restricted access 3: No Man Is an Island: The Scholarship of Walter W. Taylor
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73 It can easily be shown that most theories are intimately related to the purely personal experiences and “personalities” of their devisors and also to the prevailing pattern of thought. . . . Such a view does help us to view theories relativistically rather than absolutistically. Clyde Kluckhohn (1939b: 342) Introduction 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 data on Taylor’s life are drawn largely from a reply he made to my request for a copy of his curriculum vitae. Noting the limitations of his curriculum vitae “as to the context(s), motivations and impingements that have influenced both life and work,” he kindly provided a ten-page account of the more personal aspects of his life. For others who may make better use of it, I have attempted to include No Man Is an Island The Scholarship of Walter W. Taylor Chapter three Brenda V. Kennedy Brenda V. Kennedy 74 much of it in the following pages. I also include my assessment of Taylor’s ideas and opinions as drawn from his writings. My personal judgments are clearly identified as such. Most attempts to describe the history of American archaeology concentrate on select themes or trends that dominated, and hence defined, particular periods of archaeological research and thinking (e.g.,Strong 1952; Belmont andWilliams 1965; Willey 1968; Willey and Sabloff 1993). These schemes chart major shifts in emphases throughout the development of the discipline but suffer from the inadequacies that plague all classification systems—they are designed to find patterns in a maze of variability and are perforce simplifications. To more fully comprehend the complex themes in American archaeology, consideration must be given to other methods of inquiry. One alternative is to focus on the accomplishments of individuals who have played significant roles in the devel­opment of the discipline, much as Gordon Willey (1988) has done. Such an approach sheds light on the source of an individual’s theoretical and methodological contributions and leads to a fuller understanding of same. It also enables the interested researcher to determine how life experiences and the prevailing pattern of thought in American archaeology influenced an individual ’s work and can elucidate the dynamic and influential relationships between and among individuals who were active in research. This chapter is such a study. It is devoted to the particular contributions of Walter W. Taylor to the development of American archaeology. I take a biographical approach and chart the development of Taylor and his ideas by exploring the people and events that played a vital role in his career and by assessing the impact of his work on the “New Archaeology.” The information is arranged to reflect the major episodes in Taylor’s life and the importance of his most influential work, A Study of Archeology (1948). The story opens with a section titled The Formative Years, dealing with Taylor’s life and career before 1948. This is followed by a section titled A Study of Archeology, dealing specifically with this book, its precursors, and the reactions it engen­dered. A third section, The Lull after the Storm, focuses on Taylor’s career after 1948. Thereafter follows a discussion of Taylor’s influence on the New Archaeology and his general position in American archaeology. The Formative Years When I Grow Up Walter Willard Taylor Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 17, 1913, the son of Walter Willard and Marjorie Wells Taylor. During the early years of his life, his family moved first to Geneva, Illinois; then east to Douglaston, Long Island; and finally to Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1920 or 1921. It was at this 75 No Man Is an Island point in his life that Taylor acquired his avid interest in the outdoors, the importance of which is illustrated by his comment: During the first or second summer we were in the east, my grandparents came from Chicago and took me in their car, via Niagara Falls, back to Chicago, and later my grandfather and my uncle went with me on a canoeing-­campingfishing trip for about two weeks in the woods of Wisconsin. I have been a camper-fisherman-hunter ever since...


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Subject Headings

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