Institute of Archaeology


UCL Institute of Archaeology Gordon Childe Lecture 2019

12 December 2019, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm

TAG 2019 logo

This year's UCL Institute of Archaeology Gordon Childe Lecture will be held in association with TAG 2019 and will take place just prior to the conference on Thursday 12 December.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Prof Andrew Gardner


Harrie Massie Lecture Theatre
25 Gordon Street

Matthew Johnson, Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University who will give the Gordon Childe Lecture 2019

Matthew Johnson (Northwestern University) will give a lecture entitled ‘On Writing the Past Backwards’ on Thursday 12 December 2019 from 6.30pm. The Lecture will take place in the UCL Harrie Massie Lecture Theatre and will be followed by a reception in the Leventis Gallery at the Institute of Archaeology.


I am writing a book on English landscapes in the context of the north Atlantic. It spans the 2nd millennium CE, and works backwards, from New World colonial encounters, to interactions with Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, back to medieval infrastructure and beyond. I discuss two challenges for this project. First, while there is much written on how time is socially embedded, there is little on the reversal of time. Such a theoretical gap is strange, given that working backwards, peeling off the layers, is so central to what archaeologists do. Second, identities are never essential, and are always in a state of becoming. So there is no essence to ‘Englishness’; the English re-made themselves over and over again. Time and cultural identity come together in understanding the long term, and in reconciling enduring structures with the importance of human agency. And they unavoidably speak to the populist nationalisms of recent and not-so-recent times.

Advance booking is essential, so please register via Eventbrite (link above which includes further details and a map of the venue). Any queries should be directed to Andrew Gardner - andrew.gardner@ucl.ac.uk

TAG 2019

This year's Gordon Childe Lecture is tied into the theme of the TAG 2019 conference 'Power, Knowledge and the Past', which will be held at UCL on 16-18 December 2019.

About the Speaker

Matthew Johnson

Professor, Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University, USA

Matthew Johnson works on the archaeology of Europe and the Atlantic world.  He has written six books on a range of themes, including castles, traditional houses, landscape, and an archaeology of capitalism.  His best known book is Archaeological Theory:  An Introduction:  the revised third edition appeared in 2019. He has also written more widely on interdisciplinary and interpretive approaches, understanding medieval and historical archaeology, and archaeology in its cultural context. 

More about Matthew Johnson