Pioneering prehistorian and author Linda Braidwood was a familiar figure in Near Eastern archaeology. Receiving her Masters degree in 1946 from the University of Chicago, Linda undertook excavations in Syria and soon found herself at the helm of the Iraq-Jarmo project. The Braidwoods (Linda and husband Robert) and their team of experts were incredibly important to the study of early village life in the Qara Dagh and Zagros Mountain ranges (and beyond).
The Iraq-Jarmo project began in 1948 and ran until 1955, and Linda was key in the planning and day to day running of life on the dig. Alongside a team including Bruce Howe, fellow Trowelblazer Patty Jo Watson, Vivian Broman Morales and Charles Reed, Linda was influential in introducing environmental specialists to excavations throughout Southwestern Asia. This trend continued globally, eventually becoming specialist disciplines like zooarchaeology, archaeobotany and radiocarbon dating.
Linda was also a highly talented author and researcher. A contemporary of Agatha Christie Mallowan, who famously authored “Come Tell Me How you Live”, Linda also took delight in documenting all aspects of the Iraq-Jarmo expedition in her book “Digging Beyond the Tigris”. From packing, to selecting the expedition team, to the construction of the project’s dig-house, she ensured no detail was spared (including the adoption of a pet gazelle, ‘Gazelly’). This resulted in a must-read book for anyone interested in Iraq, its heritage, and life as an archaeologist in the 1940s and 1950s.
After Jarmo, Linda continued to work throughout Southwestern Asia, notably in Iran and Turkey. Without her extensive research and publication on the origins of agriculture, our understanding of the Eastern Fertile Crescent would be severely diminished. She was part of an incredible generation of women working in the archaeology of Southwestern Asia, including trowelblazers Halet Çambel and Ufuk Esin.
Post by Elizabeth Farebrother
Edited by Brenna
Braidwood, L.S. 1953. Digging Beyond the Tigris: An American Woman Archaeologist’s Story of Life on a dig in the Kurdish Hills of Northern Iraq. Abelard-Schuman: London and New York.
Christie Mallowan, A. 1946. Come Tell Me How You Live: An Archaeological Memoir. Collins: London.
Watson, P.J. 2003. Remembering the Braidwoods. Journal of Anthropological Research 59(2):145-147
Main Portrait: Linda Braidwood – Image Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Cover: The ‘Hilly Flanks’ of the Qara Dagh Mountains, taken from Jarmo – Image Courtesy of Chris Stevens, UCL Jarmo Project