Herzfeld, Ernst, 1879-1948

Alternative names
Birth 1879-07-23
Death 1948-01-21

Biographical notes:

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 - 1898?] : Fulfilled military service.
  • [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: Passed oral exam in February Excavation in Cilicia. 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.
  • [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 grand-son 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: Moved to Boston. Lectured on Iranian history and appointed a member of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. Delivered Lowell Lectures.
  • 1944: Retired from Princeton University.
  • 1948 January 20: Died.

From the guide to the Ernst Herzfeld Papers, 1899-1962, (The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives)


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  • Antiquities
  • Inscriptions
  • Aerial photography
  • Ayyubids
  • Numismatics
  • Decoration and ornament
  • Architectural Drawings
  • Abbasids
  • Art of the Islamic World
  • History
  • Description and travel
  • Religious buildings
  • Ancient Near Eastern Art
  • Excavations (Archaeology)
  • Pottery


not available for this record


  • Pasargadae (Extinct city) (as recorded)
  • Turkey (as recorded)
  • Mesopotamia (as recorded)
  • Bakun, Tall-e (Iran) (as recorded)
  • Lebanon (as recorded)
  • Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq) (as recorded)
  • Taq-e Bostan Site (Iran) (as recorded)
  • Iran (as recorded)
  • Syria (as recorded)
  • Iraq (as recorded)
  • Persepolis (Iran) (as recorded)