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Prophet Pariah and Pioneer

Walter W. Taylor and Dissension in American Archaeology

Edited by Allan Maca, William Folan, and Jonathan Reyman

Publication Year: 2010

In his 1948 work A Study of Archeology, recently minted Harvard Ph.D. Walter W. Taylor delivered the strongest and most substantial critique of American archaeology ever published. He created many enemies with his dissection of the research programs of America's leading scholars, who took it as a personal affront. Taylor subsequently saw his ideas co-opted, his research pushed to the margins, and his students punished. Publicly humiliated at the 1985 Society for American Archaeology meeting, he suffered ridicule until his death in 1997. Nearly everyone in the archaeological community read Taylor's book at the time, and despite the negative reaction, many were influenced by it. Few young scholars dared to directly engage and build on his "conjunctive approach," yet his suggested methods nevertheless began to be adopted and countless present-day authors highlight his impact on the 1960s formation of the "New Archaeology." In Prophet, Pariah, and Pioneer, peers, colleagues, and former students offer a critical consideration of Taylor's influence and legacy. Neither a festschrift nor a mere analysis of his work, the book presents an array of voices exploring Taylor and his influence, sociologically and intellectually, as well as the culture of American archaeology in the second half of the twentieth century.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. xi-xii

Figures and tables

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pp. xiii

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pp. xv-xix

The contributors to Prophet, Pariah, and Pioneer: Walter W. Taylor and Dissension in American Archaeology explore Taylor’s life and work in archaeology. This is not a festschrift volume. Festschrifts are often thematically disparate statements by former students and colleagues. This book focuses on Taylor as a teacher and colleague and reviews his substantive research in the archaeology of the American ...

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pp. xxi-xxx

In American archaeology, Walter Willard Taylor, the scholar and the man, has been misunderstood, misread, and mythologized; disparaged, vilified, and hailed as a founding father; ignored, glorified, snubbed, and treated at turns with contempt and compassion. How could one person elicit such a range of feelings and reactions? This book attempts to answer these questions, directly and obliquely, ...

Part I: Introduction, Background, and Overview

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1: Then and Now: W. W. Taylor and American Archaeology

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pp. 3-55

American archaeology was formally launched in 1935 with the creation of the Society for American Archaeology and its flagship journal, American Antiquity. Dissatisfaction with the status quo, however, was already in the air and grew significantly in the 1930s (e.g., Strong 1936; Steward and Setzler 1938). Then in 1940, Clyde Kluckhohn, a professor of anthropology at Harvard, raised ...

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2: Walter Willard Taylor Jr.: A Biographical Sketch and Bibliography

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pp. 57-71

Walter Willard Taylor Jr. was born to Walter Sr. and Marjorie Wells Taylor in Chicago, Illinois, on October 17, 1913, amidst a three-day spell of unseasonably warm weather.¹ Record high temperatures were set on both October 17 (86°F) and 18 (87°F). Those who would look for omens or portents in the weather at the time of Taylor’s birth might view these high temperatures as indicators of ...

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3: No Man Is an Island: The Scholarship of Walter W. Taylor

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pp. 73-99

When I began this essay as a graduate student project in 1984, I knew little about the history of “American archaeology”¹ and nothing about the life and work of Walter W. Taylor. Hence, the task of assessing the significance of Taylor’s theoretical and methodological contributions to the discipline has not been an easy one. The final product of my research is essentially a biographical narrative. The ...

Part II: Southern Illinois University: Colleagues’ Perspectives

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4: Walter Taylor: POW, Professor, and Colleague

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pp. 103-117

This chapter addresses Walter Taylor’s experiences during World War II and provides some insight to his life during the short period he was a prisoner of war and to his interests in anthropology. It was in this period that we first met and subsequently developed a close relationship. I discuss this relationship as it extended to my family and also included a period of interaction as colleagues at ...

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5: Professor Walter W. Taylor as Chairman

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pp. 119-122

I went to Southern Illinois University in 1950 as Professor of Anthropology, within the Department of Sociology, and as Director of the University Museum. At that time I was charged with the development of a first-rate regional museum and a program of research in archaeology and related studies in cultural anthropology and the building of an undergraduate program in anthropology. It was ...

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6: Reflections on Walter Taylor

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pp. 123-126

As best I remember, I first became acquainted with Walter Taylor in May 1958, during a meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Norman, Oklahoma. J. Charles Kelley, director of the Southern Illinois University Museum and acting chair of the newly created Department of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University, had previously approached Taylor and offered him the position of ...

Part III: Southern Illinois University: Students’ Perspectives

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7: Walter Taylor in the 1960s

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pp. 129-140

Although I cannot speak for his generation of archaeologists, for later ones like mine, Walt Taylor has been almost an enigma in spite of his bold statements in A Study of Archeology (1948). He was not an easy person to get to know, nor was he one especially eager to talk shop or to advance the ideas he developed in the early 1940s, either in class or out. In the following I try by reminiscence to pull ...

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8: Yanaconas

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pp. 141-147

When the editors of this volume requested a contribution from me, my initial response was to refuse. After all, why speak ill of the dead? But they convinced me that as the first of Walter Taylor’s students to complete a doctorate under his guidance, my memories of that time and our relationship would be of interest. Although our relationship can only charitably be characterized as rocky, I finally ...

