As I navigated the windowless auditorium, the social dynamics slowly came into focus. Finally, one of the men, sitting alone on the edge of the audience, emerged as important. As he began to speak, I recognized the suspense in the room from my own grad school tour; he was a Don, a prophet, one whose opinion matters. Would you like to The dawn of everything? Sweet, Wengrow himself looked respectful. The suspense broke when the man – I later learned was Daniel Bradley, a geneticist at Trinity College Dublin – offered a technical observation about the book, then shook his head in sheer amazement at the achievement.
Wengrow was pleased. But he was no less delighted when the baby-faced lecturer, Neil Carlin, suggested in a deceptively tender brogue that Wengrow had got his analysis of Stonehenge wrong. I didn’t The Dawn, Carlin asked, just repeat the main story of the construction of Stonehenge? Carlin’s bile was exciting, but my ears perked up for another reason. Finally. An archeological site I’ve heard of.
“There’s a very big presence on my shoulder as I talk about this,” Wengrow said. That would be, as I understand it, Michael Parker Pearson, one of Wengrow’s colleagues at UCL, a ranking expert on Stonehenge and an archaeologist considered by some to be Anglocentric. Did Wengrow cross his book’s own thesis by failing to question orthodoxies, especially those that credit imperial powers like England with all great human achievements? An upstart Carlin came uncomfortably close to accusing Wengrow of pandering or even careerism.
Wengrow is not thrown. He is indifferent to the dynamics of wolf packs everywhere, and most of all in the academic environment. The preoccupation of Fr The Dawn, after all, is the contingency of hierarchies. They come and go, sometimes literally with time; any system of aging and creep is a joke; we are hardwired neither to rule nor to be ruled. In particular, Wengrow’s own newfound status as archbishop of archaeology, Mr. The $25Ka membership seemed ridiculous to him. As Jacques Lacan wrote: “If the man who thinks he is a king is mad, the king who thinks he is a king is no less.”
While Wengrow received lavish praise in Vancouver and raucous support at Wynn’s, it was the full-contact dialogue with UCD archaeologists that seemed to satisfy him the most. And stimulating. Eye-opening questions, ego-testing, twists and turns and mismatches. Reflecting on his collaboration with Graeber, Wengrow ventured that university management had made the academic community so sterile that making friends within it had become a radical act. “And in that way,” Wengrow said, “our relationship went against the grain.”
True, Wengrow seriously considered Carlin’s Stonehenge questions and even took notes. He later gave me a full critique hearing via email. As with the missing hot dogs, Wengrow didn’t mind.
Like death from Wengrow’s intellectual soulmate, The Dawn it opens up far, far more questions than it closes. Several of the book’s critics seem to balk more at its ambition than its research. Some say his idea of the dawn of everything, starting 30,000 or more years ago, is more like tea time. Others say that Wengrow and Graeber are so eager to find anarchism and feminism in early civilizations that they obscure the data.