Prof David Wengrow: What might an archaeology of freedom look like?

Image: Forensic Architecture & The Nebelivka Project - contour map of the buried site of Nebelivka, Ukraine, based on geophysical prospection

What might an archaeology of freedom look like?

In The Dawn of Everything, David Graeber and I describe three basic forms of human freedom: to move away, to disobey, and to create new forms of social life. Far from being a special achievement of Western civilization, we argue, these freedoms were available to a great many societies across the span of human history, extending back into our species’ early past. Today, these same freedoms have been largely erased from the lives of most people, such that it is difficult for us now to even imagine what it might mean to live in a world based on such principles. My lecture will consider the challenge of recovering and visualising these forms of freedom in the archaeological record, as an antidote to teleological understandings of social evolution as a story about “the rise of the nation-state.”

David Wengrow is Professor of Comparative Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (UCL) and has been a visiting professor at New York University, the University of Auckland, and the Universities of Freiburg and Cologne. David has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Africa and the Middle East. He is the author of three books including The Archaeology of Early Egypt and What Makes Civilization?, and co-author of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, an international bestseller and finalist for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing in 2022.

Registration not necessary

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Date & time

Mon 20 May 2024, 2.30–3.30pm


Sir Roland Wilson Building 2.02, Theatrette


Professor David Wengrow (University College London, UK)


Anna Florin


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