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What must it have been like to be the first archaeologist to explore ancient Persepolis in Iran or Samarra in Iraq? Imagine seeing these untouched ruins at the mercy of centuries of sandstorms, past witnesses to splendid and powerful civilizations.
German scholar Ernst Herzfeld was the first to explore these places between 1911 and 1913, and took the stunning first photographs of the famous sites. Herzfeld later became director of the Oriental Institute of Chicago’s excavations at Persepolis and a faculty member of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. His entire archive of notebooks, sketches, diary, and photos are housed in the Freer and Sackler Galleries.
Curator Alexander Nagel tells the fascinating story of Herzfeld’s early work and presents a selection of his amazing archival photos and documents. Juxtaposed with the subsequent years of excavation and renovation, we see a compelling, remarkably intact story of archaeology at its most exciting.
Nagel is assistant curator of ancient Near East art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries.
Learn more about the music of Iraq, listen to clips from Smithsonian Folkways recordings>>