August 07: flying over Persepolis

2012/08/07 § 2 Comments

On this day in 1935 the Aerial Survey Expedition was granted permission to commence flights over Iran.

Yes, this is a bit of a stretch, but it is a legitimate big deal in architectural history.  Led by Erich F. Schmidt (1897-1964), a German-American archaeologist working for the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, the aerial work was a significant aspect of the broader Persian Expedition begun under the direction of James Henry Breasted in 1930.  Breasted had already marked out a large area of some 10 km in diameter for their study.  Its focus was the great palace started by Darius I around 520 BC, continued by Xerxes, and infamously destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.  The excavations–and archaeology, overall–were significantly changed with Schmidt’s introduction of aerial photography in the service of the discipline (made possible by the gift of a Waco biplane from Mrs. Schmidt).  Schmidt’s photographs from the sky gave the world a completely new way to see Persepolis and opened a new era for archaeologists, including their more glamorous portrayal in great movies.

More detail on the importance of Schmidt’s innovations in aerial photography here

Zillions of thumbnails here

Image: Carol Lombard with a Waco biplane, the same vintage as Schmidt’s.  This has nothing to do with Persepolis, but is included here to take the place of images of the flying archaeologist that are, amazingly, just not out there.  Besides, seriously: just look at her!


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