0:05:07 I did the Palaeolithic with Charles McBurney who was quite a figure, but all the students were attracted to Eric Higgs because of palaeoeconomy, new methods and so on; I did not really find either of them attractive so I was keen to work with with David Clarke; what was unusual was that most of the people who worked with David worked on the Bronze age or Iron age whereas I worked in the Palaeolithic; I wanted to do a PhD on the Palaeolithic but did not want to have either Higgs or McBurney; that caused a bit of difficulty and upset McBurney, but I wanted David to be my supervisor; he was happy to take me but left me very much to my own devises; I floundered around in the first year without ever finding a subject; by then Africa was the big thing; as an undergraduate I had worked in Kenya with Bill Bishop and Glyn Isaac so was getting into early man in Africa through archaeology; I thought that was what I would do my PhD on but then I got interested in recent African prehistory; I started a PhD on the late Stone age and pastoralism and did quite a lot of it with David, but was concerned that the sort of theories that Eric Higgs was developing on economics didn't make any sense in an African context, and I wanted the theory right; I started reading ecology, and by this time I had realized that I wanted to be a scientist; I got in touch with Malcolm Coe in Oxford, in the zoology department; he was a big African ecologist and I was interested in cattle and how they competed with antelopes, as I thought that was the answer to pastoralism, not the human but the animal; Malcolm was a larger than life naturalist, an extinct species now; he said that I would have to learn ecology so I should move to Oxford; I did so for nine months while continuing my PhD in Cambridge; I worked in the zoology department where they had an animal ecology group, went to their seminars, read in their library, talked to Malcolm and others, and basically learned my ecology; Malcolm was appointed my supervisor; that was when I worked out my thesis, spending time on animal ecology, structural ecological competition, things that form the building blocks of much of my subsequent thinking; I went off to Africa and started the work in Amboseli, a game park in the south where there are Masai; it was a perfect environment for me to look at the archaeology of pastoralism; it had tremendously rich ecological data so I could do all the modelling on extant data; that is where I developed the offsite archaeology which was the core of my thesis, which was to stop thinking in terms of sites; in African archaeology where there are degrading environments, you don't get very much in the way of deep sedimentary sites, but what you have is a rich palimpsest across the landscape of stone tools or pottery; what I developed was a way of randomly sampling landscape rather than looking for sites; then it took time to produce contour maps by hand whereas now it would take thirty seconds; I reckon that my thesis now would have taken about three months but I was random sampling across a landscape of about 600 square km; I would use a random number generator to make coordinates on a map, then go off in my car to find the sample; I had to do the whole thing through triangulation with a compass and maps; now with GPS, instead of a whole morning spent looking for the place, it can be done with a click; that, and the computer technology that can produce the contour maps, means it could now take much less time than I did; I was trying to bring together the archaeology, which clearly had a strong spatial element, with the ecology which had the same, to try and understand how resources across a landscape and the continuous distributions of human activity across landscapes made sense ecologically; that is what I set out to do, and spent a year in Africa doing fieldwork, which was a long period in the field; the tragedy of that period was that David died in 1976 when I had been in the field for about three months; I had just written to him as I had worked out the whole theory of offsite archaeology; I have often wondered what he thought of it; for me it was a personal tragedy but it was a loss to the field; he had loved Cambridge so I don't think he would have left unless through frustration; Glyn Daniel had become Professor, and then Colin Renfrew; he and Renfrew were very similar as the great giants of British archaeology yet totally different characters; whether he would have been happy with Colin in the Chair, I don't know; Ian Hodder, who was also David's student, and I have argued about what might have happened; he thinks that David was beginning to head in the direction of post-modern and so on; I think that is complete rubbish; I think David was always interested in science; he would have been very excited by developments in computing - GIS etc. - and I think he would have become a leading figure in the more scientific side of archaeology rather than becoming part of what became the great post-modern, deconstructionist movement, that Cambridge became renowned for; the tragedy is that with his death we will always assume that the future would have been the way we wanted it to be
