John Lubbock's Pre-Historic Times (1865) was the first publication to use the terms ‘Palaeolithic’ and ‘Neolithic’ to define major periods of early prehistory. Because of this he has come to be seen as one of the most influential figures in the history of prehistoric archaeology. We examine this image here, in terms of his influence on contemporaries both in Britain and in France, where early excavations were providing materials that came to form the basic periodization of the Palaeolithic that is still in use today. We show how Lubbock contributed to this emergence of a professional Palaeolithic archaeology, and what he did and did not achieve in the critical decades of the 1850s and 1860s before his interests moved elsewhere.
John Lubbock's pre-eminent position at the hub of Victorian science and society cannot be doubted. His work as a politician laid the foundations for modern heritage legislation and—perhaps more importantly to most UK residents—provided us with the bank holiday. He holds a special place in the history of prehistoric archaeology, however, for his monumental Pre-Historic Times, a collection of previously published essays brought together in monograph form in 1865, which ran into seven editions until 1913. In its opening chapter, Lubbock introduced for the first time names for two of the most widely recognized periods of prehistory, the Palaeolithic and Neolithic, or Old and New Stone Age, respectively, the first of which is of concern here:
From the careful study of the remains which have come down to us, it would appear that Pre-Historic archaeology may be divided into four great epochs …. Firstly, that of the drift; when man shared the possession of Europe with the Mammoth, the cave bear, the woolly-haired rhinoceros, and other extinct animals. This we may call the ‘Palaeolithic’ period.1
The influence of Pre-Historic Times was huge: Trigger2 described it as the most influential book on archaeology published during the nineteenth century; as we discuss below, this opinion had become dogmatic by the early twentieth century and is still held today. Despite this, as several scholars have pointed out, Lubbock is today something of a forgotten man;3 it is the book rather than the man that is remembered as a key moment in the development of prehistoric archaeology. It is easy to understand why Pre-Historic Times was so successful: it was the first popular synthesis of the emerging archaeological evidence of a prehistoric phase of human existence, from the ‘drift period to the Iron Age’, and the first monograph to ‘humanize’ prehistory through the use of copious ethnographical analogy and to understand what prehistoric life was like.4 Its methods, however, would ultimately give it a limited ‘shelf life’.
Lubbock's reputation among prehistorians derives from comments made in the early to mid twentieth century by his earliest biographer and by historians of archaeology. Thus, ‘we may see the birth and early stages of development of archaeology in the writings of three men from three separate countries—Morlot in Switzerland, Lubbock in England, and Montelius in Sweden’.5 Among these, ‘Pre-Historic Times was largely responsible for the adoption in England of the Three Age System’.6 Here we examine exactly what Lubbock contributed to—and how he benefited from—the emergence of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic archaeology.
Lubbock and two controversies: human antiquity and the three-age system
From the 1850s onwards a growing acceptance among the scientific community that human antiquity was much older than the 6000 or so years suggested from Ussher's reading of the book of Genesis can be observed. Although growing slowly from intellectual foundations such as Lyell's application of uniformitarianism to the geological record and thus the demonstration of deep time,7 this was bolstered in particular by the discovery of demonstrably human remains pre-dating Homo sapiens in the Feldhoffer Grotte in Germany's Neander Thal (Valley) in 1856, the demonstration that humanly made stone tools were associated with the bones of extinct animals in the terraces of the Somme in April 1859,8 and the intellectual furore that preceded and accompanied the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in the same year. During the 1860s the foundations of a Palaeolithic archaeological record were emerging in France, Britain and Germany, presenting for the first time the stratified documentation of human behavioural change over the remote period of the Pleistocene. During this decade, the French palaeontologist Edouard Lartet and the English banker Henry Christy excavated several cave and rock-shelter sites in the Aquitaine Basin that still form the basic chronocultural scheme for the western European Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. A notable achievement of the duo was the demonstration that remains of what Lartet termed the Reindeer Age (which we now recognize as the Upper Palaeolithic—the product of Europe's Pleistocene populations of Homo sapiens) could be separated stratigraphically from the earlier cave bear age and mammoth/rhino age (which we now recognize as the Middle Palaeolithic—the product of Europe's last indigenous humans, Homo neanderthalensis—the Neanderthals). Another major observation was that exquisite pieces of art belonged to the behavioural repertoire of the people of the Reindeer Age, and thus that art—an exclusively human achievement—had its own evolutionary history.9 From the late 1860s onwards, the Paris-based prehistorian Gabrielle de Mortillet was able to define successive archaeological epochs on the basis of diagnostic stone tools derived from stratified contexts, the earliest scheme10 comprising (from earliest to latest) Chellean (today included in the Lower Palaeolithic Acheulian technocomplex), Mousterian (Middle Palaeolithic), Solutrean and Magdalenian (Late Upper Palaeolithic). It is against this background of the recognition of human antiquity in the 1850s and the demonstration of human behavioural change from the 1860s that Lubbock's artefact-based definition of the Palaeolithic and its epochs should be seen.
