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Erich Friedrich Schmidt (September 13, 1897 – October 3, 1964) was a German and American-naturalized archaeologist, born in Baden-Baden. He specialized in Ancient Near East Archaeology, and became professor emeritus at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. He was also a pioneer in using aerial photography in archaeological research.


When he was young, his father died, and Erich was sent to the military school (Kadettenkorps) in Karlsruhe. He graduated in 1914 as a lieutenant in the German Army just as WWI started. He fought in the war with distinction, but then was seriously wounded in the fighting in Austrian Galicia in 1916.[1] After the battle, Schmidt was found by the Russians on the battle field, and spent the next four years in a prisoner-of-war camp. In 1920, he found his way home to Germany. There he learned that his mother and three siblings died in the meantime. Then he attended Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (now Humboldt University of Berlin).[2]

In 1923 he moved to U.S., and studied anthropology at Columbia University, where he was a student of Franz Boas.

From December 1925 through January 1926, Schmidt conducted stratigraphic test excavations at Pueblo Grande and La Ciudad, two Hohokam sites that he later used for his dissertation. He was one of the pioneers of Hohokam studies.

In 1927, James Henry Breasted of the Oriental Institute invited Schmidt to join the Anatolia-Hittite Expedition as an assistant archaeologist.

He became co-director of the Oriental Institute Hittite Expedition, with H.H. Von der Osten, and later on dug in sites as Tepe Hissar near Damghan in searching for ancient city Hecatompylos, and Rey. His most celebrated survey took place in Persepolis (Iran), from 1934 up to 1939.

Erich Schmidt was pioneer in aerial photography of archaeological sites, especially in Iran. In 1935, Schmidt had to approach Reza Shah Pahlavi directly for permission to fly over the country. After he obtained it, he made many flights and did a lot of mapping.[3]

He was married twice, in 1934, to Mary-Helen Warden (who later died), and in 1943, to Lura Florence Strawn, with whom they had two children, Richard Roderick (the noted award-winning filmmaker) and Erika Lura. He died in Santa Barbara, California, in 1964; unfortunately, he was not able to complete many of his plans, and thus much of his excavation work remained unpublished.[4] Some of it was later re-investigated and published by other scholars.[5]


  1. ^ He received the Iron Cross of Germany and the golden medal of Wurttemberg for his service.
  2. ^ Erich F. Schmidt - Biography -
  3. ^ Manu P. Sobti and Sahar Hosseini, "Re-examining Persian Civitas: Networked Urbanities and Suburban Hinterlands in Erich Schmidt’s Flights". in Historiography of Persian Architecture, ed. Mohammad Gharipour, 2015
  4. ^ Socio-Economic Transformations on the Tehran Plain
  5. ^ Ayşe Gürsan-Salzmann, The New Chronology of the Bronze Age Settlement of Tepe Hissar, Iran. University Museum Monograph 142, University of Pennsylvania Museum, 2016


  • Time-Relations of Prehistoric Pottery Types in Southern Arizona, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 30, no. 5 (1928)
  • Anatolia Through the Ages: Discoveries at the Alishar Mound, 1927-1929 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1931).
  • Excavations at Tepe Hissar, Damghan (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1937).
  • Flights Over Ancient Cities of Iran (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1940).
  • Persepolis I: Structures, Reliefs, Inscriptions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1953).
  • Persepolis II: Contents of the Treasury and Other Discoveries (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957).
  • Persepolis III: The Royal Tombs and Other Monuments (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).
  • The Treasury of Persepolis and Other Discoveries in the Homeland of the Achaemenians, OIC 21 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939);

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