chapter  3
From the inside looking out
Pages 38

In Chapter 1, I pointed out that the idea of social evolution has been an integral part of Western thinking since the eighteenth century. Different criteria (whether material or not) have been used to divide human societies into successive types, or stages, in the evolution from ‘simple’ to ‘complex’ societies. The early practitioners of archaeology and anthropology used technology as a direct measure of the evolution of societies. Although the proto-anthropologists were studying non-Western societies such as the Bushmen, the Australian Aborigines and the Indians of the American north-west coast, their view of them was as survivors, as fossils from earlier stages of evolution (e.g. Sollas 1911). This present was their past. During the first half of the twentieth century, the interests of the two disciplines diverged, as anthropologists rejected what they viewed as ‘conjectural history’ in favour of fieldwork-based studies of these societies as they are now. Archaeology continued to focus on technology and subsistence as criteria for defining successive stages of social evolution, most notably in the work of Gordon Childe (1936, 1942 and 1951). But the direct inference of past social organization remained a minority activity among archaeologists, located on a higher rung of the ladder of archaeological inference (Hawkes 1954).