John Winter Crowfoot was born in 1873 in Wigginton, Oxfordshire. Only son of the Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, John Henchman Crowfoot, J.W. studied at both Marlborough and Brasenose Colleges, Oxford. His interest in archaeology was cemented in 1897 when he spent a year as a student of the British School of Archaeology in Athens, travelling through Anatolia and Greece. For the last two years of the century, he was Lecturer in Classics at Birmingham University but his future lay in Egyptian rather Hellenic history.
In 1901 he joined the Egyptian Civil Service (Egypt at the time being a colony of the British Empire) and in 1903, John became Deputy Principal of Gordon College, the British school in Khartoum, capital of Sudan. In 1909, he was in Egypt again, as an Inspector in the Ministry of Education and in the same year married Grace Mary Crowfoot, the published and acknowledged expert on Ancient Egyptian textiles.
During this time in the Egyptian Civil Service and then as Principal of Gordon College in Khartoum, John and Grace had four daughters, including Dorothy Grace Hodgkin, Nobel Prize-winning chemist.
‘Retiring’ in 1926 from his role at Gordon College, John immediately took up the Director’s post at the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. The same year saw the loss of the School’s Treasury grant and John’s solution was to find a home for the institution in the new headquarters of the American School of Oriental Research. Having secured his new School’s future, John Crowfoot embarked on a series of notable excavations, each of which advanced archaeological studies of the region; they included the Hill of Ophel in Jerusalem in 1927, Jerash/Gerasa in 1928-1930, and Samaria-Sebaste in 1931-1935.
John retired (again) in 1935 but continued to publish findings from his programme of archaeological activities, especially the work from the Samaria-Sebaste dig. Having returned to Britain with his wife, John Crowfoot served as Chairman of the Palestine Exploration Fund between 1945 and 1950; he was Chairman and then President of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem until his death in 1959.
Back to: Early Life »