Walter Taylor (archaeologist)
Walter Willard Taylor, Jr. (1913 – 1997) was an American anthropologist and archaeologist most famous for his work at Coahuila in Mexico and his "Conjunctive archaeology", a method of studying of the past combining elements of both the traditional archaeology of the period and the allied field of anthropology. This was exemplified by his work A Study of Archeology.
Taylor was born in Chicago but grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. Although studying geology, while at Yale University Taylor became interested in anthropology and archaeology. He graduated in 1935, and that summer he began working for the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, where he was influenced by the holistic environmental philosophy of Lyndon Hargrave.
After three years in the field, in 1938 he enrolled for a Ph.D. in anthropology at Harvard. When World War II broke out, Taylor enlisted in the U.S. Marines, serving in Europe and being parachuted into enemy territory to assist local resistance groups. He was captured and badly wounded in 1944 and was not released from a German prisoner-of-war camp until the end of the war in Europe. During his imprisonment, he began teaching anthropology to his fellow prisoners. He earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star and remained as a captain until 1955.
He also taught from time to time at the University of Texas, the University of Washington, Mexico City College, and Mexico's National School of Anthropology and History. At the same time, he carried out investigations at sites in Arizona, New Mexico, Georgia, Mexico, and Spain, before retiring in 1974.
Taylor saw archaeology as an integrated discipline, combining the study of diet, settlement patterns, tools and other elements to provide a holistic view of the past. This approach, along with his open and specific criticism of leading archaeologists of his day, caused dismay among many archaeologists at the time but is now a standard practice in the discipline. Taylor was one of the first to loudly decry the descriptive, historical approaches in the field. However, Patty Jo Watson said that Taylor's purpose "was not to generate ill will but rather to stimulate examination...of aims, goals and purposes by American archaeologists."
Taylor's work anticipated by many years the efforts of the "New Archaeologists" of the 1960s, and A Study of Archeology remains in print.
- W. W. Taylor, 1948, American Anthropological Association, Memoir 69)
- Patty Jo Watson, 1983, Foreword to the 1983 edition of A Study of Archeology. Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
- Society of American Archaeology obituary
- Inventory to the Papers of Walter Taylor, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution