George Morrow’s prehistoric cartoons: bridging Prehistoric Peeps and The Far Side

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper

Abstract

Edward Tennyson Reed (1860-1933) is widely acknowledged as shaping modern “Flintstones” stereotypes of prehistoric lives, through his Prehistoric Peeps (1893-1908). These cartoons recapitulate a cosy late Victorian British culture, based on contemporary technologies elaborated from “Stone Age” materials. Despite the 1860s “Deep Past” scientific consensus, that dinosaurs long predated humans, Reed often presented their co-existence, for humorous effect.

In contrast, Reed’s near contemporary George Morrow (1869-1955) portrayed prehistoric people with modern middle-class sensibilities, making the best of a harsh world that was consistent with contemporary archaeological knowledge. Morrow’s initial cartoons, from 1919 onwards, were based on known Mesolithic and Neolithic technologies, and with humans co-existing with plausible large mammals, rather than dinosaurs. Where women are largely absent from Reed’s cartoons, Morrow played on tropes of henpecked husbands and houseproud wives, alongside stereotypes of male violence towards women in courtship, derived from early 19th century racist ethnological analogies.

Then, from the late 1930s, Morrow showed prehistoric people living in proximity to dinosaurs, and with impossible understanding of their contexts, for example, referring to Glacial and Inter Glacial periods. Hence, Morrow’s later work seems to pre-figure Johnny Hart’s B.C. (1958-) and Gary Larson’s Far Side (1980-95), both set in prehistoric worlds of lithics using people, with self-knowledge derived from a far future, co-existing with dinosaurs.

This paper explores Morrow’s work and discusses his conception of prehistoric people. It derives from an ongoing exploration of long-established stereotypes of prehistory in cartoons, and why they persist, despite continuing changes in archaeological understanding. The research is grounded in analysis of over 400 cartoons about prehistory, from Punch, from 1841 to 2002.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023
EventUnravelling the Palaeolithic Conference 2023: UTP 2023 - University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Mar 20231 Apr 2023
https://caho.soton.ac.uk/unravelling-the-palaeolithic-2023/

Conference

ConferenceUnravelling the Palaeolithic Conference 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CitySouthampton
Period31/03/231/04/23
Internet address

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