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Born Aug. 25, 1911, in Paris. French archaeologist and ethnologist. Professor at the University of Paris (from 1956); director of the Institute of Ethnology (from 1963).
Leroi-Gourhan is best known for his investigations of Upper Paleolithic sites and dwellings and cave art and sculptured representations. He systematized the latter by classifying them into epochs and styles; he considered this art to be a reflection of primitive mythology. In his book Evolution and Technology (vols. 1–2, 1943–45) he provided a universal systematics of the phenomena of material culture, tracing its evolution from the primitive to the age of machines and seeking to substantiate general laws of “technomorphology” and the rule of “technical determinism.” His book The Gesture and the Word (vols. 1–2, 1964) attempts an even more sweeping universal historical generalization. The development of human culture in this work is regarded as part of the evolution of living matter. Biological evolution, in the view of Leroi-Gourhan, leads to ethnic and cultural development. Leroi-Gourhan’s conception, flawed by excessive technicality and a belief in the biological determination of social processes, is not accepted by Soviet scholars and scientists.
WORKS“Religii doistorii.” In the collection Pervobytnoe iskusstvo. Novosibirsk, 1971. (Translated from French.)
Préhistoire de l’art occidentale. Paris, 1965.