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Dawn of Everything

June 18, 2022 @ 2:15 pm - 3:15 pm


Event details

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike – either free and equal, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts.

Based on the book he co-wrote with anthropologist David Graeber, who sadly passed away in 2020, archaeologist David Wengrow shows how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a reaction to indigenous critiques of European society, and why they are wrong. In doing so, he overturns our view of human history, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery and civilization itself.

David will be in conversation with Penny Bickle from the University of York. He will draw on path-breaking research in archaeology and anthropology, showing how history becomes a far more interesting place once we begin to see what’s really there.

If humans did not spend 95 per cent of their evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers, what were they doing all that time? If agriculture, and cities, did not mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what kinds of social and economic organisation did they lead to? The answers are often unexpected, and suggest that the course of history may be less set in stone, and more full of possibilities than we tend to assume.

Let David transform your understanding of the human past and offer you a path toward imagining new forms of freedom and new ways of organising society.

Book sales

You can buy copies of many of our speakers’ books from Fox Lane Books, a local independent bookseller and Festival partner. In some cases, author signed bookplates are available too.


About the speakers

David Wengrow is Professor of Comparative Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (UCL) and has been a visiting professor at New York University, the University of Auckland and the University of Freiburg. He is co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, and ranked #10 in ArtReview’s ‘Most influential people in the contemporary art world’ (2021). Wengrow has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Africa and the Middle East, and has contributed op-eds to The Guardian, and The New York Times.

Dr Penny Bickle is a Senior Lecturer with the University of York’s Department of Archaeology where the main focus of her research is Neolithic Europe. Working at the intersection of science and theoretical archaeology, she applies bioarchaeological methods to various sites and time periods to inform on issues of identity and social diversity. Penny is particularly interested in how we can use burial practices to uncover the social lives and lifeways of the earliest farmers in Europe. She has travelled throughout Europe to carry out sampling of human and animal remains, artefacts and the local cuisines.


June 18, 2022
2:15 pm - 3:15 pm


York Festival of Ideas


In-person only Ron Cooke Hub, Campus East, University of York
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