Discovering Persepolis through the eyes of a 19th century traveller, with drawings and early photography.

NEWS RELEASE (PDF download available here)

Tinco Lycklama Foundation takes a forgotten travel account from 1866 to the public and international audiences through a novel learning experience.

persepolis-logos-3Amsterdam/Cannes, October 29, 2016  —–  For the first time, the travel account of a forgotten Dutch traveller about his visit to the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis is now available to the public in English and Dutch. In a novel approach to learning about sites from antiquity, the original French text and its translations are combined with contemporary drawings and early photography. Through an online reader, the observations of a traveller can be understood through images by others. The dedicated web site offers over 600 illustrations, and links to the digitised travelogues from over 30 other early travellers who, over the course of three centuries, visited Persepolis. The intention of this project by the Dutch Tinco Lycklama Foundation is to complement the scholarly work and archaeological projects around Near Eastern antiquity. It offers the public a new experience that visualises how early travellers experienced antiquity at a time when little was known about these ancient sites.


On October 29, 1866, the Dutch traveller Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt (1837-1900) visited the 2,500-year old ruins of the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis. Lycklama is considered the first Dutch orientalist and the first among his countrymen who undertook digging at ancient sites in the Near East. After his return to his native Friesland in The Netherlands, he started a museum around the artefacts he brought along from his three and a half year voyage through Russia, Persia, Mesopotamia, and the Levant. His collections are now the cornerstone of the Musée de la Castre, the municipal museum of Cannes (France). Lycklama published a 2,200-page travel account, in French, and his valuable observations were never translated.

The Tinco Lycklama Foundation was recently created in The Netherlands and is dedicated to the study and revelation of remarkable but forgotten stories – like Lycklama’s. Through collaborative research and the virtual collection of digitised information and resources, it works on international projects that take forgotten knowledge to the public and revive the interest in a broad range of themes in history, heritage and culture.

InPersepolis – an innovative educational experience

The “InPersepolis” project is one example. The travel account by Tinco Lycklama was published in French shortly after his 1865-68 ‘grand voyage’ – and it was never translated. The Foundation extracted the 35 pages from his books that concern Persepolis and its region, and translated it into English and Dutch. Next, it researched the drawings and photography that date back to the timeframe of Lycklama’s visit, and combined these illustrations with Lycklama’s narrative. Finally, it also researched the accounts from other travellers since the early 17th century, and offers readers access to the online digitised copies of these travelogues – thus allowing a comparison of the observations from different moments, preceding the era of modern archaeology.

The result is a unique reader that allows users to discover the ancient city of Persepolis through the intimate observations from travellers. It helps the public to understand the amazement felt by these travellers when contemplating the colossal remains of such ancient sites – at a time when it was still very complicated to reach them and when travel was still a significant adventure.

Next steps

The InPersepolis project will continue to evolve through the discovery of new illustration material and other forgotten travel accounts. It also sets the stage for similar projects that related to Tinco Lyckama’s other visits to sites from antiquity and his own digs for artefacts in the Near East – including Babylon, Niniveh and Palmyra. Lycklama was indeed the first Dutchman ever to undertake some (limited) excavations in the region. The project will take shape over the next two years, following the chronology of Tinco Lycklama’s own travel – hundred fifty years ago.

The non-profit Tinco Lycklama Foundation is developing international cooperation with major scientific institutions – including libraries, archives and museums – in order to turn these projects into a unique educational experience for students and the general public.

For more information…

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