Archaeological Sites > Persepolis


Persepolis book drawing

Book drawing. Ernst Herzfeld papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

Persepolis (Parsa), in the Fars province of southern Iran, served as one of the major administrative capitals of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. The artificially built terrace on the "Mountain of Mercy" (Kuh-e-Rahmat) was surrounded by several walls. The southern façade of the terrace served as the original entrance, according to the great inscription Darius I (c. 520-486 BCE) carved on the south side of the terrace façade. (The inscription is also referred to as Darius Persepolis Inscription No. 1, or DP1.) Very close to the site is evidence of several prehistoric settlements, one of which (Tall-e Bakun) was first surveyed by Ernst Herzfeld in 1923, 1928, and 1932.

The inscriptions from Persepolis have been explored for centuries, with intensified research beginning in the seventeenth century. German scholar Friedrich Münter had never seen Persepolis, but studied the monumental inscriptions available and concluded, "Wenn irgend Inschriften auf Stein oder Marmor schön genannt zu werden verdienen, so sind es unstreitig die persepolitanischen. Sie vereinigen eine edle und angenehme Simplicität" (Münter 1802:82). This translates to, "If there are any inscriptions on stone or marble that deserve to be called beautiful, it is without doubt those from Persepolis. They combine the noble and most pleasant simplicity in execution."

A British-Italian team donated a plaster cast from one of the inscriptions to the Smithsonian in 1892. The Freer and Sackler also house a study collection of fragments of glazed bricks from Herzfeld's excavations in Persepolis, as well as a fragment of a column and pottery from the site.

These squeezes are from the Southern Terrace Wall, Apadana, Tachara (Palace of Darius), and Palace H (Palace of Xerxes).