In Memoriam V. Gordon Childe

By Barton, Huw | Antiquity, December 2000 | Go to article overview
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In Memoriam V. Gordon Childe

Barton, Huw, Antiquity

In March 2000, a visiting American archaeologist, LuAnn Wandsnider, asked a seemingly simple question in the Staff Club at the University of Sydney. LuAnn wanted to visit the grave of V. Gordon Childe who died in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney in 1957. `Where was he buried?'

I did not know the answer to LuAnn's question, and, interestingly, no one else in the Department knew either. I made further inquiries, other Departments, other scholars; still the answer was the same, `we don't know'. I was intrigued; here was a man of whom many books had been written and papers published in his honour -- yet his final resting-place appeared completely unknown.

After a few false leads, I requested a copy of his death certificate from New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This document states that V. Gordon Childe died from an accidental fall at Luchetti Lookout (Govett's Leap), Blackheath, on 19 October 1957. After the funeral service, on 23 October 1957, Gordon Childe's remains were taken to the Northern Suburbs Crematorium.

Vere Gordon Childe's memorial plaque lies in a shady corner of the Crematorium Gardens (FIGURE 1), amongst a small collection of Tree Memorials, number NT 451A. The plaque is attached to a small concrete plinth within the Northern Terrace, simply inscribed with his name and the date of his death. When I was given the location details by the staff at the Gardens, I set out expecting to find the location of his memorial without any difficulty. After 15 minutes of searching, I could not locate his name. Following the numbering system I found the right memorial, glanced at the name at top, and immediately assumed that someone had made a mistake.


The first name read, `Marion H. Shannon, died 28th October, 1940'. Assuming that this was a family memorial I did not look closely at the second name and it was a little while before the inscription `Vere G. Childe, died 19th October, 1957', snapped into focus (FIGURES 2 & 3).


Marion Holoborough Shannon was born in 1866 and died in 1940, aged 74 years. I assume that Marion is directly related to Elizabeth Jean Shannon, wife of Childe's cousin, Alexander Gordon. Alexander Gordon and Childe's life-long friend, Herbert `Doc' Evatt, organized the funeral held at St Thomas' Church in North Sydney.

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