Continuing Glasgow Archaeological Society's programme of guest lectures into 2017, we are pleased to welcome Professor Trevor Watkins, who will giving his talk "Re-thinking the Neolithic: the Clash between Old Ideas and New Ideas and New Data" on Thursday, January 19th, 2017, at 7.30pm in Lecture Theatre 2 of the Boyd Orr Building, University of Glasgow.

gobekliFor more than half a century we have been accustomed to the idea that the Neolithic revolution in the Near East was the switch from hunting and gathering to farming, and the beginning of farming has been explained – scientifically – as a cultural adaptation to environmental pressures. Over the last twenty-five years and more, most of the archaeological sites that have been investigated have been salvage excavations, which means that archaeologists were led to excavate sites as a matter of urgency, rather than as part of a calculated research strategy.

These unplanned research opportunities have produced spectacular and completely unexpected architecture, monuments, sculptures and complex symbolism, for example at Göbekli Tepe. The data no longer fits the received explanations, and there is a host of new theoretical thinking that goes beyond the simple standard evolutionary model.


About Professor Trevor Watkins, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

After studying classics in an old-fashioned grammar school, I went on to Birmingham University and in 1960 took a BA in Ancient History and Archaeology. My PhD at Birmingham was on the metalwork of the Early and Middle Cypriot periods, after which I worked for a couple of years in collaboration with a metallurgist, trailing the then new analytical method of mass spectrometry as a means of relating early copper tools and weapons to the copper sources from which they came. In 1966 I took up a new lectureship in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, where I taught for the rest of my career.

My first field project was the excavation of the site of Philia Drakos A, a pottery Neolithic settlement site in Cyprus, after which I worked for a while on seeking the origins of the Cypriot Neolithic, including a study of the aceramic Neolithic site of Kataliontas. In the mid-1970s I worked with Tom Davidson on the Halaf site of Tell Aqab, and then, in the 1980s, I played a role in the British salvage excavations in the Tigris valley ahead of the Eski Mosul Dam. That led to the opportunity to undertake salvage excavations on the early aceramic Neolithic site of Qermez Dere, on the outskirts of Tel Afar. In 1993 I worked with Douglas Baird in the initiation of the archaeological survey of the Konya plain around Çatalhöyük, and promptly moved on to begin the salvage excavation of the cluster of sites at Pınarbaşı.

Following the experience of excavating the houses at Qermez Dere, I became interested in the cultural symbolism of domestic architecture. Then I had the opportunity to work closely with Jacques Cauvin, as the translator of English version of his great book The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture (New Studies in Archaeology), published 2000. Since then, I have worked at seeking to apply theories from the work of Robin Dunbar (the social brain hypothesis), Merlin Donald (the emergence of systems of external symbolic storage and 'mythic' culture), and, more recently, cultural niche construction theory to the archaeology of the Epipalaeolithic and early Neolithic of southwest Asia.

Trevor is the published author of numerous books and reports.

Cover image of Çatalhöyük by Colleen Morgan

Image of Göbekli Tepe by Dan Merino