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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Samarra 1911: Excavation of the Great Mosque Finishes, al-Quraina Begins

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): View of the Great Mosque of al-Mutawakkil, 1911-1913 [graphic]. Ernst Herzfeld papers, Freer|Sackler Archives.
100 years ago, on this day, Ernst Herzfeld completes his excavation of the Great Mosque that he began January 9th, 1911.  (See the 100th Anniversary of the Samarra Excavation post for more details).  From Thomas Leisten's book Excavation of Samarra, Volume 1 Architecture. Final Report of the First Campaign, 1910-1912he writes "According to his [Herzfeld's] diary, out of these 7 weeks, 7 days were lost due an unusually harsh Iraqi winter, the Shiite Ashura holiday, and the time and effort required to organize paydays for the workmen (page, 11)."  To flip through the Excavation of Samarra: Payroll Booklet, 1911 - look here to see more pages like the one below

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): Payroll Booklet, 1911 Ernst Herzfeld papers, Freer|Sackler Archives.

Great Mosque records from the Ernst Herzfeld papers.
Great Mosque records from across the Smithsonian Institution: Search Results Slideshow - Smithsonian Institution Collections Search Center.


At the same time the excavation of the Great Mosque completed, work began on al-Quraina, an archaeological site located to the southwest of the modern city between the city walls and the Tigris.  "Here, Houses I-X were excavated mainly during March and the first week of April 1911 (page, 11)."

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): View from al-Quraina towards the North, 1911-1913 [graphic]. Ernst Herzfeld papers, Freer|Sackler Archives.

There are 124 records in this collection that document: stucco, pottery, decoration and ornaments, mural painting and decoration, and architecture of the al-Quraina area.  The documentation formats include: photographs, drawings, sketches, and journals.

For example, from House IV we have images of the interior and exterior ornamentation, as well as architectural depictions of the ground plans, seen below. 

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): al-Quraina, House IV, Room 6, View of Wall with Ornamentation, 1911-1913 [graphic]. Ernst Herzfeld papers, Freer|Sackler Archives.Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): House IV, groundplan, 1911-1936 [drawing]. Ernst Herzfeld papers, Freer|Sackler Archives.

That's all for now on Ernst Herzfeld's 1911 adventures in Samarra.  The next time we'll see you is in early April 1911!

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer|Sackler Archives
Samarra Resource Page

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