In an even broader sense, Lubbock is among a small number of European prehistorians who are credited with the recognition of a three-age development of prehistory in general (Stone, Bronze, Iron) as well as (in Lubbock's case) the incipient periodization of the earliest of these. The three-age system was a radically new concept at the time, and one should not underestimate the controversies that surrounded these initial formulations of prehistoric periodization that form the common underpinning of prehistoric studies in the modern world; its reception was by no means straightforward, and controversy raged among scientific circles across Europe from the 1830s to the 1880s.11 It is in this context of two controversies that Lubbock's contribution to prehistoric archaeology must be viewed, and in which Pre-Historic Times was received. One can sense something of the radically new chronological framework at the time: ‘It will be a very long time before people will give up talking nonsense on Prehistoric Times … views so new as Sir John's and so entirely contrary to strong traditions will not be thoroughly understood, much less universally accepted, for many years’.12
A league of extraordinary gentlemen: Lubbock's network
Lubbock came from a privileged background, was patronized by Darwin, and by the mid 1850s had come to occupy a position within a small intellectual elite already ‘slim and fit after an evolutionary sauna’.13 It is to this, and to a select continental European elite, that Lubbock was communicating, although Pre-Historic Times was ostensibly a popularizing volume aimed at a wider audience. As Rowley-Conwy14 has stated, in ‘the unsettled nature of archaeology in the 1860s’, Lubbock was ‘probably trying more to impress his peers than convert opponents of the old school … [as a result] the book comes across as a series of essays rather than a coherent work discussing topics in chronological order’; and to Bahn15 the claim that the book forms the basis of today's discipline of prehistoric archaeology ‘testifies more to the power of a wealthy and politically influential metropolitan clique than a true passage of events’. Clearly, Lubbock's position in an elite network of influential Victorian gentleman natural scientists was critical to the success (and subsequent fame) of Pre-Historic Times. A letter from Huxley to Lubbock, dated 17 July 1860,16 provides an intimate glimpse of networking in action. Huxley was taking control of the (in hindsight short-lived) Natural History Review, and placing close colleagues—‘young men with plastic minds’—such as Rolleston and Lubbock in editorial control.
In Britain, Lubbock sat at the hub of two powerful scientific cliques—the famous X Club17 and the Evans–Lubbock network18—both of which sought to change and increase the influence of British science. As the common link in these scientific chains, Lubbock was uniquely placed to influence successfully both archaeology and wider science. The X Club, established ostensibly as a dining club in 1864, was an exclusive yet powerful fellowship of eminent scientists and Darwinists.19 Other than Lubbock, it included Joseph Hooker (botanist), Herbert Spencer (philosopher and journalist), William Spottiswode (mathematician), George Busk (British naval surgeon, zoologist and palaeontologist), John Tyndall (physicist), Edward Frankland (chemist), Thomas Hirst (mathematician) and ‘Darwin's Bulldog’, Thomas Huxley.20 The membership drew on existing relationships between the constituent members and was based on exceptional intellect; its influence extended across all sectors of Victorian society, including the City, government, medicine, industry, the established church and the University of London.21 Lubbock had met most of the X Club members during the 1850s through his association with Darwin22 and, other than his scientific credentials as an entomologist and archaeologist, brought to this ‘Darwinian Masonic Lodge’23 access to the newly emerged wealthy industrialists24 and, later, his influence in Parliament. One of the key targets of the X Club was the transformation of the Royal Society from what their Darwinist brethren saw as a ‘dangerously conservative organization’ to a visionary powerhouse of science.25 Between 1860 and 1888, there was just a single year (1868–69) when the Council of the Royal Society did not include an X Club member, and they dominated the presidency from 1873 to 1885, with successive terms for Hooker, Spottiswode and Huxley. Lubbock sat on the Council in 1870–71 and was Vice-President in 1872; John Evans was Treasurer for 20 years (1878–98).
By contrast, the Evans–Lubbock network was a more informal group of like-minded archaeologists and friends that included Augustus Lane-Fox (later Pitt Rivers), Augustus Wollaston Franks and William Boyd Dawkins. The Evans network—most of whose members were also Fellows of the Royal Society—had similar aspirations to transform the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Archaeological Institute into more professional institutions. Evans and Franks had been elected fellows of the former in the 1850s (Franks was actually director of that society for much of the 1860s and 1870s); Lubbock and Pitt Rivers were elected in 1864, and by 1867 all four of them occupied positions on the council; Evans was president from 1885 to 1892. Both groups also dominated the 1868 International Congress for Anthropology and Archaeology—which in that year was held in Britain—installing Lubbock as president of the organizing committee, and between them occupying the roles of vice-president (Huxley), honorary secretary (Pitt Rivers), treasurer (Spottiswode) and council members (Busk, Evans, Franks and Hooker). The two groups were also instrumental in merging the Ethnological Society (of which Lubbock was president in 1863) and the Anthropological Society to form the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, of which Lubbock was the inaugural President from 1871 to 1873. Evans and Lubbock also served on the advisory committee for the long-running excavations by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) at Kent's Cavern, Torquay, and the usual suspects drove the formation within the BAAS of a separate Department of Anthropology within Section D and later a dedicated Anthropological Section (Section H). Of course, they dominated its presidency.26 There were few nooks or crannies where Lubbock and his colleagues did not hold some influence.
