Bill Longacre, New Archaeology, and Bob Dylan: AN Essay of Appreciation
April 13, 2001
SAA 2001 Special session honoring Dr. William A. Longacre
Bion Griffin and Dave Tuggle
(Posted on my Blog “Wandering With An Old Anthropologist” just for fun and historical memory.
An update from another 20 years on would be fun. We'll see.)
The Times they are A-Changin’ Things Have Changed
Bob Dylan, 1964 Bob Dylan, 2000
This paper is history from a personal perspective. It is a history of Bill Longacre’s impact on us and the areas in which we have worked in the Pacific. It is a history of an era when times were changing. Our main intent is to suggest something of the climate of those times, the early years of New Archaeology. As everyone who attends the past is well aware, it is difficult to grasp the social atmosphere of an earlier time, but historical novelists and screenwriters get it right when they say, “ don’t let facts stand in the way of the truth.’’ So, we present this as truth.
Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down…
Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours
We linger alone…
The Doors, Strange days, 1967
We are the same generation, Bill and the two of us—all born just before WWII. So clearly the mid-late `60’s was the most turbulent era of our remembered experience. This turbulence, which shook along deep social fault lines, was the historical context for what became known as the New Archaeology. One of these fault lines was the age, the young vs the old; the generation of the veterans of WWII and the generation of Vietnam war protestors; expressed in a hundred ways, as establishment vs anti-establishment; as alcohol vs drugs; in sloganeering as “question authority” vs “obedience to the law is freedom”
Archaeology, as were many sciences, was part of all this… caught up in the culture of the new (i.e., of the young), and young scientists commonly found their scripture of justification in Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which could be simplistically read to articulate scientific advance in terms of young versus old.
On the national level, SAA meetings were raucous affairs, not the boring clock-managed deals they are now. There was a great deal of argumentation about the New Archaeology at various levels, with Jimmy Griffin holding court in one hotel and denouncing it all as bullshit, while Sally Binford would be making the opposite point in her own iconoclastic way in a hotel room party across the way. And always there was talk of the War (Vietnam), again often as schism; including rumors about which American archaeologists working in Southeast Asia were spies for the CIA.
Today, every time we walk by the
placid corner of Park and University at UA, waiting for fraternity men to drive
through the intersection in their Miatas, we begin to see shadows from the
Tim Robbins does in Jacob’s Ladder. Universities were the center of the turbulence, and a walk to the classroom was to walk by the corner of Park and University milling with Hippie panhandlers, Black Muslims, hawkers for a dozen alternative newspapers, protestors with a dozen causes, drug dealers, and street musicians. Student discussions concerned not only archaeological theory and comprehensive exams, but the latest rules for the military draft (which seemed to change weekly), war resistance, and whether 2001 and MASH were about present, past, or future.
But for one us (Tuggle), the introduction to Bill Longacre was not in the Campus classroom, rather it was in the field classroom at the Grasshopper archaeological camp in the 1965. Bill was joining the Anthropology staff of the University of Arizona, and had come to the Grasshopper to co-direct with Ray Thompson that year, in preparation to take over the field school full time the following year.
Bill began talking about archaeology as anthropology, about Carter Ranch, Lew Binford, hypothesis testing, cultural adaptation, social organization, and about the cultural theorists relevant to archaeology, particularly White, Service, and Sahlins. Much of this was not really new in the sense that one could find elements of these things in previous work, but it was being put together in a new way, and
perhaps the most exciting thing was that it emphasized the potential, not the limitations, of archaeology. The most negative reaction to this discussion came from the student-staff at the field school, but discussions among students indicated that most felt we were getting the best of both possible worlds, on one hand solid grounding in field techniques and the prevailing views of culture history and classification presented by Ray Thompson, and on other hand, a view from Bill Longacre that gave us the framework to expand our conceptual horizons. Bion Griffin first encountered Bill and the New Archaeology when Longacre began teaching at UA in the fall of 1965, and he began his field archaeology with Bill at Grasshopper the following summer. (This was Bion’s first field archaeology, except for some site visits under the wing of Jim Ayres, who likely wondered about an archaeological grad student who had never seen and archaeological site!) Grasshopper was a breath of fresh air in more ways than one! The discussions, arguments, and sites/sights were exhilarating… and then, of course, there was the gender integration of the showers, but, we won’t go there, so to speak. The heat of the debates continued to be felt in and out of the field, especially over a campfire, with Wetherhill stew, red eye, and Emil Haury – “Solve it with a shovel!!!!” Not only dirt had to be shoveled.
