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Humann, Carl

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Humann, Carl

    Other Names:

    • Karl Humann

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1839

    Date Died: 1896

    Place Born: Steele, Essen, Germany

    Place Died: Izmir, Turkey

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Ancient Greek (culture or style), archaeology, architecture (object genre), Greek sculpture styles, and sculpture (visual works)


    Self-educated archaeologist who discovered the Pergamon altar and later led the excavation. Humann was an innkeeper’s son. He studied engineering until a diagnosis of tuberculosis necessitated a move to a southern European climate. He worked as a surveyor in Turkey assigned to the railway and road construction departments. There, Humann gained a personal familiarity with the classical-era ruins. In 1878 he began excavating the site of Pergamon, secretly supported with funds from Alexander Conze. In 1884, he made a squeeze (paper impression) of the Monumentum Ancyranum at the request of Theodor Momsen (1817-1903). The same year he was named foreign director of Royal Museum in Berlin, responsible for all Prussian archaeological expeditions in the Near East. His further excavations included Tralles (1888, Magnesia-on-the-Maeander (1890-93), Priene (1895), and Ephesos (1895). He continued at the Pergamon site until 1886, assisted by Wilhelm Dörpfeld. Between 1878-1886 he excavated at Pergamon, discovering the great altar, located now in the Berlin Museum, the finest example of Hellenistic sculpture. He died in Smyrna, Greece, which is present-day İzmir, Turkey. At his death in 1896 he was buried at the Catholic cemetery in Smyrna. In 1967 his remains were re-interred at Pergamon, the site of his spectacular find, just south of the altar. Humann never studied archaeology or took an advanced degree of any kind. He exemplified the nineteenth-century self-made archaeologist, akin to Heinrich Schliemann and Dörpfeld.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Conze, Alexander, and others. Die ergebnisse der ausgrabungen zu Peramon. Berlin: Weidmannsche buchhandlung, 1880; Der Pergamon Altar. Dortmund: Ardey Verlag, 1959; [and other members of] Orient-komitee, Berlin. Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli. 4 vols. Berlin, W. Spemann, 1893-1911.


    Archäologenbildnisse: Porträts und Kurzbiographien von Klassichen Archäologen deutscher Sprache. Reinhard Lullies, ed. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1988: 69-70; Calder, William, III. Carl Humann. Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, p. 600.


    "Humann, Carl." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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