Ernest de Sarzec

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Ernest de Sarzec

Ernest de Sarzec (full name Gustave Charles Ernest Chocquin, since 1880 de Sarzec; born August 11, 1832 in Rennes , † May 31, 1901 in Poitiers ) was a French diplomat and archaeologist . He is considered to be the discoverer of Sumerian culture .

Ernest de Sarzec took up his post as the new Vice-Consul of France in Basra in 1875, after he had previously been Vice-Consul of France in Massaua , Egypt , from 1872 to 1875 , with power of representation also towards Ethiopia . He was aware of the excavations of his British colleague JE Taylor in the Sumerian city ​​of Ur . Since he himself had archaeological ambitions, he subsequently looked for a field of activity and in 1877 he seemed to have found it in the ruins of Tello (h), which an Iraqi merchant told him about. However, problems had to be resolved beforehand: although he had no problem getting a permit from the French authorities, the area of ​​the city of Tello was under the control of the warlike Arab tribe of the Montefidj , which neither the central government in Baghdad nor the foreign accredited there Diplomats recognized. However, de Sarzec was able to win the goodwill of Nasir Pasha . So he was able to move easily in the tribal area in the following period.

De Sarzec found a mound of ruins and former canals that were littered with ceramic shards and cuneiform tiles. One of the first and most important finds was the (headless) upper part of a diorite statue of Gudea of ​​Lagasch , on which there were characters that did not represent any of the previously known cuneiform languages. As early as 1869 Jules Oppert had put forward the theory of another, early Mesopotamian language and culture. De Sarzec found proof of their existence here and discovered one of the most important Sumerian cities, Girsu and ultimately the Sumerian culture. Nevertheless, it would take over 30 years before the Sumerian language was deciphered and the existence of the Sumerian people was proven.


  • Mauric Pillet: Ernest de Sarzec, explorateur de Tello (1832-1901). In: Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres 1958, pp. 52-66 full text .