Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The discoverer of the Tomb of Cyrus the Great

EXHIBITION: How a German Archaeologist Rediscovered in Iran the Tomb of Cyrus, Lost for centuries, the royal capital of the Achaemenid Empire was finally confirmed by Ernst Herzfeld (Jackson Landers, Smithsonian Magazine).
By the early 20th century, nobody was sure exactly where Cyrus had been buried and it wasn't clear where the former capital of his empire was.

Thousands of years after Alexander paid his respects, Pasargadae was visited by another foreign adventurer looking for the same tomb as Alexander.

This time it was a German rather than a Macedonian. Ernst Herzfeld arrived in 1928 to begin mapping and photographing the city. He was the world's first professor of middle east archeaology. Herzfeld determined that the tomb was that of Cyrus, who had become a historical icon and a part of Iran's national identity.

Modern archeology was still a new replacement for the haphazard looting that had passed for exploration before. Herzfeld was meticulous, scientific and careful. He soon produced maps of the site that showed how Pasargadae had been more than just an administrative capital. It was a miracle of design. Herzfeld's journals, photographs and other materials are now found in the collections of Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, where an exhibition of his drawings, notes and photographs is now on view.
Past posts on the Tomb of Cyrus are here, here, here, and here. For many past posts on Cyrus the Great himself, see here and links or run "Cyrus" through the search engine.