Robert John Braidwood

Robert John Braidwood

Robert John Braidwood (29 July 1907–2003) was an American archaeologist and anthropologist, one of the founders of scientific archaeology, and a leader in the field of Near Eastern Prehistory.


Braidwood was born Jul 29, 1907 in Detroit, Michigan, the first child of Walter John Braidwood (c1876) and Rhea Nimo(1881), and was educated at the University of Michigan, from where he graduated with an M.A. in architecture in 1933. Within a year he had joined the University of Chicago Oriental Institute's expedition to the Amuq Plain with the archaeologist James Henry Breasted. He worked with the expedition until 1938, during which time he married fellow Michigan graduate Linda Schreiber, who became his partner in the field and in his research.

Braidwood spent World War II working for the Army Air Corps, in charge of a meteorological mapping program. In 1943 he gained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, who immediately employed him, and at whose Oriental Institute and Department of Anthropology he was a professor until he retired.

There is speculation that the fictional character Indiana Jones was based on Braidwood, a fellow distinguished University of Chicago archaeologist known for his work in exotic locales. [] Though Jones and Braidwood would have been contemporaries, there seems to be little evidence for this assertion. Braidwood's colleague James Henry Breasted has also been cited as a possible model for "Indy." []

Robert John Braidwood died January 15, 2003 in Chicago.


The expedition to the Amuq Plain (in the state of Hatay, Turkey) was one of the first scientific archaeological surveys, involving the rigorous dating of artifacts through careful mapping and record-keeping.

In 1947, Braidwood had learned about carbon dating from his Chicago colleague Willard Libby, and he began to use the method in order to make his dating of artifacts more precise. Also in 1947 the Oriental Institute's Jarmo Project in Iraq was launched by Braidwood. It was an early example of an excavation aiming to retrieve evidence of the methods of early food production and to solve the ecological problem of its origin and early consequences. The project brought together archaeologists, biologists, and geologists in a ground-breaking study which earned it a National Science Foundation grant in 1954 — one of the first times such an award had been made to an anthropological project. When the political situation in Iraq deteriorated, however, Braidwood was forced to leave, and he went on to carry out similar projects in Iran and Turkey.

Together with researchers from Istanbul University, Braidwood worked at a site in southern Turkey called Çayönü, and provided extensive and significance evidence for the theory that between 8,000 and 12,000 years ago there was a shift from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural society in southern Turkey.

In 1971 the Archaeological Institute of America awarded him the medal for distinguished archaeological achievement.

Further reading

* Daniel, Glyn Edmund; Chippindale, Christopher. "The Pastmasters: Eleven Modern Pioneers of Archaeology: V. Gordon Childe, Stuart Piggott, Charles Phillips, Christopher Hawkes, Seton Lloyd, Robert J. Braidwood, Gordon R. Willey, C.J. Becker, Sigfried J. De Laet, J. Desmond Clark, D.J. Mulvaney". New York: Thames and Hudson, 1989 (hardcover, ISBN 0500050511).

ources and external links

*Stephen L. Brusatte, "Robert John Braidwood", in "Encyclopedia of Anthropology" ed. H. James Birx (2006, SAGE Publications; ISBN 0-7619-3029-9)
* [ University of Chicago obituary]
* [ Photograph of the Amuq Plain expedition, 1936]

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