However, the presidency of the Anthropological Institute was Lubbock's last leading role in a learned society until he took up the presidency of the Society of Antiquaries in 1904. By the 1870s his attention was drifting towards his political aspirations, and Owen27 suggests that by 1874 he had all but lost interest in archaeology, and his collecting activities, so rapacious during the previous decades, became a trickle. With the fight won, it was time to turn his energies elsewhere. That said, he worked tirelessly to attain statutory protection for prehistoric archaeological sites, finally succeeding in passing the Ancient Monuments Protection Act through Parliament in 1882 (having personally acquired large tracts of Avebury and Silbury Hill to protect them). Some 69 monuments were given protection: 29 in England and Wales, 22 in Scotland and 18 in Ireland.28 Lubbock appointed Pitt Rivers, his colleague and future father-in-law, as the first Inspector of Ancient Monuments.
Cavern researches and cave men: Pre-Historic Times and the development of Palaeolithic archaeology
Pre-Historic Times appeared after what could easily be regarded as the most important decade in the development of Palaeolithic archaeology, which began with the reading of Darwin's and Wallace's papers at the Linnean Society and the discovery of the Neanderthal remains near Düsseldorf (both in 1856) and included the annus mirabilis of 1859, in which both Darwin's Origin of Species was published and human antiquity was finally demonstrated in the terraces of the Somme. From Lubbock's perspective, several events place him at the heart of the unfolding picture of prehistory at this time:
Lubbock meets Busk, Huxley & Tyndall, for example dines with Darwin and Huxley at Downe (1853);
Johannes Fuhlrott discovers (1856) and with Hermann Schaafhausen publishes (1857) the human remains from the Feldhofer Grotte in the Neander Thal;
Lubbock elected Fellow of the Royal Society (1858);
publication of Darwin's Origin of Species (1859);
observation of the discovery of a handaxe in Pleistocene river terraces and in association with bones of extinct animals at Amiens, Somme (1859);
Lubbock visits Boucher de Perthes at Somme Valley with Busk, Galton and Prestwich (1860);
Lubbock elected to the Council of the Royal Society (1861);
Lubbock begins recording his study tours in Natural History Review (1861);
Lubbock visits Swiss lake villages, Scottish shell middens and Scandinavia (1863);
Lyell's Antiquity of Man is published (1863);
William King defines the formal name Homo neanderthalensis for the pre-modern human remains from the Neander Thal (1864);
Lubbock visits Aquitaine and is shown sites and materials by H. Christy (1864);
Lartet and Christy's Figures d'Animaux is published in Revue Archéologique (1864);
Lubbock stands unsuccessfully for Parliament, and the first edition of Pre-Historic Times (1865) is published;
Lubbock excavates the Iron Age site of Hallstatt (1866).
In many respects Pre-Historic Times can be forgiven as a product of its times, ‘a curious collection of disparate material’29 that was based not on archaeological fieldwork but on European travel.30 It is certainly an eclectic work, and as Jahoda31 has noted, it ‘drew rather indiscriminately on the writings of numerous travellers and missionaries … [was] generally rather uncritical … [for example] the equation of savages with children runs as a constant thread through Lubbock's writing … [and] the proposition put forward by Lubbock that whole peoples have the minds of children in the bodies of adults is of course absurd’. Lubbock was, however, working with the materials available to him; intellectually, the notion that the Earth—and life upon it—was a lot older than had been assumed was a relatively new idea, and there was no convenient framework for thinking about human biological and cultural evolution. In terms of materials, Lubbock used books and personal familiarity with artefacts excavated by European specialists with whom he was in contact; in this sense the book's eclecticism derives as much from whom he knew as what he knew, and one should remember that at this time most intellectuals knew virtually nothing about human prehistory. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that among Europe's scientific elite, the reception of Pre-Historic Times was good; it was new and useful, and said the right things to the right people. Edouard Lartet and Henry Christy—who were from the point of view of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic archaeology the right people, whose interaction with Lubbock is discussed below—viewed it as ‘highly interesting and instructive’.32 Looking back from 1914, Lubbock's first biographer, Horace Hutchinson, noted that reviews of Pre-historic Times had been ‘very favourable … there was a general and cordial approval of the book by all who were qualified to judge … [and] the book was soon translated into the principal European languages’.33 Reviewing the development of human evolutionary studies barely a decade later, the eminent French physical anthropologist, Marcelin Boulle,34 noted that ‘en Angleterre … Lubbock, John Evans, Boyd Dawkins publaient sur la préhistoire des ouvrages de grand merité’.35
The first edition (1865) of Pre-Historic Times devotes the 30 pages of chapter VIII to Cave-Men (about 6% of the book). The chapter opens with the description of a suite of extinct mammals and their geographical distribution, noting—but not fully adopting—the biostratigraphical zones developed by Lartet.36 Lubbock suggests that most of the material recovered from cave excavations belonged to the Reindeer Period, which was younger than the stone tools recovered from ‘the drift’ (see the paper by D. Bridgland in this issue), but older than those of the polished stone period (Neolithic), Swiss lake villages and Danish shell midden sites. The remainder of the chapter provides a brief conspectus of a small number of humanly exploited caves known at the time, including the Belgian caves near Liège explored by Schmerling; British caves (notably Kent's Cavern and Brixham Cave in Torbay and the Hyaena Den at Wookey, Somerset); Maccagnone in Sicily, Aurignac; and 10 other sites in the Dordogne that had recently been excavated by Lartet and Christy (see below). The chapter concludes with a discussion of the use of prehistoric fauna as evidence of climate change; Lartet and Christy's ‘surprising’ evidence of art among prehistoric societies initially thought so base; a comparison of Upper Palaeolithic artefacts with those of the Inuit (Eskimaux); and a note—little more—of the prehistoric crania from Engis and the Neander Thal. Other than the promotion of the three-age system (and one or two other examples discussed below), there is little in the way of new or controversial material; Lubbock acts as a neutral synthesizer.