In the classroom, in the cultural environment of Park and University, Bill began giving a seminar on archaeological method and theory, and it was the seminar that really molded our directions for a lifetime. In Griffin’s case, it opened up the realm of ethnoarchaeological and what became a dedication to the cultures of SE Asia (and we will neither confirm nor deny that he was a spy), and for Tuggle, it de-regionalized his thinking and produced his one abiding interest in the field, the epistemology of archaeology. The success of that seminar lay partly in the energy of the era—New Archaeology and the universities’ participation in the events leading to Tet and Kent State were clearly linked in this energy field, and in the excitement of new material and new ideas, in the related excitement of looking at older material with fresh perspective, from the work of A.V. Kidder to that of W.W. Taylor. At every meeting of the seminar, there were new draft manuscripts from people such as Binford, Deetz, and Hill, and we looked forward to each new issue of American Antiquity and the caustic exchanges that had made it to print.
Those days were like a bullish stock market; many if the papers ideas were likely high inflated IPOs, but the intellectual day-trading was just great fun, and over the long-haul (as stockbrokers always say) a number of ideas retained their value and have appreciated and been appreciated over time. The energy and enthusiasm of that era led graduate students at UA (in archaeology and cultural anthropology) to create a seminar on evolution in order to argue with each other and “visiting” professors. When we later taught at the University of Hawai’i, attempts to create similar seminars were successful in content, but not in spirit; the time had passed, and the post-Vietnam malaise had set in.
Interest in Bill Longacre at the University of Hawaii was directly responsible for the positions we obtained there after completing our degrees, and, certainly for some of the changes that then infected Pacific and Asian Archaeology. UH attempted, in 1969, to hire Bill away from UA. Seriously. Of first interest is that this Pacific outpost understood enough of the New Archaeology to make such an attempt.
Remember, this is well before Bill began his Kalinga project. But, Dick Pearson, an East Asia Specialist and Yale Ph.D. and Roger Green, a Harvard Ph.D. and well- established Polynesianist, made the attempt. Failing miserably, they asked, at the 1969 SAA meeting, if he had an acceptable student (protégé). With rash indiscretion Bill recommended then hopefully-to-graduate PBG. Griffin, a fan of Hawaiian music and long dark hair, hied off to Honolulu. A year later, seeing the need for reinforcements, he invited HDT to join him. The rest is (unwritten) history. We are older, less wise and more mellow, but have not set aside much of the enthusiasm that led to prefacing a paper aimed at the “Old Archaeology;” quoting from The Space Child’s Mother Goose_(Winsor 1958:1).
Probable-Possible, my black hen,
She lay eggs in the Relative When.
She doesn’t lay eggs in the Positive Now
Because she’s unable to Postulate How.
An interesting dialectic was developing in Hawai’i, centering on a tension between University of Arizona graduates and graduates of east coast universities, particulary Yale. Bill Solheim was the first archaeologist from UA to join the faculty at UH; Solheim preceded New Archaeology, but he did shake the Pacific staidness out of the place with his revolutionizing Southeast Asian archaeology and the origins of the Neolithic! And, he got an Arizona Ph.D. in 1960 and with a beard, in spite of Emil! Anyway, back to Yale. Early in Hawai’i’s colonial history, Yale became a destination of choice for Hawai’i born whites, many of them descendants of the original colonizing missionaries. Now, one may recall that Yale was not a hotbed of New Archaeology. KC Chang’s Rethinking Archaeology (properly noted as “Retarding Archaeology” by Lew Binford – we forget the reference or bar side personal communication) fit well as the Old Pacific hands’ approach to archaeology,- it was all good stuff, and necessary, but not where the New archaeology was headed. Archaeology in the Pacific and Hawaii at that time was very different from that of the mainland US.
