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Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford

(1886—1957) archaeologist


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(1886–1957) [Bi]

British archaeologist who is best known as the founder of the journal Antiquity and for his work with aerial photographs. He was born in Bombay, India, where his mother died soon after, and he was brought up in London and later Newbury, Berkshire, by his father's sisters. He was educated at Marlborough College and then went up to Keble College, Oxford, where he started reading Greats, but after discovering an interest in archaeology gave this up in favour of a geography diploma. It is clear that he enjoyed neither school nor university. His first tentative step into archaeological fieldwork with the Wellcome Expedition to the Sudan was cut short by WW1. After a period in the infantry he was attached to the Third Army as a photographer and he then realized a long-standing ambition to work in the Royal Flying Corps. Here he became an observer but was shot down early in 1918. After the war he undertook various short-term jobs in field archaeology.

In 1920 Crawford was appointed as the first Archaeology Officer in the Ordnance Survey. This suited him well, not least because it meant carving out a job for himself in an organization where nothing similar had previously existed. Continuing his work with aerial photography he also worked on the revision of archaeological features depicted on published maps. The aerial photographs that he took or acquired from others in the 1920s and 1930s have since proved to be some of the most valuable records of archaeological sites currently available. One innovation was the production of period maps showing archaeological distributions, one of the first being the Map of Roman Britain. Much of this work had to be done single-handedly as he had no assistants, and in the face of unsympathetic official outlooks. In 1927 he founded the international journal Antiquity, which he edited through to his death in 1957. One of his best-known works, a series of aerial photographs of Wessex taken as part of a joint project with Alexander Keiller, was published in 1928 (Wessex from the air, Oxford: Clarendon Press); other publications include Man and his past (1921, London: Milford), Long barrows of the Cotswolds (1925, Gloucester: John Bellows), and Archaeology in the field (1953, London: Phoenix). He was made CBE in 1950 and received several other awards and honours.

From The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Archaeology.


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