Bruce Graham Trigger
, was a Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...
, and ethnohistorian
Ethnohistory is the study of ethnographic cultures and indigenous customs by examining historical records. It is also the study of the history of various ethnic groups that may or may not exist today....
Born in Preston, Ontario
Preston is a community in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Prior to its amalgamation with the city of Galt, the town of Hespeler and the village of Blair to form the new city in 1973, it was an independent town. It is located near the confluence of the Grand River and Speed River...
, he received a doctorate in archaeology from Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...
in 1964. His research interests at that time included the history of archaeological research and the comparative study of early cultures. He spent the following year teaching at Northwestern University
Northwestern University is a private research university in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois, USA. Northwestern has eleven undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools offering 124 undergraduate degrees and 145 graduate and professional degrees....
and then took a position with the Department of Anthropology at McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...
, and remained there for the rest of his career.
He was arguably best known for The Children of Aataentsic
, his two-volume study of the Huron peoples, a work which remains the definitive study on the history and ethnography of that people. The Children of Aataentsic
earned Trigger numerous accolades, including adoption by the Huron-Wendat Nation
The Huron-Wendat Nation is a Huron-Wendat First Nation whose community and reserve is at Wendake, Quebec, a municipality now enclosed within Quebec City in Canada. In the French language, used by most members of the First Nation, they are known as the Nation Huronne-Wendat.In 2006, historical...
as an honorary member. Trigger would later reiterate some of the key arguments of the book in Natives and Newcomers
, a polemical work aimed at educated laypeople. In Natives and Newcomers
Trigger, writing in the tradition of Franz Boas
Franz Boas was a German-American anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology" and "the Father of Modern Anthropology." Like many such pioneers, he trained in other disciplines; he received his doctorate in physics, and did...
, argued that the colonial and Aboriginal societies of early Canada all possessed rich and complex social and cultural systems, and that there are no grounds to argue that any society of early Canada was superior to the others.
History of Archaeology
Trigger's book A History of Archaeological Thought
investigates the development of theory and archaeology as a discipline. A second and expanded edition was published in 2006.
In Understanding Early Civilizations: A Comparative Study
Trigger uses an integrated theoretical approach to look at the meaning of similarities and differences in the formation of complex societies in ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...
The shang is a flat ritual upturned handbell employed by Bönpo and Asian shamans. The sizes of the shang range from approximately 3 to 20 inches in diameter. It is traditionally held to have originated in Zhangzhung and is symbolically similar to the tantric dril-bhu. Shang are traditionally...
of China, Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...
s and Classic Maya
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...
of Mesoamerica, Inka
The Andean civilizations made up a loose patchwork of different cultures that developed from the highlands of Colombia to the Atacama Desert. The Andean civilizations are mainly based on the cultures of Ancient Peru and some others such as Tiahuanaco. The Inca Empire was the last sovereign...
of the Andes, and Yoruba
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...
of Africa. In 2004 a session at the Society for American Archaeology
The Society for American Archaeology is the largest organization of professional archaeologists of the Americas in the world. The Society was founded in 1934 and today has over 7000 members. The Society holds an annual conference and publishes the flagship journal of American archaeology,...
(SAA) conference was dedicated to the research of Bruce Trigger.
Trigger also made significant contributions to theory and debates on epistemological issues within archaeology. The 2003 book "Artifacts and Ideas" is a collection of previously published papers that trace the history and development of these contributions.
