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Ernst Herzfeld Papers

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At A Glance

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  • Overview

    An outstanding scholar in the field of Iranian studies, Ernst Herzfeld (1879--1948) explored all phases of Near Eastern culture from the prehistoric period to Islamic times. This collection documents Herzfeld's excavations at Samarra, Persepolis, Pasargadae, and Aleppo and includes correspondence; field notebooks; drawings; sketchbooks; inventories of objects; "squeeze" copies of architectural details; and photographs.
  • Creator

    Herzfeld, Ernst, 1879-1948
  • Dates

  • Physical Description

    150 Linear feet (circa 30,000 items)
  • Collection ID


  • Scope and Contents

    Papers (1899--1962) of German born archaeologist Ernst Emil Herzfeld (1879--1948), a preeminent scholar of Near Eastern and Iranian studies. The collection measures 150 linear feet (circa 30,000 items) and documents Herzfeld's work as a pioneer in the field and sheds light on his excavations at Samarra, Persepolis, Pasargadae, and Aleppo. Formats include correspondence; field notebooks; drawings; sketchbooks; inventories of objects; "squeeze" copies of architectural details; and photographs.
  • Biographical / Historical

    The Ernst Herzfeld Papers document the career of Ernst Herzfeld (1879--1948), a German architect, archaeologist, and historian of Islamic and Pre-Islamic studies. After training as an architect he studied archaeology under Delitzch from 1903 to 1906 at the excavations at Assur in Mesopotamia. A student of Latin, Greek, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew, Herzfeld received a doctorate in Humanistic Studies at universities in Munich and Berlin in 1907. His work with Friedrich Sarre to survey the monuments of the Tigris-Euphrates valleys resulted in landmark studies in architectural history, published in 1911 and 1920.

    In 1920 Herzfeld was appointed to the chair of Historical Geography in Berlin and began his excavation at Samarra. Herzfeld's work there led to a six-volume publication. He published widely throughout his life on the sources of Islamic architecture and ornament, including the Royal Palace at Persepolis.

    From 1934 until the end of his life Herzfeld spent his time producing many books and articles, lecturing, and working at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (1936--1945.) Many of his works continue to be published post-humously.

    1879 July 23 -- Born in Celle, Germany.

    1897 -- Received diploma from Joachimsthaler Gymnasium, Berlin.

    1897-circa 1898 -- Fulfilled military service.

    circa 1899 -- Studied architecture at the Technical University and Assyriology, art history, and philosophy at the Friedrich-Wilhems Universität in Berlin.

    1903 -- Passed exam in structural engineering.

    1903-1905 -- Assistant to Walter Andrae (1875-1956) in Assur.

    1905-1906 -- Traveled throughout Iran and Iraq.

    1907 -- Excavation in Cilicia. Passed oral exam in February. Awarded doctorate in Humanistic Studies by Friedrich-Wilhems Universtät zu Berlin. After receiving Ph.D. traveled extensively in Syria and Iraq with Friedrich Sarre, director of the Islamic Museum in Berlin.

    1910 -- Herzfeld and Sarre jointly publish, Iranische Felsreliefs (Berlin, 1910).

    1911-1913 -- Field Director under direction of Sarre during expedition to Samarra.

    circa 1914 -- Drafted into service in France and Poland during World War I. Sent to Iraq where he functioned as a surveyor.

    1916 -- Father died.

    1917 -- Appointed associate professor for Historical Geography and Art History of the Ancient Orient at Berlin. Along with Friedrich Sarre and others, founded the German-Persian Society to increase cultural and economic exchange between Germany and Persia.

    1920 -- Appointed world's first full professor of Near Eastern Archeology. Begins excavation at Samarra.

    1922 -- Mother died.

    1923-1934 -- In Persia, where he completed many excavations and studies.

    1928 -- Excavation at Pasargadae.

    1931-1934 -- Appointed director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and moved to Persepolis.

    1934 -- As grandson of Jews, Nazi legislation expelling state employees of Jewish descent forced Herzfeld to retire as a professor employed by the state. Moved to London.

    1936 -- Delivered Lowell Lectures. Moved to Boston. Lectured on Iranian history and appointed a member of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study.

    1944 -- Retired from Princeton University.

    1948 January 20 -- Died.
  • Creator

    Herzfeld, Ernst, 1879-1948
  • Names

    Verlag Philipp von Zabern
    Anistās Mārī, al-Karmilī, ab, 1866-1947
    Becker, Carl Heinrich, 1876-1933
    Bell, Gertrude Lowthian, 1868-1926
    Berchem, Max van, 1863-1921
    Herzfeld, Ernst, 1879-1948
    Krefter, Friedrich, 1898-1995
    Meyer, Eduard, 1855-1930
    Sarre, Friedrich Paul Theodor, 1865-1945
  • Place

    Bakun, Tall-e (Iran)
    Persepolis (Iran)
    Pasargadae (Extinct city)
    Taq-e Bostan Site (Iran)
    Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq)
  • Topic

  • Topic

    Art of the Islamic World
    Excavations (Archaeology)
    Description and Travel
    Decoration and ornament
    Ancient Near Eastern Art
    Aerial photography
    Religious buildings
    Architectural drawing
  • Provenance

    Ernst Herzfeld donated his papers to the Freer Gallery of Art in 1946.
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    Ernst Herzfeld Papers
  • Custodial History

    It was his friend and colleague, Richard Ettinghausen, then curator of Near Eastern art at the Freer Gallery of Art, who encouraged Ernst Herzfeld to donate his papers to the Smithsonian Institution. Since the original gift in 1946, there have been a number of significant additions. Herzfeld's sister, Charlotte Bradford, arranged for several donations to be made from the estate in 1950 and 1951, and, at her request, papers left by Herzfeld in Cairo were given to the Freer Gallery by Prof. Murad Kamil of Fuad I University in 1952. After extensive investigation, Herzfeld's final edited manuscript of "The Persian Empire", thought to have been lost, was discovered and given to the Freer Gallery in 1965 by the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo. An old friend, the numismatist George C. Miles, added substantially to the papers in 1960 and 1970.
  • Archival Repository

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
  • Type

    Collection descriptions
    Archival materials
    Journals (accounts)
    Paper squeezes
  • Citation

    Ernst Herzfeld Papers. FSA.A.06. National Museum of Asian Art Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of Ernst Herzfeld, 1946.
  • Arrangement

    This collection is organized into seven series.

    Series 1: Travel journals

    Series 2: Sketchbooks

    Series 3: Notebooks

    Series 4: Photographic files 1-42

    Series 5: Drawings and maps

    Series 6: Squeezes

    Series 7: Samarra Expedition
  • Processing Information

    The guide to the Ernst Herzfeld Papers was prepared by Joseph M. Upton in 1974. Partially unprocessed. Processing completed by Colleen Hennessey and Xavier Courouble.
  • Rights

    Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository.
  • Existence and Location of Copies

    Microfiche available at the Freer Gallery of Art Library.
  • Bibliography

    Ann C. Gunter and Stefan R. Hauser, 2004: "Ernst Herzfeld and the development of Near Eastern Studies, 1900-1950. Boston, Massasuchetts: Brill."
  • Genre/Form

    Journals (accounts)
    Paper Squeezes
  • Restrictions

    Collection is open for research.

Repository Contact

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013