The Persian Expedition

Originally Published in 1932

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DR. ERICH SCHMIDT was able to extend the excavations of the Persian Expedition operating near Damghan, Persia, during the past summer, with results of the foremost importance. The closing weeks of his spring campaign indicated plainly that much more was to be expected, by uncovering the prehistoric mound of Tepe Hissar, and it seemed particularly advisable to pursue these investigations before closing down the active field-work of this campaign. Accordingly, through the exceeding generosity of Mrs. W. B. Thompson, Mrs. W. H. Moore, and the assistance of the American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology, funds were gathered that have enabled him to push forward his investigations throughout the summer and to complete fully by the first of the year all the necessary preliminary work at this unusual site.

Objects from a grave including many pots
Plate II — Grave of a Little Girl, Damghan, Persia

Not only have the scientific results exceeded expectations-revealing as they do a highly developed and virtually unknown culture of a very early date-but the material finds have been of a very striking nature. The following quotations from some of Dr. Schmidt’s recent field reports will briefly indicate the character of his recent discoveries. Under date of August 18th he writes: ‘The most impressive find of all was made today at a totally unexpected spot; where I am pushing down into the painted pottery deposit we struck a hoard of the last phase of Tepe Hissar Period Ill (close to 1500 B. C.) in early refuse of Period II (and of the third millennium). Five heads of mountain goats cut out of sheets of gold appeared. The identical heads with gracefully curved horns measure more than five inches in breadth. Further, there are spear and lance shafts ornamented with alternate tubes of shell and silver, little conical objects of gold and silver, mattocks and spearheads of copper and empty piles of alabaster pedestals, alabaster weights.’

Again under date of August 30th Dr. Schmidt relates: ‘Since I last wrote you, a beautiful necklace of gold tubes and beads, triple gold collectors, onyx or chalcedony heads with fine golden brown and milky blue colors, carnelian frit and shell beads have appeared in the cache. Four long, gold ear-pendants and a long, plain diadem of gold were also with the necklaces. During four days of work with a large crew we had in addition about half a dozen “alabaster” burials (so-called from the rich equipment of vessels and objects of alabaster associated with the dead) according to our wish. We are assembling a wonderful collection of material pertaining to this period, while the preceding periods (Hissar I and II), especially the earliest, are also well represented.’

A large disk with a handle and a pole or stand for the disk
Plate III — Alabaster Objects of Problematic Use From Damghan, Persia
Museum Object Numbers: 33-15-719 / 33-15-718
Image Number: 153573

Finally in mid-September Dr. Schmidt reports: ‘Lately four more splendid burials have appeared. There are beautiful stemmed alabaster “fruit plates” of small sizes, other alabasters with grand natural hand patterns and attractive forms. The best copper wand, found so far, was in one of these graves. It is a socketed star carrying an ibex or similar horned animal; two pots were filled flush with a most astonishing collection of large polished chalcedony ornaments and the largest ones of lapis lazuli found to date. I do not mind working with thousands of potsherds as I have done it so often and they still are the most faithful guides to the archaeologist; but I cannot help being utterly delighted with the things of great aesthetic value which we are digging up on the surprising hill.’

The illustrations here reproduced are of the objects found by the Expedition during the earlier- seasons of work. They are of parallel types and until photographs of Dr. Schmidt’s latest finds are in hand will serve to give an idea at least of the character of his new discoveries.

Cite This Article

"The Persian Expedition." Museum Bulletin IV, no. 1 (December, 1932): 5-9. Accessed May 25, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/996/


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