In particular was his arguments about how the social and political contexts of research effect archaeological interpretation. One essay entitled "Archaeology and the Image of the American Indian" documents how archaeological interpretation reflected and legitimated stereotypes of Native American peoples and expressed the dominant political ideas and interests of Euro-American culture. For example, prior to 1914 Euro-American stereotypes resulted in a prehistory that saw native cultures as being primitive and inherently static. It was commonly believed that Native Americans had not undergone any significant developmental changes and that they were incapable of change. It was believed that natives had arrived in the Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...
only recently, and this "fact" explained their alleged lack of cultural development. Some early Euro-American archaeologists explained away the contrary evidence of earthwork
In archaeology, earthwork is a general term to describe artificial changes in land level. Earthworks are often known colloquially as 'lumps and bumps'. Earthworks can themselves be archaeological features or they can show features beneath the surface...
mounds as the creations of "more enlightened" non-native peoples who had been exterminated by Native American savage
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...
s. These popular beliefs, supported by the claims of early archaeologists, served to legitimate the displacement of native peoples from their homelands. John Wesley Powell
John Wesley Powell was a U.S. soldier, geologist, explorer of the American West, and director of major scientific and cultural institutions...
, who led the debunking
A debunker is an individual who attempts to discredit and contradict claims as being false, exaggerated or pretentious. The term is closely associated with skeptical investigation of, or in some cases irrational resistance to, controversial topics such as U.F.O.s, claimed paranormal phenomena,...
of the mound builder myths, not coincidentally also recognized that great injustices had been perpetuated against Native American peoples. Although Trigger recognized that Euro-American political interests tended to influence and distort interpretations of the archaeological record, he also argued that the accumulation of evidence served to correct these distortions.
Honours and awards
In 2001, Trigger was made an Officer of the National Order of Quebec
The National Order of Quebec, termed officially in French as l'Ordre national du Québec, and in English abbreviation as the Order of Quebec, is a civilian honour for merit in the Canadian province of Quebec...
. In 2005, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honour for merit...
. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
The Royal Society of Canada , may also operate under the more descriptive name RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada , is the oldest association of scientists and scholars in Canada...
, he won their Innis-Gérin Medal in 1985. In 1991, he won the Quebec government's Prix Léon-Gérin
The Prix Léon-Gérin is an award by the Government of Quebec that is part of the Prix du Québec, which "goes to researchers in one of the social sciences". It is named in honour of Léon Gérin.-Winners:-References:*...
Trigger died of cancer on December 1, 2006.
- History and Settlement in Lower Nubia. New Haven: Yale University Publications in Anthropology, 1965.
- The Late Nubian Settlement at Arminna West. New Haven: Publications of the Pennsylvania-Yale Expedition to Egypt, 1965.
- Beyond History: The Methods of Prehistory. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968.
- The Huron: Farmers of the North. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969, revised edition, 1990.
- The Impact of Europeans on Huronia. Toronto: The Copp Clark Publishing Company, 1969.
- The Meroitic Funerary Inscriptions from Arminna West. New Haven: Publications of the Pennsylvania-Yale Expedition to Egypt, 1970.
- (with J.F. Pendergast) Cartier's Hochelaga and the Dawson Site. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1972.
- The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1976.
- Nubia Under the Pharaohs. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.
- Time and Traditions: Essays in Archaeological Interpretation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1978 (U.S. edition New York: Columbia University Press).
- Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15. Northeast, Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1978.
- Time and Traditions: Essays in Archaeological Interpretation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1978.
- Gordon Childe: Revolutions in Archaeology. London: Thames and Hudson, 1980.
- (with B.J. Kemp, D. O'Connor, and A.B. Lloyd) Ancient Egypt: A Social History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
- Natives and Newcomers: Canada's "Heroic Age" Revisited. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1985.
- A History of Archaeological Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
- Early Civilizations: Ancient Egypt in Context. New York: Columbia, 1993.
- The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas [vol. I]. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
- Sociocultural Evolution: Calculation and Contingency. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
- Artifacts and Ideas: Essays in Archaeology. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2003.
- Understanding Early Civilizations: A Comparative Study. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
- A History of Archaeological Thought. 2nd ed.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
- Bruce Graham Trigger at The Canadian Encyclopedia
The Canadian Encyclopedia is a source of information on Canada. It is available online, at no cost. The Canadian Encyclopedia is available in both English and French and includes some 14,000 articles in each language on a wide variety of subjects including history, popular culture, events, people,...