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9: Walter W. Taylor: Prophet, Pariah, and Pioneer

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pp. 149-168

It is seldom that one writes a Ph.D. dissertation only to spend the rest of his or her life striving to live up to its expectations. Such, however, was the case of Walter W. Taylor, who, in my mind, represents the principal progenitor of modern archaeology. This chapter is a glimpse of Taylor as a friend, teacher and mentor, department chairperson, and a gentlemen scholar. I address his strengths, ...

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10: Walter Taylor: A Stimulating and Problematic Professor

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pp. 169-176

These recollections about Walter W. Taylor are completely personal. I have no notes or diaries that contain material about life at Southern Illinois University (SIU)—those that I do have contain only ideas and examples of my literary aspirations. However, my memories about various faculty members are fairly clear. It is my purpose here to offer a personal evaluation of Taylor as a professor and ...

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11: Professor Walter W. Taylor

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pp. 177-194

This chapter recounts my experiences as one of Taylor’s three doctoral students, the nature and consequences of our relationship in terms of my early career, and how Taylor’s conjunctive approach influences my archaeological research. Part of this essay derives from my obituary of Taylor (Reyman 1997) and much more is drawn from a biographical essay (Reyman 1999). Here I cover ...

Part IV: Analyses of Taylor’s Work and Influence

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12: Remembering Walter Taylor

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pp. 197-200

I remember vividly my first encounter with A Study of Archeology, ten years after its publication in 1948. The library at the University of Illinois at Urbana had just changed their policy and now allowed undergraduate students direct access to the stacks. I was exploring the archaeology holdings and came across Walt’s book. It had a catchy title and I noticed the American Anthropological ...

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13: Walter W. Taylor’s A Study of Arch(a)eology: Its Impact, or Lack Thereof, 1943–Present

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pp. 201-215

I did not know Walter Taylor personally but did meet him near the beginning of his career (1955) during a materials-analysis conference at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. Taylor had organized that conference and subsequently published the proceedings (Taylor 1957b). As a pre-M.A. graduate student in Near Eastern prehistory at the time, with comprehensive exams looming before ...

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14: Cornelius Osgood, Preceptor

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pp. 217-226

Walter Taylor’s undergraduate years at Yale brought him into close and continuing apprenticeship with Cornelius Osgood, who had joined Yale in 1930 and became curator of the anthropology collections at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History in 1934. Osgood was an old-fashioned anthropologist, carrying on primary fieldwork in both archaeology and ethnography and writing up ...

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15: Walter W. Taylor and the Study of Maya Iconography

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pp. 227-242

Today, there are numerous studies that could be cited in answer to this challenge. At the time Taylor wrote, his comment was an accurate reflection of the state of affairs in Maya studies. Curiously, he failed to cite one example of precisely the kind of study he called for: his own paper, published in 1941 in American Antiquity, “The Ceremonial Bar and Associated Features of Maya Ornamental ...

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16: Walter Taylor’s Conjunctive Approach in Maya Archaeology

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pp. 243-298

Several groups of archaeologists working in the lowland Maya area currently are practicing what they label “conjunctive” approaches (e.g., Fash and Sharer 1991; Chase and Chase 1996, 2009; Sharer et al. 1999; Fash and Fash 2009). Some have advocated conjunctive research for the whole of lowland Maya archaeology (e.g., Culbert 1991; Fash 1994; Marcus 1995; Golden and Borgstede 2004a, 2004b; Sharer ...

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17: Walter W. Taylor in the Southwest

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pp. 299-313

The cultural Southwest has been defined as extending from “Durango, Colorado, to Durango, Mexico, and Las Vegas, New Mexico, to Las Vegas, Nevada” (Reed 1951: 428). Walter W. Taylor conducted two archaeological research projects within the cultural Southwest, the Coahuila Project, in 1937, 1939–1941, and 1947 (Taylor 1966a: 59–84; 1972b; 1988; 2003; Arratia 2008), and a Pueblo ...

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18: Walter Taylor and the Production of Anger in American Archaeology

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pp. 315-330

The principal goal of this chapter is to build a model to explain the anger directed at Walter Taylor and to consider what this anger means for the field of American archaeology, its history, and its future, and the degree to which the field can or will accept and benefit from cogent internal critiques of practice and theory. To do this, I will put aside temporarily any unique traits associated with Taylor’s ...

Part V: Discussion

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19: “Conjunctivitis”: Notes on Historical Ethnography, Paradigms, and Social Networks in Academia

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pp. 333-356

This volume takes one by surprise with many eye-opening moments, which are no doubt welcomed by most readers as enlightening and productive. Despite the benefits of this literal and metaphoric effect, it may nonetheless aggravate the pain and irritation of those few other readers who suffer from a type of “conjunctivitis.” This is a disease, as it were, of vision triggered by contact not with ...

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pp. 357-362

Editors’ note. The following are two sets of correspondence received by the senior editor. The first was written in June 2009 by Kevin McLeod, a producer and director in the field of visual media [mstrmnd ltd]. McLeod currently lives in New York City. He was born in Michigan and is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The second involves a dialogue in March 2004 ...


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pp. 363-406


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pp. 407-416

E-ISBN-13: 9781607320784
E-ISBN-10: 1607320789
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870819520
Print-ISBN-10: 0870819526

Page Count: 488
Illustrations: 27 illustrations
Publication Year: 2010

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Subject Headings

  • Taylor, Walter W. (Walter Willard).
  • Archaeology -- United States -- History.
  • Archaeologists -- United States -- Biography.
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