Although most people know about Persepolis and Pasargadae, there are only few who are aware that we owe their discovery to the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld. Pasargadae is the oldest capital of the Achaemenid Empire which Cyrus the Great founded when Medes and Persians came under his rule around 540 BC (see: Cyrus the Great who made Pasargadae the capital of Persia. Cyrus’ tomb is still commanding the view at the site of Pasargadae today (see: The gem of Pasargadae: the Tomb of Cyrus the Great).
[Picture of Cyrus' Tomb made by Herzfeld - from Smithsonian]
Herzfeld briefly surveyed the area as early as 1905, and returned in 1923 and 1928 for more extensive excavations. We owe him the very first map of the site and the labeling of the major structures.
The Smithsonian Museum in Washington is presently exhibiting wide selections of Herzfeld’s drawings, notes, and photographs. This collection presented under the name “Heart of an Empire: Herzfeld’s Discovery of Pasargadae” can be visited till 31 July 2016 at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
It is a unique opportunity to access these first-hand views and insights from nearly a century ago.