A German Jewish Iranologist, who lost his University of Berlin post in 1935 after officially declaring that his grandparents were Jewish, is one of several focuses of an exhibit about Asian travel at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. “The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia” is on view through May 31. Ernst Herzfeld is not a household name but is renowned for his 1911-13 excavations in Samarra, an Islamic pilgrimage destination in Iraq designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007, and his 1931-34 work in Persepolis, where he unearthed the ruins of Darius the Great’s palace, which Alexander the Great destroyed.
What did the British know about Islam before the modern period? In this essay published in 2008, Andrew Petersen reviews evidence which shows that there was contact with, and appreciation of, Muslim culture from almost the time of the Hegira in the seventh century. This appreciation varied and was reﬂected in different choices of material culture: coinage, ceramics and architecture, in successive periods from the eighth century to the nineteenth.