Colin Renfrew expands our understanding of cognitive archaeology in Assembly Series lecture

Lord Colin Renfrew has been an influential and innovative archaeologist for more than three decades. His groundbreaking research has provoked theoretical debate on archaeological methods and interpretation. He will present this year’s John and Penelope Biggs Lecture in the Classics titled “Becoming Human: The Cognitive Archaeology of Humankind” at 4 p.m., March 22 in Graham Chapel, as part of the Assembly Series.

Colin Renfrew

Renfrew is internationally renowned for his contributions to archaeological science, including his work on radiocarbon dating, European prehistory, DNA and archaeogenetics, and the origins of language. In the 1980s, he was a pioneer in the development of social archaeology, that focuses on the dynamics of social relationships in the past and their role in archaeological interpretation. He has dedicated himself to the prevention of looting of archaeological sites, and raising awareness of the ethical aspects of his profession.

Among his major works are: The Emergence of Civilisation: The Cyclades and the Aegean in the Third Millennium B.C. (1972); Before Civilisation, The Radiocarbon Revolution and Prehistoric Europe (1973); Problems in European Prehistory (1979); Approaches to Social Archaeology (1984); Archaeology and Language. The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins (1987); The Roots of Ethnicity: Archaeology, Genetics and the Origins of Europe (1993); Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership: The Ethical Crisis of Archaeology (2000); Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (1991, with Paul Bahn, 3rd edition 2000); and Figuring It Out: The Parallel Visions of Artists and Archaeologists (2003).

He was educated at the University of Cambridge (England), earning a Ph.D. in 1965 and a Sc.D in 1976. He taught prehistory and archaeology at the universities of Sheffield and Southampton. In 1981, he was appointed to the Disney Professorship of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, a position he held until he retired in 2004. For almost 15 years he was Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge, and is currently a fellow.

Among his many honors is the prestigious Balzan Prize, given in Prehistoric Archaeology.

The event is free and open to the public. Graham Chapel is located north of Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd., on the Washington University Danforth campus.

For more information, call (314) 935-4620 or visit the Assembly Series Web page (