Lewis Binford’s birth took place in Norfolk in Virginia at the time of the Great Depression in 1932. The name of his father was Joseph Lewis Binford while his mother’s name was Eoline Roberts Binford. Binford went to government established schools due to his parents’ humble income. As early as in his teen age he was already working mostly in construction sites. While still in college, he supported and assisted his family through his job as a builder. Periods after his experiences in the field of construction, Binford’s site plans draughted in his publications were similar to those of architectural plans. Binford wedded six wives including Jean Mock (1st wife), Sally Binford (3rd wife), Mary Ann (4th wife), Nancy Stone (5th wife), and Amber Johnson (6th wife). He had two children from his first marriage called Martha and Clinton. Clinton died in an accident in 1976. After building a legacy as the most renowned archaeologist in the 20th century, Binford died at the age of 79 in April 11, 2011. He is survivied by his wife Amber and his daughter Martha.
Binford went to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and University of North Carolina. It is while undertaking his studies at the university that he settled on pursuing archaeology as his career. At the University of North Carolina he was under the tutelage of Joffre Core. Binford proceeded to University of Michigan in order to pursue in-depth archaeology. While at it, he got further inspiration by the works of Leslie White, Walter Taylor, Albert Spaudling, and James Griffin. Spaudling taught Binford analytical methods. After years of hard work, Binford graduated with a Master’s degree in 1958 and PhD in 1964 at Michigan.
After his graduation, Binford began teaching at Michigan where he taught for one year. He then moved to University of Chicago. Binford’s “new archaeology” works began in 1962 while he was a professor at Chicago University. His research manifesto was outlined in an article called the “American Antiquity.” Therein he gave archaeology a new twist in which research would take the scientific approach including statistical sampling, evaluation of hypotheses, and research design. Binford is popular for pioneering ideas on processual archaeology and ethnoarchaeology which are significant in the study of Paleolithic. He majored in two fields namely archaeology and anthropology. Some of the prominent people who were influenced by his work include David Clarke and Colin Renfrew.
Binford’s frequent collaborators and co-authors
One of Binford’s major collaborators was François Bordes who was an expert on the archaeology of Neanderthals. Bordes excavated five different stone tools from the rock shelters located in Dordogne. According to Bordes, these tools pointed towards 5 different tribes of the Neanderthal. On the other hand, another archaeologist by the name Paul Mellars agreed with Bordes. He added that the five tribes indicated a chronological evolution over time. However, Binford disagreed with the two experts.When he subjected these stones to a scientific approach of archaeology; he rightly concluded that the five stones indicated toolkits which the archaeologists used for different purposes in their lifetime. Another popular collaborator in his works was Binford’s fifth wife known as Nancy Medaris Stone. Together they took a global journey to survey evidence of early man in Africa, China, South America, and India among other places. Other collaborators include the graduate students from the University of New Mexico and Amber Johnson (one of his former students).
High profile talks
Some of the high profile debates that Lewis Binford engaged in include a debate with James Sackett on the nature and function of style. Another debate was about methodology and symbolism with Ian Hodder. Binford also reacted to other ideologies such as the post-processual school and behavioral school.
For the purposes of recognizing his contribution to the field of archaeology, Binford received awards such as a medal from the Royal Anthropological Institute (1986) and honorary degrees from the University of Southampton in 1983 and University of Leiden in 2000. He was also a corresponding fellow of the British Academy from 1997. In 2001, Binford received an election into the US National Academy of Sciences. Another major award that Binford received was a lifetime achievement award granted to him by the Society of American Archaeology in 2008. Prior to his death in 2011, an asteroid 213629 was named after him
Articles and books written by Binford
Some of the articles and books which Binford wrote were American Antiquity, Nunamiut Ethnoarchaeology (1978), Bones: Ancient Men and Modern Myths (1981), New Perspectives in Archaeology (1968), Working at Archaeology, and Archaeology in Anthropology. His last book was entitled “Constructing Frames of Reference” (2001).
Overally, the life of Binford was a great blessing to the world as his contributions will influence the works of archaeologists for ages to come.
Gamble, Clive. Lewis Binford Obituary: Advocate of a rigorous, scientific approach to archaeology. The Guardian. May 2011. Retrieved on November 1, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/may/17/lewis-binford-obituary
Meltzer, David, J. Lewis Roberts Binford 1931-2011. National Academy of Sciences. Washington, DC. 2011 Retrieved on November 1, 2017 from http://nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/memoir-pdfs/binford-lewis.pdf
Sanz, Inés Domingo, and Dánae Fiore. “Style: Its role in the archaeology of Art.” In Encyclopedia of global archaeology, pp. 7104-7111. Springer New York, 2014.
Schmader, Matthew F., and Martha Graham. “Ethnoarchaeological observation and archaeological patterning: A processual approach to studying sedentism and space use in pitstructures from central New Mexico.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 38 (2015): 25-34.
Wilford, Noble, J. Lewis Binford, Leading Archaeologist, Dies at 79. The New York Times. 2011. Retrieved on November 1, 2017 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/us/23binford.html
Yu, Pei-Lin and Schmader, Mathew. Archaeology is Anthropology: Lewis R. Binford’s Dynamic Contributions to Archaeology Theory and Practice. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Volume 38, Pages 1-72 (June 2015).