It is the French context of Lubbock's work that unites his synthesis with the most significant developments in the emerging Palaeolithic record, because it was in France that the basic stratigraphic sequence that still forms the core of today's periodization was being excavated and formalized. Lubbock was familiar with the freshly emerging artefacts and their geological contexts: he visited the caves and rock shelters of Aquitaine in March 1864, with an itinerary that included the Middle Palaeolithic sites of Le Moustier, Combe Grenal and Pech de L'Aze, and the Upper Palaeolithic sites of Badegoule and Le Madeleine, all of which would be published posthumously by Lartet and Christy37 and discussed subsequently in Pre-Historic Times. The trip was obviously pivotal for Lubbock:
I had the advantage of spending some time with Mr Christy, among the celebrated bone caves of the Dordogne. Thus by carefully examining the objects themselves, and the localities in which they have been found, I have endeavoured to obtain a more vivid and correct impression of the facts that books, or even museums, alone could not have given.38
Fortunately, Lubbock was able to experience the discovery of a bone bearing an engraved design—a piece of art—from a geological context indicating that it belonged to the Reindeer Age:
The specimen was found in the cave at Les Eyzies by Messrs. Franks and Jones during the excursion through Périgord in March 1864, in company with Messrs. Evans, Hamilton, Lubbock, and Galton, guided by our much regretted [deceased by the time this was posthumously published] friend Mr Henry Christy.39
Lubbock is referred to 23 times in Reliquiae Aquitanicae. In most cases, however, references are to Lubbock's use of other sources which provide components of his synthesis, notably: objects illustrated in Lubbock's translation of S. Nilsson's The Primitive Inhabitants of Scandinavia (quoted seven times); use of classical references to reindeer and stone-tool-using Finns; citation of Parry's Voyage (1821–23) and Lyon's Journal on ‘Esquimaux’ to understand fragmentary human remains from Lartet and Christy's excavations at the rock shelter of Laugerie Haute in Les Eyzies; Lubbock's simultaneous discovery of remains of (Ovi)Bos (moschatus) in Buckinghamshire, and John Evans's note of Lubbock's discovery of remains of (Ovi)Bos in Kent in a section on Ovibos; ethnographic evidence of fire-making in relation to the discovery of ‘hollowed stones’ from Lartet and Christy's excavations at La Madelaine (La Madeleine) and Les Eyzies; and a note that ‘the reindeer … formed the principal article of food’ among Esquimaux as a model for hunter-gatherers of the Reindeer Age. Pre-Historic Times is cited on just six occasions, four of which are illustration credits.
The recognition that some assemblages of stone tools were of simpler form than those of the ‘reindeer epoch’ and thus that they were earlier in age (Middle Palaeolithic in modern terms) is usually credited to Gabriel de Mortillet, although this observation was made also by Lubbock and is actually played out in the pages of Pre-Historic Times. De Mortillet had observed the presence of what we know today to be Middle Palaeolithic implements from the alluvial terraces of the Somme, but it was Lubbock who extended the recognition of these both to the south of France and into the context of the cave/rock-shelter archive, noting the significance of what Lartet and Christy had described as ‘Large clumsy knives, heavy sidescrapers, choppers, and cleaver-like implements from Le Moustier’ (Reliquiae Aquitanicae caption for Plate XXXVIII). By 1867 de Mortillet40 had used the Upper Shelter at Le Moustier as the eponym of the Mousterian, the cultural terms for the European Late Middle Palaeolithic. In Pre-Historic Times, 41 Lubbock made bold (and, with hindsight, correct) comparisons with material as far afield as Somerset in his deployment of typological and technological analogy: ‘Le Moustier presents some types not yet found in the other caves … resembling in some respects those of the drift … similar implement found by Mr William Boyd Dawkins in the Hyaena Den at Wo[o]key Hole’. He also noted a lack of bone implements at Le Moustier42 and figured one of the prime artefacts in his collection, what we would today recognize as a handaxe of the Middle Palaeolithic Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition.
