Announcing a Joint Persian Expedition

Originally Published in 1931

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PRELIMINARY surveys are already being made and early in the spring the Museum, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Museum of Art, will inaugurate the first American excavations ever undertaken in Persia. In November of last year, the present government of Persia, under Shah Riza Khan Pahlavi passed an Antiquities Law under which scientific expeditions can operate with full assurance of protection and encouragement and the right to share in the finds that may result front the excavations. This opens up a large territory for investigations which may well prove the most fruitful ever to receive the attention of archaeologists; with the large extension since the War of our knowledge of Mesopotamian history and the new discoveries of the early civilizations of India, we may look to Persia to yield information that may bridge the gap between.

A rocky mound in a barren landscape
Plate I — Mound at Hecatompylos, Damghan, Persia

The site [Plate I] which has been granted the Joint Persian Expedition to investigate is in the neighbourhood of the modern town of Damghan, about two hundred and fifty miles east of Teheran, and one hundred and fifty miles from the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. Its chief claim to known historical interest is that it was the site of the Parthian capital, Hecatompylos-the City of a Hundred Gates-that flourished in the third century before our era. Yet, though this phase of the site will doubtless alone yield much information about a period and an empire of which little is known, there are many traces of earlier cultures at the site, even reaching back to the prehistoric epochs evidenced by fragments of early pottery scattered about various mounds in the area, and it is probable that finds pertaining to later periods of Persian history will also be uncovered.

The Expedition is fortunate in obtaining the services as Adviser of Dr. Ernst Herzfeld, the eminent German scholar of Persian art and archaeology. The preliminary surveys will be undertaken by Dr. F. R. Wulsin who has been the Museum’s representative in Persia for the past ten months, and the actual field-work will be directed by Dr. Erich Schmidt. The Expedition is made possible through the kindness of Mrs. W. B. Thompson, Miss Caroline Sinkler, Mrs. W. K. du Pont, Mrs. James Sinkler, Mrs. Rodolphe M. de Schauensee, Mr. W. Hinckle Smith, Mr. Frank Battles, and Mr. Wright S. Ludington. It is expected that the Expedition will be maintained at Damghan for at least three seasons.

It is particularly gratifying that the University Museum, which has had such a long and successful record of archaeological research in other important areas, should be the first to initiate work in a land which has long remained closed to scientific excavations, and one certain to yield information of the greatest historical and artistic value.

Cite This Article

"Announcing a Joint Persian Expedition." Museum Bulletin II, no. 4 (February, 1931): 109-111. Accessed July 15, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/644/


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