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Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford


1886 - 1957

Aerial archaeologist. Born into an old Ayrshire family in India, Crawford came to England as an infant to be raised by his aunt. He was educated at Park House School and Marlborough College, before reading Geography at Keble College, Oxford. He went on to dedicate his career to archaeology and was one of the first to examine the geographical patterns of archaeological finds in an attempt to explain the past. During the First World War he served in the London Scottish Regiment, then for a time as an Observer in the Royal Flying Corps and as an intelligence officer interpreting aerial photographs, suffering both injuries and capture by the enemy.

He went on to publish Man and his Past (1921) which proved highly influential on archaeology and joined the Ordnance Survey (the British National Mapping Agency, then under military control) as their first archaeological officer. He set about recording archaeology on their maps, setting up a network of local informants and also began the systematic collection of aerial photographs, which did so much to reveal previously unknown sites and provide new perspectives on known monuments. He published many articles and reports, including a Report on Air Reconnaissance of Roman Scotland (1939) and a book Topography of Roman Scotland: North of the Antonine Wall (1949).

During the Second World War, he was to save some of the Ordnance Survey's archive by taking it to his home before their headquarters in Southampton was bombed by the Germans and also photographed many buildings in the city which provided a record of those destroyed.

In 1949, Crawford was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (1940), appointed a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) the following year, and awarded an honorary degree by the University of Cambridge in 1952 for his contribution to aerial archaeology. He died at his home in Nursling (Hampshire, England) and lies buried in the local churchyard.


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