Aside from the recognition of the Middle Palaeolithic—no mean achievement in itself—Lubbock can be credited with two practices that today form core methodologies of Palaeolithic archaeology: the techno-typological comparison of artefacts necessary for their grouping into cultural assemblages, and the use of ethnographic analogy as a means of understanding prehistoric artefacts. Although Lubbock was not the first to use the latter, Pre-Historic Times contained a corpus of information—often based on Lubbock's own ethnological collection—that served as a useful comparandum for materials that were being recovered by Lartet and Christy: ‘Sir John Lubbock has also some, which were presented to him by a person who saw them in use among the natives on the north-west coast of America’.43 Harpoons illustrated in Pre-Historic Times were reproduced in Reliquiae Aquitanicae,44 and direct typological comparison is observable with a Danish (Mesolithic) harpoon that ‘in some details of its form approaches … our supposed harpoons from the ancient stations in southern France … which have generally been more carefully worked, as may be very fully verified by reference to the harpoon from Bruniquel, represented by Fig. 9’.45
Occasionally, Lubbock's interpretations of artefacts derived from simple logic: a pierced stone pebble from Laugerie Basse46 was used to infer the presence of a drill'; ‘the bored hole … has been made by working on the two sides of the stone alternately with an instrument acting as a kind of drill’.47 Lubbock certainly knew his ethnography, however, and his deployment of ethnological observations to understand prehistoric artefacts could be said to have been one of his great innovations. Referring to the question of whether a bone needle recovered by Lartet and Christy could have been made with stone tools,
Professor Lartet ingeniously removed these doubts by making a similar needle for himself with the help of flint; but he might have referred to the fact stated by Cook in his first voyage, that the New Zealanders succeeded in drilling a hole through a piece of glass which he had given them, using for this purpose, as he supposed, a piece of jasper.48
Another question that Lubbock addressed using analogy was why fragmentary human remains were found on Lartet and Christy's sites; speaking of the ‘Esquimaux’, he noted:
[their] snow houses are of course pretty clean at first, but they generally become very filthy. The bone-huts are even dirtier … [I]n every direction round the huts', says Captain Parry, ‘were lying innumerable bones of walruses and seals, together with skulls of dogs, bears, and foxes, on many of which a part of the putrid flesh still remaining sent for the most offensive effluvia’. … he even observed a number of human bones lying among the rest.49
This was then deployed as an explanation for the presence of human remains at the rock shelter of Laugerie Basse (Les Eyzies):
If we observe that certain existing savages, the Esquimaux in particular, have so little respect for the remains of their kind, removed by various circumstances from their burial-places, that they allow them to be dragged round their huts with the osseous remains of the animals they have eaten, we shall readily account for these accumulations of human bones in the hearths of Laugerie Basse.50
Development: subsequent editions of Pre-Historic Times
Lubbock's own preparatory notes for subsequent editions of Pre-Historic Times, archived at the Royal Society, comprise almost entirely brief notes on anthropological subjects, the purpose of which is to build upon Lubbock's use of modern ‘savages’ as a reflection of the behavioural states of prehistoric humans. With regard to Pre-Historic Times, whereas the amount of information it contained gradually crept up—vaguely in line with discoveries—there was little serious intellectual change. Contrasting chapter X of the first edition of Pre-Historic Times with that of the fourth edition of 1878, the most notable change is that the fauna has been removed to a separate chapter of its own, reflecting nothing more than a significant increase in the amount of Pleistocene palaeontological material available by this time. Other than that, and despite the fact that the chapter retains its length, remarkably little has changed in the ensuing 13 years. It is a chapter of additions rather than revisions. Stating that so much is now known that a comprehensive coverage would be impossible, Lubbock repeats his journey through the Belgian caves (noting Trou de Chaleux, Furfooz, Trou de Frontal and Trou de la Naulette), British caves (Kent's Cavern—updated in light of Pengelly's excavations of 1865 onwards—Hyaena Den and Brixham Cave), Maccagnone Cave in Sicily, and Aurignac and 10 other sites in the Dordogne ‘excavated by the late Mssrs. Lartet and Christy’. Other key workers and works are name-checked, including Dawkins's51 Cave Hunting (1874), but nothing is developed. More works of art mobilier (portable art) are illustrated than in the previous version, but the interpretation has hardly moved on at all.
The same is true of the final 7th edition (1913): again a chapter of additions rather than revisions (despite the headline on the title page). Admittedly, this final iteration refers to recent findings (the cave art at Altamira, Piltdown, and so on) but essentially it follows the 1865 edition in format and interpretation. Like Owen, it seems to us that with the commencement of his political career, updating the Palaeolithic sections of Pre-Historic Times was rather low down Lubbock's list of priorities and was generally given only a light touch. It is also clear that his thinking similarly stalled in the 1860s.
