Lewis Binford: Point and Counterpoint

by Tracy C. Brown

Our second child arrived in 2001.  That was the year before we bought our first new minivan, a red Dodge Caravan to accommodate mom, dad, our 8-year-old daughter, and our new son.  Our son turned out to be a true joy.  The Dodge Caravan turned out to be…well…well…well…you remember that Detroit nosedive in 2008.  Our family got an early and very clear indication of what was coming as we helped our poor van through its assorted illnesses over a 5-year period.  Fortunately, the red machine was able to take us on at least one long, fear-free vacation trip immediately after we bought it. 

We drove down to Alabama as tourists to check out Russell Cave, the Marshall Space Flight Center, and Moundville.  For reading on the trip, I took along my newly purchased copy of Paula L.W. Sabloff’s book Conversations with Lew Binford: Drafting the New Archaeology.  The book was very good reading and provided some really interesting insights into the early life and career development of the so-called “Father of Processual Archaeology.”  Paula and Lew had been close friends for many years, and the book was, as expected, a very warm, loving, and generous treatment of the aging archaeologist and his ideas.  Because it was such a well-written and insightful book, I sent an e-mail message to Paula to let her know how much I had enjoyed reading it, and she responded that she rarely received fan mail about her writings and that she very much appreciated it.

Some of you may recall the first few years of the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes and the famous “Point-Counterpoint” debates on issues of the day between James J. Kilpatrick and Shana Alexander.  They were the stuff of legend and were often parodied on Saturday Night Live.  The whole thing was based on the premise that there are at least two sides to every story.

Late this afternoon, I was doing a little web surfing and, quite by accident, ran into an archaeological journal article about the life and work of Lewis Binford.  Although not clearly and specifically written as a counterpoint to the Sabloff book, it definitely provides an opposing perspective on Binford and his career.  It was written by an American anthropologist/archaeologist, but it was published in a foreign journal (Arqueologia Iberoamericana) in 2011, after the death of Lewis Binford at age 79.  This article may be old news to some of you, but it was totally new to me and left me feeling just a little shell shocked and shaken.  You may read the article at the safe link below, but hold on to your hats because it is one wild ride:    

Lewis Binford and His Moral Majority

How do you feel about the content of that fairly recent article by Alice Kehoe. Please click “Reply” at the head of this blog article and let us know by making a comment on it.

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