April 13, 2011

RIP Lewis Binford

Every grad student entering the anthropology program at UNC hears the same possibly apocryphal story. In 1949, when Morehead Planetarium wanted a giant sundial in their rose garden out front, the archaeologists on campus help set it up, including a certain young undergraduate anthropology major by the name of Lewis Binford. On Monday, Binford - a giant in the world of archaeology - passed away.

My route to campus every day takes me on a diagonal path from the bus stop to the anthropology department. In the middle of this path, the gnomon of the sundial rises up, and the base makes me curve my steps on the bricks, so that I can read the inscriptions: "It is always morning somewhere in the world" if I veer right, and "Today is yesterday's tomorrow" if I break with tradition and veer left.

Binford's work left an indelible impression on the practice of archaeology as we know it. For me, the sundial is a tangible reminder of that fact, and I like walking by it before I start my day teaching the archaeologists of tomorrow.

Official or semi-official obituaries that I have found so far: World Archaeological Congress, Southern Methodist University, Chicago Sun Times, the Norfolk Pilot, the Wall Street Journal., and the New York Times. Or google around for various personal stories and obits, like this one on ArchaeoBlog. A new (5/17/11) obit by Clive Gamble in the UK's Guardian.

3 comments:

Martha Binford said...

Thanks Bone Girl. I was searching google to see some of the obituarys and remembrances people are posting and saw your nice post. I didn't know the story. Thanks, Martha Riley Binford (Lew's daughter)

emily said...

We were learning about Lewis Binford in my archaeology class just last week!

Bone Girl said...

Thanks for your comment, Martha, and so sorry to hear about your dad. The UNC sundial story may or may not be true, but I want to believe it!

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