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Monday, February 1, 2010

An Archaeologist and His Pets, (Pets In the Archives Series: 1 of 3)

The Ernst Herzfeld Papers, 1899-1962 are the papers of an outstanding scholar in the field of Iranian studies, Ernst Herzfeld (1879–1948) explored all phases of Near Eastern culture from the prehistoric period to Islamic times. His collection documents excavations at Samarra, Persepolis, Pasargadae, and Aleppo and includes correspondence; field notebooks; drawings; sketchbooks; inventories of objects; "squeeze" copies of architectural details; and photographs.

There are two items in the the Herzfeld collection that document his beloved pets. The first one is the photograph to the left titled, "Herzfeld feeding his pet boar, Bulbul," taken while he was in Persepolis.

The second item is of "Persepolis (Iran), great stairway to the Terrace complex, plan and elevation by Karl Bergner, 1935 [drawing]." (Click on the hyperlink to see the drawing without dog prints!) This drawing was done by the late Karl Bergner, who was a highly gifted architectural draftsman. He worked in his late 20's for Herzfeld at Persepolis where this drawing was made. Since Herzfeld brought his pet Bulbul the boar, and his Welsh Terrier with him to the archaeological sites, I think it's safe to conjecture the Welsh Terrier had a hand (or paw) in this drawing!

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives


  1. Robert Byron, visiting the excavations at Persepolis in 1933:

    "... Herzfeld was very entertaining as he showed me around the excavations, and let loose bul-bul, his wild sow, who made of with a stone belonging to her enemy, a grunmpy old airedale. The result was a grotesque pursuit through the ruins, in which the sow' trotters slithered about stairways and pavements ... to an orchestra of growls and grunts and roars from the Professor."

    Byron, The Road to Oxiana (1937)

    Cheers, Alex

  2. This just in from the Archives! We received a translation of the text at the bottom of the Persepolis drawing! The dog's name was Romeo! Thank you Alex Nagel!

    “Romeo bumped into an inkpot and walked upon the drawing! The new drawing is already finished. Be(rgner).”

    German Original: “Romeo hat hier ein Tintenfass umgeworfen und ist dann ueber die Zeichnung gelaufen! Die neue Zeichnung ist schon fertig. Be(rgner).”

  3. Hi Alex
    I recieved a picture of late Karl Bergner recently you sent to Mehrzad. Still I am looking for more information about Bergner.
    Thanks a bunch
    M. J. Malekzadeh

  4. The story of Herzfeld excavating and exploring with a pet Wild Boar sow was one of those nuggets my mother passed to me as a kid and which was responsible for my wanting to become an archaeologist (amonst other stories like Carnavon/Carter, etc.) ... warmed the cockles of my heart to see a picture of Bulbul