University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia

Fez-topped, the German-American Assyriologist Hermann Hilprecht relaxes in his office in Constantinople. One of the founding fathers of Near Eastern studies in the United States, Hilprecht spent much of his career battling academic rivals and defending his scholarly reputation. He was the one of the few trained scholars to take part in the University of Pennsylvania’s pioneering 1888–1900 expedition to the ancient Sumerian city of Nippur, though he spent only a few months on site. Disliking the rigors of field work, he spent his time with the expedition in Constantinople, Germany and Philadelphia, where he worked on the antiquities unearthed at Nippur—including the world’s largest cache of Sumerian literature. But Hilprecht had a darker side: Throughout his career, the imperious professor was accused of misreporting finds and exaggerating his own importance as an excavator. In 1910, he was finally driven out of academe.