The University of Hawaii was in come some ways a gradual transition between the two worlds, and in some ways it was at a sharp boundary. There were number of graduate students from elsewhere in the Pacific, and they came with training in different traditions: French, British, Japanese, or local New Zealand-Australian. Many of the areas where they had worked had seen limited archaeology and they were still puzzling over basic space-time archaeological boundaries, equivalent to SW archaeology in the 1920’s, and they saw New Archaeology as an intellectual luxury. Many graduate students from the US mainland had come to study with Bill Solheim, but his was not research with a major theoretical orientation. We were the pre-post-post-modernists.
The irony of Yale/Arizona influences is amusing when one looks at the small world of archaeologists’ interactions. In 1968 Kenneth Emory, (Yale /Bishop Museum) visited the University of Arizona, giving a talk in the Arizona State Museum. Not only did he interest us, but he captivated Rob Hommon, who nearly immediately got a job under Emory at the Bishop Museum, abandoned Tucson, and became Hawaiian archaeologist obsessed (we put this positively) with evolution of the Hawaiian state. We had all known of Sahlin’s Polynesian Social Stratification and Services’ Primitive Social Organization from Bill, and off Rob Hommon went. Sahlins had written his book in the Bishop Museum and taught at Michigan, influencing Binford. William Kikuchi left Hawai’i after his MA and work at the Bishop Museum to study at Arizona. Others in teaching and the CRM field over the years have moved
from Tucson to Hawai’i. The flow continues (and we suggest that this Yale-Arizona tension resulting from the ideas of Bill Longacre still casts a large shadow over Hawaiian and all Polynesian archaeology). Bill himself is in the mix, having been a visiting professor at UH, and hopefully we can get him there again and learn how to properly mix a martini.
The resident archaeologists of the Pacific (regardless of their national origin) got little caught in the foment of the era (neither that of the US or the equivalent movement in the mother England). Regardless of age, many were resentful of the issues raised by the New Archaeology, seeing at as demeaning their efforts in culture history. At the same time, many of the issues that Bill and the New Archaeology had raised began to be obliquely addressed in the research of the early 1970’s in Hawaii and the Pacific, where there was a significant expansion of the questions asked of the archaeological record, and efforts to determine how to measure variables, not just artifacts. In one example, a prominent archaeologist was giving a lecture on settlement pattern of an era he had studied, and was asked about population density. He railed about the impossibility of determining population numbers from archaeological data, but later in the published report devoted many pages to population and its importance in the process of cultural change.
The influence of Longacre and New Archaeology in Hawai’i today can be seen in a direct way. The early 1970’s saw the implementation of the National Historic Preservation Act with the formation of a Hawaii State historic preservation office and the beginning of what is now called CRM archaeology. In the early regulations promulgated by preservation staff, the necessity for problem solving and hypotheses testing in carrying out archaeological contract work was explicitly laid out. The head of that office had just graduated from UH. Bill Longacre, Lew Binford and the New Archaeology were not mentioned by name, but their influence was clearly there. The legacy remains in current state regulations that direct 95% of the archaeological research in Hawai’i.
Longacre’s influence is hardly restricted to the Pacific Islands. The University of Hawai’i looks as much to Asia as to the Pacific Islands; witness the lead of Bill Solheim. The germ of ethnoarchaeology planted in Griffin’s mind in 1965 in fact was instrumental in his acceptance of the UH position – the Department OK’d creation of a project among hunter-gatherers in Southeast Asia, as long as some Hawaiian archaeology was accomplished. Griffin’s first love, work among the Agta in the Philippines, began at the same time Bill initiated his Kalinga ethnoarchaeology. We should point out that this not only spread the ideas of ethnoarchaeology and the New Archaeology into Asia, but also ultimately led to two more faculty hires of Bill’s students – Michael Graves and Miriam Stark.
The following is a modest re-phrasing of
Bob Dylan, My Back Pages, 1964;
Crimson flames run through our ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fore on flaming roads
Using ideas as our maps…
Yes, our guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived us into thinking
we had something to protect
Good and bad, we define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but we were so much older then,
We’re younger than that now.
Bill provided us with many of the ideas that we have used as maps, helped us identify those abstract threats and to define the terms quite clear, and for this we are most appreciative. As Dylan says, yes, things have changed; the archaeological landscape is different from what it was 35 years ago, and Bill is responsible for much of that change. We will not forget being there when those times were changing.