10:03:19 I came back to Cambridge, running out of time and money, and started applying for jobs; I didn't get a Junior Research Fellowship or any of the lectureships in archaeology that I applied for; then by sheer chance Colin Haselgrove mentioned a lectureship in anthropology in Durham to teach human evolution; I thought I would try for it as I had worked in the field with Richard Leakey and had done the fossil sites, and probably had more experience than most people in Britain at that time, and knew the emerging field of early man in Africa; I applied, and to my surprise got called for an interview and they offered me the job; that was at the end of my third year of my PhD and I was thinking of giving up as my grant was running out; I went straight to Durham with my unfinished PhD and started lecturing in physical anthropology and human evolution which was an eye-opener; I had no science background of any significance other than a Part I course with Jim Garlick and Alan Bilsborough and my informal time in the zoology department in Oxford; it was a sharp learning curve but very enjoyable; it was the best thing that could have happened to me as I think, in the end, I am not an archaeologist; I love being in the field and like the evidence of the past, but I am not like an archaeologist who likes the material and the method; to me that is always a means to an end; I like the ideas and analysis, and the pulling together the story of the past by any means, and I don't really care if it is genetics, fossils, or archaeology - for me it is the problem; thus it was good for me to get into another environment where I could do that, and then there was the biological theory, the evolutionary theory, that then came into my life which hadn't been there before; also being in a new department where they don't know you is a good thing; Durham is where I brought ecology and evolution together in the way we study humans; the Head of Department was Eric Sunderland and Norman Long was head of the social anthropologists; when I arrived, Eric Sunderland was an arch university politician and I think manipulated the system so that the lectureship came up when Norman was away, and made sure is was a physical anthropology post and not a social anthropology post; looking back it was very odd because I was interviewed in August; I turned up in October to find half the department were ready to string me up from the lamppost because Eric had clearly done it behind their backs, so I was not very popular; I was warned that Norman would be furious with me when he came back; he did tell me how angry he was but I said that I was the last person he should blame; after a minutes thought he suggested we went to the pub and we became friends; we taught a course together on anthropological theory and I am ashamed to say we wrote our lectures in the pub beforehand, not something that would be allowed now; I was at Durham for nine years, during which time the old type of anthropologists retired; Michael Carrithers came, so did Bob Layton, both good friends; then I came back to Cambridge; it was a slightly tough decision because Durham was beginning to get going; as we know, Durham is now very successful, with a big anthropology department; Alan Bilsborough had gone to take over the chair, and given Carrithers’ tremendous energy and Bob Layton, it was beginning to get on the map, whereas Cambridge physical anthropology was not in great shape; on the other hand, Cambridge is Cambridge, it was where I had been a student, and the opportunity was never going to come again
18:23:03 The politics of Cambridge over the last twenty years I don't want to talk about, but the biggest thing for me is the work I do with Marta Lahr; when she got the lectureship in 1999 and came back to Cambridge, we were really able to build human evolution; what I always wanted to do was to make human evolution the centre of biological anthropology; before the War there was physical anthropology as evolutionary anthropology had died with Haddon and Seligman; then the only conceptual framework was racial variation, and the fossil stories were pretty bizarre; after the war, the new generation, Geoffrey Harrison, Gabriel Lasker, and people like that, decided to get rid of all the evolutionary history and focus instead on adaptability, humans and environment, genes etc.; what grew up was a non-evolutionary, not very theoretical, very environmental, nurturist view of human biology; at that time human evolution was half a paper and that was it; for me evolution and ecology is the core of anthropology; if you think about why humans are the way they are, they are because they have evolved through natural selection; natural selection is about the costs and benefits of doing things in particular environments; that to me is what we do, and I don't really mind if its Australopithecines or monkeys or Pygmies in Central African rain forests, it is how we study human variation in an ecological environment; that was always what we wanted to do; creatively working with Marta in the 1990s, suddenly we had a better understanding of how human diversity and human evolution went together; that creativity was very much within the department; the other side of creativity for Cambridge was the anthropologists and biologists in King's; I remember discussions with Ernest Gellner and Keith Hart which provided some sort of framework, but also in King's, conversations with Pat Bateson, Barry Keverne, Mike Bate, Charlie Loke - all discussing things that were interesting; for me the creativity has come very much from those interactions; to a lesser extent, from the archaeologists such as Paul Mellars and Colin Renfrew, but by then their interests were in post-modernism so I didn't have much in common with what they were doing; I don't have as big a teaching load as many people but I find teaching has been an enormous source of ideas for me; at Durham, because nobody could agree about a syllabus everyone got on with what they wanted to do; thus it was a very fruitful period for me; I was asked to teach a year's course on human evolution and decided to do it on human evolution and ecology; the two lectures on it that I gave each week I made up as I went along; the book I wrote in the 1980s 'Another Unique Species' is basically the things I thought about when teaching that course; for me teaching has always been a stimulus because I like to feed what is going on outside into my understanding of humans; that means reading widely, teaching and pulling it