A. Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers

(1827—1900) anthropologist and archaeologist

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(1827–1900) [Bi]

British soldier, anthropologist, and archaeologist often regarded as the ‘father of scientific archaeology’. He was born on 14 April 1827 at Hope Hall near Bramham Park, North Yorkshire, but little is known of his childhood. He was known by his father's surname of Lane Fox until 1880, when he assumed the name of Pitt Rivers. In 1841 he entered the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, followed by a commission in the Grenadier Guards, where he developed a special interest in musketry. In February 1853 he married Alice Stanley, with whom he had six sons and three daughters. A year later he went to the Crimea, where his efforts resulted in decorations and mention in dispatches. In May 1857 he was promoted lieutenant‐colonel by purchase; in October 1877 he was promoted major‐general, and he retired in 1882 with the honorary rank of lieutenant‐general. During his army career he developed an interest in archaeology and ethnography. After reading The origin of species on its publication in 1859, he developed a parallel theory of the evolution of culture. He was elected an FRS in 1876. The inheritance from his great‐uncle (George Pitt, second Baron Rivers) of large estates in Dorset and Wiltshire in 1880 enabled him to expand the scope of his archaeological work, and he devoted the last twenty years of his life to large‐scale excavations of prehistoric and Romano‐British sites. This work was done with a measure of technical competence unknown among his contemporaries. The results were published privately in a series of major volumes, Excavations in Cranborne Chase (1887–98). In 1882 he was appointed the first Inspector of Ancient Monuments for England to administer the Ancient Monuments Protection Act, passed that year. He died at the family home of Rushmore on 4 May 1900.


M. Bowden, 1991, Pitt Rivers. Cambridge: CUP

Subjects: Archaeology.

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