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Bernfeld, S.C. (1951). Freud and Archeology. Am. Imago, 8(2):107-128.

(1951). American Imago, 8(2):107-128

Freud and Archeology

Suzanne Cassirer Bernfeld

Rousseau called the pre-history of civilization “the child-hood of man”; an expression that was generally used in the nineteenth century, especially by German romantic poets and philosophers. Freud, his attention focused on the childhood of his patients, put forward a variation of Rousseau's idea. He calls early childhood the pre-history of the human being. It too has its relics. Covered by the oedipal repressions, the undamaged memories of early childhood lie buried under strata of amnesia, and are hidden in the unconscious. Just as an archeologist may excavate the fragments of former civilizations, the psychoanalyst by a painstaking process is able to recover the memories of an earlier day. This comparison, which is very often used in Freudian writings, is a remnant of the primitive ideas he had formed about his own childhood. Throughout his life he was interested in archeology and ancient history, and his archeological studies and collections were to him an “unsurpassed comfort” in the efforts of mastering problems and conflicts.1 If this is remarkable, it is even more astounding that these interests remained undiminished through all the different stages of his own development as well as that of psychoanalysis.

Freud often refers to his own childhood. But since he uses his early memories as illustrations and elucidations of his ideas, these references are scattered through the seventeen volumes of his works. In 1944 this material was collected and integrated in a paper on “Freud's Early Child hood”.2 Since then, Freud's letters to Dr.

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