J.W. Crowfoot was the son of J.H. Crowfoot, Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral. He was educated at Marlborough College and Brasenose College, Oxford. He had an early interest in archaeology and in 1897 spent a year travelling in Anatolia and Greece as a student of the British School of Archaeology in Athens. From 1899-1900 he was Lecturer in Classics in Birmingham University. In 1901 he joined the Egyptian Civil Service as Assistant Master of Education and in 1903 became Deputy Principal of Gordon College, Khartoum. In 1909, he returned briefly to Egypt as an Inspector in the Ministry of Education. In 1914 he became Director of Education and Principal of Gordon College, a post he held until his retirement from the Sudan Civil Service in 1926. At the same time, he became Director of the Department of Antiquities of the Sudan.
Following his 'retirement', he succeeded Professor John Garstang as Director of the British School of Archaeology (BSAJ) in Jerusalem. Under Garstang, the BSAJ and the Department of Antiquities of Palestine had been jointly run and the BSAJ had received a Treasury grant. In 1926 the two were separated and the School lost its grant, as well as its headquarters building. Crowfoot overcame these difficulties by establishing a close collaboration with the American School of Oriental Research, which had just built its own new headquarters. There, the library of the BSAJ was housed and the Crowfoots and the students of the BSAJ found a hospitable welcome.
Thereafter, Crowfoot began to carried out a major programme of excavations, beginning with the PEF excavations on the Hill of Ophel in Jerusalem in 1927. This was followed by the Joint BSAJ Yale University Excavations at Jerash/Gerasa in 1928-1930, and the Joint BSAJ, Harvard University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Palestine Exploration Fund excavations at Samaria-Sebaste from 1931-1935. During the first of these excavations, on 11 July 1927, while work was being carried out at a depth of 15.24 m, an extremely powerful earthquake shook the sides of the trench, but only dislodged a few pebbles on to the excavators.
Crowfoot’s work in this period was of the greatest importance for Levantine archaeology, with major contributions to the understanding of the Iron Age ceramic sequence, the eastern terra sigillata, and pioneering work on early churches. He retired as Director of the BSAJ in late 1935. He continued to be active in the field, however, with the final reports of the work he had directed at Samaria-Sebaste, the final volume of which was published shortly after his death. On his return to Britain, Crowfoot became Chairman of the Palestine Exploration Fund from 1945 to 1950. From 1951-1953 he was Chairman of the Council of the revived BSAJ, and from 1953, until his death, its President.
The Palestine Exploration Fund, 2 Hinde Mews, Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2AA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7935 5379 | Fax: +44 (0)20 7486 7438 | Email: ExecSec@PEF.org.uk
Registered company: 13606 | Registered charity: 212538