father of Cypriot archaeology. Having first excavated in Cyprus from 1923 to 1924, Gjerstad published his results in his Ph.D. dissertation entitled Studies on Prehistoric Cyprus (1926). Here he presented a fundamental account of the prehistory of the island.
Gjerstad was leader of a Swedish expedition to Cyprus from 1927 to 1931 and excavated together with Alfred Westholm and Erik Sjöqvist at nearly twenty different sites covering the periods from Aceramic Neolithic to Late Roman. The greatest finds consisted of two thousand terra-cotta figures of the sixth century BCE at the cult center Ajia Irini and the Vouni palace, which dates to the fifth century BCE. The excavated material was published in the three-volume Swedish Cyprus Expedition (SCE, 1934–1937). The six volumes of conclusions, published together as SCE volume 4, appeared between 1948 and 1972. The finds were divided between the Medelhavsmuseet in Stockholm and the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia.
Gjerstad was director of the Swedish Institute in Rome from 1935 to 1940 and professor from 1940 to 1957 and research professor from 1957 to 1972 at the University of Lund. Having devoted twenty-five years (1923–1948) mostly to Cypriot archaeology, Gjerstad spent the same amount of time (1948–1973) to research on early Rome. In 1949 he presented his sensational theory that Rome was not founded In 753 BCE, the traditional date, but around 575, when the first floor was laid on the Roman forum. Therefore, according to Gjerstad, the period of the Roman kings lasted from 575 to 450, instead of the commonly accepted 753–509, and the Roman Republic thus started around 450. Gjerstad published the material from the Roman forum and its vicinity in Early Rome (1953–1973).
Although Gjerstad's hypotheses about Cyprus were widely accepted, his theories about early Rome are controversial. Recent studies have lowered the date of the first floor of the Roman forum from 575 to 625. Gjerstad's importance lies in his development of the stratigraphical method of excavation, his formulation of the typology of Cypriot pottery and sculpture, and his brilliant synthesis of historical and archaeological evidence from both ancient Cyprus and early Rome.
[See also Cyprus; Vouni; and History of the Field, article on Archaeology in Cyprus.]
- Callmer, Maj. “The Published Writings of Einar Gjerstad.” In Opuscula Atheniensia IV, pp. 305–310. Lund, 1962.
- Callmer, Maj, and Christian Callmer. “The Published Writings of Einar Gjerstad, 1962–1977.” In Scripta Minora 1977–1978, in honorem Einari Gjerstad, pp. 3–8. Lund, 1977.
- Gjerstad, Einar. Studies on Prehistoric Cyprus. Uppsala, 1926.
- Gjerstad, Einar, et al. The Swedish Cyprus Expedition: Finds and Results of the Excavations in Cyprus, 1927–1931. 4 vols. Stockholm, 1934–1972. The fundamental work on Cypriot archaeology.
- Gjerstad, Einar. The Cypro-Geometric, Cypro-Archaic, and Cypro-Classical Periods. Swedish Cyprus Expedition, vol. 4.2. Stockholm, 1948. Considered the bible of Cypriot archaeology.
- Gjerstad, Einar. “Scavi stratigrafici nel Foro Romano e problemi ad essi relativi.” Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Communale di Roma 73 (1949–1950): 13–29. Presentation of sensational theories on Early Rome.
- Gjerstad, Einar. Early Rome. 6 vols. Lund, 1953–1973. The fundamental work.