A single example will suffice to illustrate this point: the handaxe from Le Moustier. As noted above, in the 1865 edition he makes the prescient observation that it is different from handaxes from the drift, and also from later Reindeer Period and Neolithic material. This passage is repeated almost verbatim in every other edition from 1865 to 1913, a period of 48 years. Even before the 1869 second edition, de Mortillet had been producing schemes subdividing the ‘Cave Epoch’; and by 1873 he was using the term Moustierien in a fashion that we would more or less accept today as referring to the Middle Palaeolithic.52 Had he read it, Lubbock should have realized that this supported his early observation. Furthermore, nowhere in his work is mention made to the other cave epochs then in common usage, namely La Madeleine, Aurignac, Solutré or Magdalenian, Aurignacian and Solutrean. Although this is in some part due to an indifference among British workers towards accepting these terms,53 others were at least discussing and using them.54 By the time of the last edition, Smith and Dewey55 were busy trying to find evidence of the Somme sequence of Lower–Middle Palaeolithic industries in Britain, and Hinton and Kennard56 had already attempted to fit the Thames Valley into the ‘Mortillian’ framework. Lubbock acknowledged none of this. After the genius idea of using modern ‘savages’ to interpret the deep past, bringing the past to life in a way previously unimaginable, and making a number of prescient inferences in his initial writings, Lubbock really failed to move on, and he certainly seems not to have kept up with developments in interpretation. In fact, by the time the final edition was published, it is fair to say that Lubbock had largely faded out of the consciousness of most authors, although his books would almost certainly have been the most easily obtained and accessible in the (then new) public libraries of Britain.
Lubbock's influence on Palaeolithic archaeology very clearly endured for half a century. Table 1 provides an analysis of the number of times that Lubbock is mentioned in contemporary and later key textbooks. Dividing the number of mentions by the number of books not authored provides a simple measure of citation frequency. We hesitate to call it a citation index, because the nature of many is anecdotal, so we prefer to see it as a ‘name-check’ index. Despite the reputation of the man and his works in Victorian England, it is evident that Lubbock is hardly mentioned by anybody working in the field of Palaeolithic archaeology other than John Evans, his great friend and colleague. Indeed, if we remove the 82 references to Lubbock in Evans's two tomes (most of which refer to items in Lubbock's collection or illustrations borrowed from Lubbock), the name-check index becomes just 3, far lower than even that for Hugh Falconer, who died in 1865, the debut year of Pre-Historic Times. It is also instructive to examine why Lubbock is cited. In most cases, it is for introducing the term Palaeolithic, and in the case of Allen Brown (the second highest after Evans), it is secondary referencing of ethnographic examples that Lubbock himself borrowed from elsewhere, as we have already observed with references to Lubbock in Reliquiae Aquitanicae.
By the turn of the twentieth century, references to Lubbock and Pre-Historic Times dwindle almost to nothing. There is no mention of either in the major publications of the first half of the century.57 Sollas58 mentions only the division of the Stone Age, and H. F. Osborn59 the same plus a reference to Pre-Historic Times and Lubbock's account of the events at Amiens in 1859. There is no mention of Lubbock in Obermaier's summary60 of the Spanish sequence, other than the fact that Pre-Historic Times exists. It is probable that the reason for the omission of reference to Lubbock from this time is due to the preponderance of raw data that was by now available: none of these workers really needed to draw on the original grand narrator, preferring instead to draw on primary data, either their own or that published in academic journals. Thus, like all good textbooks, Pre-Historic Times had simply had its day.
However, textbooks survive by being updated regularly. Lubbock's successive editions ensured the book's survival for the remainder of the nineteenth century, but not beyond. The reason, we suspect, is that Lubbock's attention was largely elsewhere from the 1870s; after a winning start he not so much fell at the final hurdle as stopped running halfway through the race and walked off to do something else. Owen61 implies that his increasing focus on politics was at the root of this. For sure, with the advent of a busier schedule, he needed academic pursuits that could be managed in the time available, and a more mature ethnographical treatment would have required Lubbock to leave his study and undertake new first-hand observations, involving long and arduous travel. It could also be that Lubbock had achieved his goal: the Palaeolithic had been firmly established, subdivided and placed at the base of an increasingly complex chronological framework for human development, in which biological and social evolution had been united. Indeed, after the publication of On the Origins of Civilisation,62 Lubbock produced no new major works on ethnography or archaeology until 1911; instead, he spent 40 years producing a series of monographs on insects, landscapes and politics and only nominally ‘updating’ Pre-Historic Times and On the Origins of Civilisation. Palaeolithic archaeology did not so much forget Sir John Lubbock; Lubbock (by now Lord Avebury) had little time for it. When Hutchinson came to publish Lubbock's first biography in 1914, it is no surprise that it documented only his political career and social background, and was mute on the subject of archaeology.
It is probable that the modern assumption that Lubbock played an instrumental role in the development of the three-age system, periodization of the Palaeolithic and general professional development of the discipline can be traced back to the historian of archaeology Glyn Daniel.63 We feel that we can offer a more nuanced evaluation of Lubbock's contribution to the development of Palaeolithic archaeology. Lubbock did not generate any significant part of the emerging Palaeolithic record through fieldwork, did not contribute significantly to the establishment of the eponymous subdivisions of the Palaeolithic that are still in use today, did not synthesize existing data in any comprehensive way, and did not have any brilliant ideas. Lubbock did, however, establish the formal period of the Palaeolithic and ensure its acceptance forever; he played a role in the acceptance of the three-age system in England; he disseminated the work of other scholars widely, at least among the professional classes, thus developing prehistoric archaeology as an international and multidisciplinary endeavour; and he demonstrated the efficacy of cautious use of ethnography for understanding archaeological artefacts. For these specific reasons, he can be justifiably celebrated.
