Tuesday, May 31, 2016
When: through July 31, 2016
This is an exhibit of items from the Freer/Sackler archives, an enormous set of 160 collections on Asian and Middle Eastern art and culture. Whenever I see something from the Smithsonian archives or libraries, I'm reminded that the displays are merely the tip of the iceberg. The institution has vast amounts of information that rarely sees the light of day. Happily, the Sackler has a room that (now that I think of it) often displays items from its archives, so the casual visitor can get a glimpse of the "rest" of the collection.
Among the Freer/Sackler Archives holdings is a large collection of the papers of Ernst Herzfeld, a German archaeologist and the discoverer of Pasargadae, first capital of the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire and the final resting place of Cyrus the Great.
You may recall that the Sackler had a wonderful display of the Cyrus Cylinder in 2013; it was in fact the first time the cylinder (viewed as the first human rights document in world history) had been exhibited in the United States. This is the same Cyrus; Pasargadae was his capital and contains his tomb. Over the years, Cyrus' monument had been turned into a mosque, and was subsequently misidentified as the burial place of a woman. Herzfeld changed all that, and established that it was Cyrus' tomb. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Verdict: This is a very interesting small show on the discovery of Pasargadae's real purpose. If you have any interest in archaeology, it's worth a look.