Braidwood, Robert John 1907-2003

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

BRAIDWOOD, Robert John 1907-2003


OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born July 29, 1907, in Detroit, MI; died of pneumonia January 15, 2003, in Chicago, IL. Archaeologist, educator, and author. Braidwood devoted his life to exploring the mysterious time in human history during which nomadic hunter-gatherers evolved into stationary farmers. In the process, he is credited with revolutionizing the field of archaeology and generating a "rewriting" of what had been thought of as "prehistory." With his wife, fellow archaeologist Linda Braidwood—who died only hours after her husband—Braidwood explored the Middle East in the area of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where some of the world's earliest cities were located c. 3100 B.C. As was typical for archaeologists in the 1940s, Braidwood collected museum-quality artifacts, but he did not stop there. Under the auspices of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, he was one of the first archaeologists to assemble geologists, botanists, and scientists from other disciplines to examine the tiniest fragments of civilized humanity. This changed the focus of archaeology from the study of art and artifacts to the analysis of diet, migration, population growth, and other aspects of human life. Braidwood was also involved in the research that led, in 1947, to the introduction of carbon-dating into the maturing science of archaeology. The correlation of data about plants and grain, bone, and other evidence from his Jarmo site near the Iraq-Iran border revealed a farming community dating back to about 6800 B.C. Braidwood subsequently discovered ancient stone structures at Cayonu in Turkey that dated even further back in time; this site ultimately yielded the oldest-known scrap of woven cloth. Braidwood retired from field work in about 1990, but remained active as a professor at the University of Chicago, where he had begun teaching in 1940. Braidwood wrote several books, including Prehistoric Men, which appeared in eight editions. With his wife Linda and others he wrote Excavations in the Plain of Antioch, Prehistoric Village Archaeology in Southeastern Turkey, and Prehistoric Archeology along the Zagros Flanks.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:


periodicals


Los Angeles Times, January 18, 2003, p. B20.

New York Times, January 17, 2003, obituary by Stuart Lavietes, p. A23.

Times (London, England), January 21, 2003.

Washington Post, January 18, 2003, obituary by Richard Pearson, p. B7.