P.P. is grateful to Katherine Ford, Matthew Eddy and Keith Moore for the invitation to speak at the Royal Society's Lubbock meeting, and to John Clark for his amiable editing. We are grateful to Peter Rowley-Conwy (Durham University) for discussing issues relating to Lubbock's promotion of the Three Age System and to two anonymous referees for their perceptive comments.
↵1 Unless otherwise noted, all references to Pre-Historic Times are to the first edition of 1865, namely J. Lubbock, Pre-Historic Times as Illustrated by Ancient Remains and the Manners and Customs of Modern Savages (William & Norgate, London, 1865). This quote is from p. 2.
↵2 B. Trigger, A history of archaeological thought (Cambridge University Press, 1989).
↵3 R. J. Pumphrey, ‘The forgotten man: Sir John Lubbock, FRS’, Notes Rec. R. Soc. 13, 49–58 (1958); idem, ‘The forgotten man: Sir John Lubbock: his contributions to zoology and his liberal record as a member of Parliament ought to be remembered’, Science 129, 1087–1092 (1959); P. Steadman, ‘John Lubbock—forgotten polymath’, New Scient. (10 January), 84–86 (1980); J. Owen, Darwin's apprentice: an archaeological biography of John Lubbock (Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2012).
↵4 M. Patton, Science, politics and business in the work of Sir John Lubbock (Ashgate, London, 2007).
↵5 G. Daniel, The origins and growth of archaeology (Penguin, London, 1967), pp. 113–114.
↵6 G. Daniel, 150 years of archaeology (Duckworth, London, 1952), p. 79.
↵7 C. Lyell, Principles of geology, 1st edn (John Murray, London, 1930).
↵8 Lubbock had intended to join Prestwich and Evans on that fateful journey, but to his lasting regret cancelled because of other engagements. C. Gamble and R. Kruszynski, ‘John Evans, Joseph Prestwich and the stone that shattered the time barrier’, Antiquity 83, 461–475 (2009).
↵9 E. Lartet and H. Christy, ‘Sur des figures d'animaux graves ou sculptées et autres produits d'art et d'industrie rapportables aux temps primordiaux de la période humaine’, Rév. Archéol. 9, 233–267 (1864).
↵10 G. de Mortillet, ‘Promenades Préhistoriques à l'exposition universelle’, Mat. Serv. Hist. Positive Phil. Homme 3, 181–283 and 285–368 (1867).
↵11 P. Rowley-Conwy, From Genesis to prehistory. The archaeological Three Age system and its contested reception in Denmark, Britain and Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2007).
↵12 W. Bagehot to Lady Lubbock, December 1866, quoted in H. G. Hutchinson, Life of Sir John Lubbock (Macmillan, London, 1914), pp. 89–90.
↵13 A. Desmond and J. Moore, Darwin (Michael Joseph, London, 1992), p. 560.
↵14 Rowley-Conwy, op. cit. (note 11), p. 258.
↵15 P. Bahn, The Cambridge illustrated history of archaeology (Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 92.
↵16 Archived at the Royal Society and published in P. B. Pettitt and M. J. White, ‘Cave men: Stone tools, Victorian science, and the “primitive mind” of deep time’, Notes Rec. R. Soc. 65, 25–42 (2011).
↵17 R. Barton, ‘The X-Club and Royal Society politics, 1864–1885, an influential set of chaps’, Br. J. Hist. Sci. 23, 53–81 (1990); idem, ‘Huxley, Lubbock, and half a dozen others: professionals and gentlemen in the formation of the X Club, 1851–1864’, Isis 89, 410–444 (1998); idem, ‘X Club (act. 1864–1892)’, in ‘Lawrence Goldman (general ed.)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn (Oxford University Press, October 2006) (http://www.oxforddnb.com/templates/theme-print.jsp?articleid=92539), pp. 1–6 (accessed 9 October 2013); Owen, op. cit. (note 3).
↵18 Owen, op. cit. (note 3); J. McNabb, Dissent with modification: human origins, Palaeolithic archeology and evolutionary anthropology in Britain 1859–1901 (Archeopress, Oxford, 2012).
↵19 Owen, op. cit. (note 3), p. 44.
↵20 A. Desmond, Huxley (Penguin, London, 1997); Patton, op. cit. (note 4); Owen, op. cit. (note 3); McNabb, op. cit. (note 18).
↵21 Owen, op. cit. (note 3), p. 44.
↵22 Patton, op. cit. (note 4); Owen, op. cit. (note 3).
↵23 Desmond and Moore, op. cit. (note 13), p. 526.
↵24 Owen, op. cit. (note 3), p. 44.
↵25 Ibid., p. 46.
↵26 P. Sillitoe, ‘The role of Section H at the British Association for the Advancement of Science’, Durham Anthropology Journal 13(2), 1–17 (2005).
