial and Agrarian revolutions (Toynbee 1884 (1969)).
The Neolithic Revolution 15

These were well underway by the eighteenth century in Europe and are
fully entangled with the Enlightenment and rampant imperialism. If these
revolutions formed the superstructure then imagine them as a canopy
above an elaborate mosaic floor where their effects are picked out in
decorative motifs that would include the notion of capital and the devel-
opment of markets, technology and metropolitan growth. And beneath all
the best mosaic floors there is always a hypocaust blowing out hot air,
fuelled in this instance by the four big northern revolutions that drove
industrialisation. Here Britain leads the way although there is a dispute
(e.g. Stone 1965) over the identification of the revolution: was it the English
civil war, that executed one king in 1649, or the Glorious Revolution, that

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