American prehistorian specializing in the development of farming communities in the Near East. Initially, he studied architecture at the University of Michigan but switched to archaeology because of the lack of demand for architects during the Great Depression. He obtained a BA in Anthropology in 1932 and an MA in 1933. The same year he was hired by James Breasted, founder the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, to describe the rich civilizations that developed across the ‘Fertile Crescent’ in the Near East. Starting in the Amuq Valley of northern Syria, Braidwood worked in the region through to the outbreak of WW2, when he was put in charge of teaching meteorological mapping to Army Air Corps officers. In 1937 he married Linda Schreiber (1909–2003), and in 1943 he completed his Ph.D. on The comparative archaeology of early Syria, submitted to the University of Chicago. After the war he returned to the University of Chicago and together with his wife picked up their investigations in the Near East, working first at Jarmo in northeast Iraq and later at Çayönü in southern Turkey. The theme of both investigations was tracking the development of early agricultural communities, and for this they assembled a multi‐disciplinary team of archaeologists and scientists, rigorously applying the principles of hypothesis testing. Braidwood was the author of numerous articles, books, and reports, most notably Prehistoric investigations in Iraqi Kurdistan (with B. Howe, 1960, Chicago: University of Chicago Press). He received the medal for distinguished archaeological achievement from the Archaeological Institute of America in 1971, was a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a Knight of the French Légion d'honneur, and in the UK was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. It is widely believed that Braidwood was the inspiration for Steven Spielberg's fictional Hollywood archaeologist Indiana Jones!
The Times, 28 January 2003