Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - From the Gates of Asia to the Heart of it all: Achaemenid Persian Materials and Monuments in Scholarship, University and Museum

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Virginia Suite A, Lobby Level

The German architectural historian and writer Ernst Herzfeld (1879-1948) continues to play a key role in disseminating knowledge and materials from the heartlands of the Achaemenid Persian Empire throughout the world. In his “Am Tor von Asien” (1920), he analyzed the enormous contributions of Asian cultures in the shaping of ancient Iranian cultures with a detailed analysis of the 1st millennium CE Sasanian relief sculptures at Taq-e Bustan. Throughout his career and in many yet unpublished manuscripts, Herzfeld formulated ideas about the role of Asia in the shaping of early monuments and material cultures East of the Zagros mountains. His volume “Iran in the Ancient Near East” (1941), contains numerous references and remarks on the influence of the Empires of China on the world of Persia, concluding that “the more we study the material, the stronger does the Asian character of the earliest Iranian art emerge,” and “the great continent of Asia spoke to us through the oldest work of stone-age art at Persepolis” (1941: 52, 340). Herzfeld’s attempts and conclusions to determine the “Eastern Frontiers of the Achaemenid Empire” have now been largely superseded, yet several important observations can now be advanced further. This paper is an attempt to position Herzfeld’ scholarship and archives in the context of Asian studies and to re-evaluate current understandings of Susa and Persepolis in the relationships between Achaemenid Persia and the East. New discoveries and advanced studies in crafting technologies in material culture highlight early knowledge exchanges. Contemporary approaches to Achaemenid Persian cultures in Eastern education and history textbooks will be critically examined.

Alexander Nagel

National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, District of Columbia

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1 - From the Gates of Asia to the Heart of it all: Achaemenid Persian Materials and Monuments in Scholarship, University and Museum



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