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Paikuli: Reconstruction of the Commemorative Tower

Paikuli: Reconstruction of the Commemorative Tower, 1911-1923. Drawing D-782. Ernst Herzfeld papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

The existence of a large square tower monument at Paikuli, in the eastern border of the Kurdistan region of modern Iraq, was first documented by nineteenth-century travelers. Studies were made by Henry Rawlinson in 1844, followed by Edward Thomas and Carl Friedrich Andreas. By then, the Sasanian Monument was known to have originally served as testimony of the res gestae of Narseh, son of the Sasanian ruler Shapur, celebrating his triumph over Warham III (Bahram III). The inscription was carried out in two scripts, Parthian and Middle Persian of the Pahlavi language. Today the inscriptions are either spread throughout the site or stored at the local Slemani Museum.

Herzfeld visited Paikuli in 1911 and made a first series of squeezes. A second, more labor-intensive campaign followed in the summer of 1913. He began to systematize the scattered blocks from the tower and made a hypothetical reconstruction. Helmut Humbach and Prods Skjarvo would make later reconstructions; more recently an Italian team collaborated with local authorities on further conservation and excavations at the site.