together; I have never been very good at lecturing from other people's text books; I need to know the over-arching theory so that course makes sense; we have completely revised the biological anthropology tripos here, and in restructuring it we wanted to allow people to have twelve lectures to put together a coherent view on an aspect of human evolution or human biology; I enjoy the personal contact in supervisions, particularly with first year students to get them thinking, but lecturing is more challenging as long as you don't do too much; I must have supervised about twenty-five PhD students and some have been fine, some a challenge; I still have good friends among some that I have supervised; it is a stimulating activity but in the last ten or fifteen years, the PhD has become less of an intellectual adventure and more of a ticket, which is less satisfactory; the pressures of who is going to co-author papers at the end, is it your project or theirs, the pressure one puts on them to complete in time because we get punished if it is not - all these things have changed the ability to just follow one's nose scientifically or intellectually; the idea of making up courses as you went along I think was very successful; my early experience in teaching a course in anthropological theory with Norman Long, where our perspectives were quite different, would have been impossible if we had had to work out learning outcomes and objectives in advance; it turned out that he and I had a lot more in common than I realized; he was a student of Max Gluckman, a transactionist, and that whole approach was very individual based; evolutionary theory also focuses on the individual and individual relationships; I think because of the informality of the teaching we did we both learned a lot from the other
29:16:13 I think that things get forgotten much faster now because there are so many people working in the same field; in the days when Evans-Pritchard could dominate a whole field there were probably only about ten people working in it; I still like to think that what I did in offsite archaeology with my PhD was significant though it has moved on and is now called landscape archaeology and it is much more sophisticated in techniques; however, the idea of thinking about the archaeological record as a continuously distributed set of activities across a landscape is one that shapes a lot of things today; the bringing together of the ecological perspective to human evolution, which in this country had been dominated by professors of anatomy, is the thrust behind everything that I have done; I have always liked problems to have a theoretical starting point and framework; I am very interested in applying general principles of evolutionary theory to humans, but theory in my field doesn't last but I like it; I was a co-founder of the Leverhulme Centre with Marta; that happened in 1999 when we really felt we wanted to build something in Cambridge; we went to the University and asked if we could have a centre for evolutionary studies; it was agreed if we could get the money; it was a way of trying to make human evolution a secure part of Cambridge academic life; we realized that without this the subject could have gone in any number of directions and we wanted to show that it was important for all sorts of reasons; it is tremendously important for understanding humans in a whole range of different approaches; we know that genomics is transforming the way we can look at human diversity; we are beginning to understand the relationships of phenotypes and genotypes and how they vary; Marta and I saw that coming in 2000 and wanted a place where these things could be done together in a single institution devoted to integrating different approaches; we raised the money from the Wellcome Trust for the building and from the Leverhulme Trust for the extra posts; there are now about forty people working in the building; so it is an attempt to institutionalize an idea; organizing this, being Head of Department and Director of Studies at King's, becomes harder and harder; I think Marta and I both feel that we have taken on an enormous challenge; some has been pleasurable, some difficult and painful, because what we wanted to do was to have the time to go into the field and study, to talk, to write books etc., but you end up having to raise grants and manage people and that is not what we want to do; I think it has been a sobering lesson as well; what we didn't know was that it would happen in an environment where the University has changed markedly; for us it was always going to be a free and easy institution in which you didn't have to worry about student numbers etc. and when the University started to centralize everything into Schools, with School strategies and enormous pressure; I personally think that the whole shift will, in the end, damage the creativity of the University because we are seeing the micromanagement of systems; the free flow of ideas, which is what we should be doing, is being hampered by the growth of administration in both teaching and research; that will always cramp new initiatives
38:45:02 Often little things I see or hear will stimulate me to ask how can I generalize this into a proposition to build into a fuller framework; undoubtedly talking and listening to people, going to lectures, encourages me to see links between things that are apparently unconnected; I have worked with Marta for nearly twenty years now and that is an endless stimulation because she reads so much, so widely, and never lets go of things, questioning all my assumptions; I find teaching also throws up questions; I am unfortunately deeply unsystematic, and unlike good scientists, I don't follow things through to the end as much as I should; once I have a have a satisfactory framework in my head I am not stimulated to take it further.