Institute of Archaeology


Gordon Childe Lectures at the UCL Institute of Archaeology

The Gordon Childe Lectures, organised by the UCL Institute of Archaeology and normally held annually, commenced in 2016. The events are named in honour of Vere Gordon Childe, Director of the Institute from 1946-57.

A black & white image of a man in a suit wearing glasses and smoking a pipe, holding a teddy bear, and leaning against an old-style car

A revolutionary in all senses of the word, Vere Gordon Childe (1892-1957) pioneered radical new ways of thinking in archaeology and was, during his lifetime, the most cited Australian author in the world.

A committed Marxist, he was placed under investigation by MI5 whilst a student at Oxford. After graduating he became fluent in several languages and published over 250 academic works spanning the prehistory of Europe, Asia and the Near East.

In 1946, he was appointed director of the Institute of Archaeology, London. Upon his retirement in 1957, he returned to the Blue Mountains in Australia, where he ended his life. He remains the most widely read archaeologist of the 20th century.

Image:  Prof Gordon Childe displaying a teddy bear, a gift from students at Brno University (Image copyright: UCL Institute of Archaeology)

Thanks to a generous donation, the UCL Institute of Archaeology hosted its first Gordon Childe Lecture and Seminar (previously known as the Annual Lecture) in 2016.

The renaming of the Annual Lecture event signified a revision of its overall aims. The annual Gordon Childe Lecture now features speakers able to take a broad view of their topic and make it interesting and relevant to both the general public as well as subject specialists. The addition of an accompanying seminar also offers an opportunity for extended discussion on the themes raised in the lecture.

Gordon Childe Lecture and Advanced Seminar 2024: 15 & 16 May

Booking is now open for our 2024 Gordon Childe Lecture and Advanced Seminar.

Monochrome image of a man in historic dress in a boat on a lake receiving a sword from a hand coming out of the water

This year's speaker is Richard Bradley (Emeritus Professor, University of Reading) wo will give his lecture entitled 'Hidden valuables: hidden variables. Hoards and other deposits from the Mesolithic to modern times.


For Gordon Childe deposits of intact or broken metalwork were a key component of the European Bronze Age. They shed light on the important role played by smiths in the processing of ores and the distribution of valuable objects. More recent work has extended his analysis in two ways. Firstly, it is obvious that the artefacts found in hoards also occur in graves, and that some of the same types were deposited in rivers and lakes. And, secondly, these practices extended to other materials and other periods. They began as early as the Mesolithic phase and retained their importance into the early medieval period and even after. The lecture will review some of the main ways of interpreting these finds and will extend from late prehistoric hunter gatherers in Scandinavia to the curious behaviour of a retired archbishop during the 1980s. 

Booking for the Gordon Childe Lecture 2024

Booking for the Gordon Childe Advanced Seminar 2024

Image: A book illustration by the Victorian artist Daniel Maclise showing King Arthur receiving his sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake (Image courtesy of Prof Richard Bradley)

Previous Lectures

Terracotta-coloured ancient pottery vessel with painted figure in red/brown/orange colours

Gordon Childe Lecture 2023

Rosemary Joyce (Professor of Archaeology, UC Berkeley Anthropology) gave the 2023 Gordon Childe Lecture entitled 'On not seeing like a state: Rethinking ancient Honduras' on 17 May 2023.

TAG2019 conference is being held at UCL in December

Gordon Childe Lecture 2019

Matthew Johnson (Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University) gave the 2019 Gordon Childe Lecture entitled ‘On Writing the Past Backwards’ on Thursday 12 December from 6.30pm. The lecture was held in association with TAG 2019.

Professor Kristian Kristiansen (right), speaker at the annual Gordon Childe Lecture in February 2018, receiving the Graham Clark medal from the British Academy in 2016 (Photo: British Academy).

Gordon Childe Lecture 2018

Kristian Kristiansen (Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg) gave the 2018 Gordon Childe Lecture entitled 'Towards a new European Prehistory - genetics, archaeology and language' on 21 February 2018.

Patricia A. McAnany giving the Gordon Childe Lecture 2017 at UCL

Gordon Childe Lecture 2017

Patricia A. McAnany (Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina) gave the 2017 Gordon Childe Lecture entitled 'Rethinking Political Solution and Dissolution in the Maya Lowlands' on 2 May 2017.

The Gordon Childe Lecture 2016: A Brief History of Flight from the State

Gordon Childe Lecture 2016

James C. Scott (Department of Political Science & School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Anthropology, Yale University) gave the (inaugural) 2016 Gordon Childe Lecture entitled 'A Brief History of Flight from the State' on 10 May 2016.