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UCL Institute of Archaeology

Academic papers, notebooks and correspondence by Vere Gordon Childe, one of the most influential archaeologists of the 20th Century.

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Vere Gordon Childe (1892-1957)

Vere Gordon Childe

Vere Gordon Childe is one of the most influential archaeologists of the 20th Century. Born in Sydney, Australia, he was Abercromby Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh (1927-1946) and Director of the Institute of Archaeology, University of London (1946-1956).

Widely regarded as the most distinguished European prehistorian of his time, Childe was competent in many European languages and the autor of over 600 works on archaeology, mainly about European prehistory. He was also an important archaeology theorist and many of his works demonstrate his interest in Marxism and Soviet archaeology.

As well as an archaeologist, Childe was also a left-wing radical, peace-campaigner, human rights activist and labour theorist. His academic papers, notebooks and some correspondence form the Childe Archive, part of the Institute of Archaeology archive, which are held in UCL Special Collections.

The Skara Brae Notebooks

Skara Brae Notebooks

In 2015, a joint project between UCL Library Services, the UCL Institute of Archaeology and Historic Scotland conserved and digitised three notebooks (notebooks 58, 63 and 64) from the Childe Archive relating to Gordon Childe's 1928-1930 excavations at the Neolithic village of Skara Brae in the Orkneys. Funding was provided by Historic Scotland as part of a long-term project on the site. High resolution images of the handwritten notes, drawings and diagrams made by Childe reveal his excavations, plans, observations and discoveries.

Skara Brae is Europe's best-preserved Neolithic village and is around 5000 years old. It is part of the UNESCO Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. The ancient stone buildings of the semi-subterranean village are wonderfully preserved. Excavations at the site have uncovered a rich and sophisticated array of stone furniture, artefacts and organic remains. Photographs of the site, including some of Childe's excavations, are available through Historic Scotland's Canmore resource.

'The Dawn of European Civilisation'

Gordon Childe - Dawn of European Civilisation

In 2017, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, UCL Library Services digitised one of the most influential books on European Archaeology: Vere Gordon Childe's The Dawn of European Civilisation. Full-text open access is provided to all six editions published by Kegan Paul between 1925 and 1957 (1925; 1927; 1939; 1947; 1950; 1957), as well as Childe's own personal copies of the third, fourth and fifth editions, recently discovered in UCL Library Stores, that he used as 'proofs' to update subsequent editions. These proofs offer unprecidented insight into Childe's working methods.

Childe's contemporary, Glyn Daniel, described the book as 'not merely a book of incomparible archaeological erudition, but a new starting point for prehistoric archaeology'. The innovative concept of 'cultures' was used along with a range of theories and detailed archaeological evidence to reconstruct the prehistory of Europe. Although many of the ideas and chronologies of The Dawn have been disproved, it is still widely used today for archaeological research.