Cyrus the Great founded the Persian Empire, and he founded a new capital city for his new empire, too. He named it Pasargadae. Today it has been overshadowed by the newer capital city, Persepolis, built by Cyrus the Great’s distant successor Darius I. But in its time, Pasargadae was legendary. The city boasted not just one but two royal palaces. And it contained an extensive, walled hunting park where wild animals roamed free. This park, or garden, was known in Persian as “pardes” and gave English the word “paradise.”

Through the blue, this cyanotype gives us a rare look inside the tomb of Cyrus the Great. According to Greek sources, after Cyrus was killed in battle, his body was mummified and placed in a gold coffin on a table of pure gold inside his tomb. The small wall niche would’ve held a lamp.

Produced on notebook paper, cyanotypes proved far more resilient in the rough conditions of an archaeological dig than delicate darkroom prints. Several cyanotypes from archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld’s excavation in Pasargadae, the capital of Cyrus’s ancient Achaemenid Empire, are on view in Heart of an Empire