Photographs by Hillel S. Burger
In 1905, to the consternation of her family and in defiance of convention, the 48-year-old Duchess Paul Friedrich of Mecklenburg took up the practice of archaeology. In the nine years leading up to the First World War, she successfully excavated twenty-one sites in her home province of Carniola (modern Slovenia), acquiring the patronage of Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef I and German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Mentored by the most important archaeologists of her time—Oscar Montelius and Josef Dechellette—the Duchess became an accomplished fieldworker and an important figure in the archaeology of Central Europe. Gloria Greis incorporates previously unpublished correspondence and other archival documents in this colorful account of the Duchess of Mecklenburg and her work.
The Mecklenburg Collection, the largest systematically excavated collection of European antiquities outside of Europe, resides in Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. The sites excavated by the Duchess, which encompass the scope of Iron Age cultures in Slovenia, form an important resource for studying the cultural history of the region. A Noble Pursuit presents a selection of beautifully photographed artifacts that provide an overview of the scope and importance of the collection as a whole and attest to the enduring quality of the Duchess’s pioneering work.
Gloria Polizzotti Greis is Executive Director of the Needham (Massachusetts) Historical Society.