↵28 Sir Robert Hunter, ‘Appendix A’, in The preservation of places of interest or beauty (Manchester University Press, 1907) (http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Preservation_of_Places_of_Interest_or_Beauty/Appendix_A).
↵29 Trigger, op. cit. (note 2), p. 115.
↵30 M. Thompson, Darwin's pupil. The place of Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury, 1834–1913, in late Victorian and Edwardian England (Melrose, Ely, 2009).
↵31 G. Jahoda, Images of savages. Ancient roots of modern prejudice in Western culture (Routledge, London, 1999), pp. 136 and 140.
↵32 E. Lartet and H. Christy (eds), Reliquiae Aquitanicae; Being Contributions to the Archaeology and Palaeontology of Perigord and the Adjoining Provinces of Southern France (Williams & Norgate, London, 1875).
↵33 Hutchinson, op. cit. (note 12).
↵34 M. Boule, Les hommes fossiles (Masson, Paris, 1921).
↵35 Boule had defined the anatomy and gait of the Neanderthals based on the discovery of the first decently complete Neanderthal skeleton from La Chapelle-aux-Saints in France (discovered in 1908).
↵36 See, for example, Lartet and Christy, op. cit. (note 32).
↵38 Natural History Review (1864).
↵39 Lartet and Christy, op. cit. (note 32), description of the plates—bone implements, p. 65.
↵40 De Mortillet, op. cit. (note 10).
↵41 Pre-Historic Times, p. 251.
↵42 Ibid., pp. 251–253.
↵43 Lartet and Christy, op. cit. (note 32), p. 55.
↵44 Pre-Historic Times, p. 50.
↵45 Ibid., p. 50.
↵46 Illustrated in Lartet and Christy, op. cit. (note 32), bone implements, plate V, no. 1.
↵47 Ibid., description of the plates, p. 44.
↵48 Pre-Historic Times, p. 443.
↵49 Ibid., 395.
↵50 M. E. T. Hamy, ‘Fossil Man from La Madelaine and Laugerie Basse’, in Lartet and Christy, op. cit. (note 32), p. 262.
↵51 W. B. Dawkins, Cave Hunting. Researches on the Evidence of caves Respecting the Early Inhabitants of Europe (Macmillan, London, 1874).
↵52 De Mortillet, op. cit. (note 10).
↵53 A. O'Connor, Finding time for the old Stone Age (Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 120.
↵54 See, for example, J. Evans, The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain (Longmans, London, 1872); idem, The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain, 2nd edn (Longmans, London, 1897); J. A. Brown, Palaeolithic Man in North-West Middlesex (Macmillan, London, 1887); W. G. Smith, Man the Primeval Savage: His Haunts and Relics from the Hill-tops of Bedfordshire to Blackwall (Stanford, London, 1894).
↵55 R. A. Smith and H. Dewey, ‘Stratification at Swanscombe: report on excavations made on behalf of the British Museum and H.M. Geological Survey’, Archaeologia 64, 177–204 (1913).
↵56 M. A. C. Hinton and A. S. Kennard, ‘The relative ages of the stone implements of the Lower Thames valley’, Proc. Geol. Assoc. 19, 76–100 (1905).
↵57 See, for example, A. Keith, The antiquity of Man (Williams & Norgate, London, 1915); Boule, op. cit. (note 34); G. Elliot-Smith, The evolution of Man: essays (Oxford University Press, 1924); H. Obermaier, Fossil Man in Spain (Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1916); R. Moir, The antiquity of Man in East Anglia (Cambridge University Press, 1927); M. C. Burkitt, The Old Stone Age: a study of Palaeolithic times (Cambridge University Press, 1933); F.-M. Bergounioux and A. Glory, Les premiers hommes (Didier, Paris, 1945).
↵58 W. J. Sollas, Ancient hunters and their modern representatives (Macmillan, London, 1911).
↵59 H. F. Osborn, Men of the Old Stone Age, their environment, life and art (G. Bell & Sons, London, 1914).
↵60 Obermaier, op. cit. (note 57).
↵61 Op. cit. (note 3).
↵62 J. Lubbock, On the Origins of Civilisation and the Primitive Condition of Man (Longmans, London, 1870).
↵63 Daniel, op. cit. (note 5); idem, op. cit. (note 6).
↵64 Evans, op. cit. (note 54); Dawkins, op. cit. (note 51); J. Lubbock, Prehistoric Times as Illustrated by Ancient Remains and the Manners and Customs of Modern Savages, 4th edn (William & Norgate, London, 1878); W. B. Dawkins, Early Man in Britain and His Place in the Tertiary Period (Macmillan, London, 1880); Brown, op. cit. (note 54); Smith, op. cit. (note 54); J. Evans, The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain, 2nd edn (Longmans, London, 1897); Sollas, op. cit. (note 58); J. Lubbock Prehistoric Times as Illustrated by Ancient Remains and the Manners and Customs of Modern Savages, 7th edn (William & Norgate, London, 1913); Osborn, op. cit. (note 59); Burkitt, op. cit. (note 57).
- © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society.