hisarlik

Trojan Silver Depas Cup, Early Bronze Age, Troy Level II, c 2300 BC

A depas cup was a vessel with two handles, often used in libations and made of precious metals. Homer mentions them in the Iliad.

Troy II was the first settlement where evidence of town planing can be seen. The city of Troy at this time is thought to have covered about two hectares. It had a strong fortification wall with gateways flanked by massive projecting towers. Inside were large structures with stone foundations and walls of brick with wooden beams. A massive fire destroyed the citadel, but it was subsequently rebuilt.

The archaeology of Troy…

See a virtual reconstruction of Troy Level II…

The site of Troy is at modern Hisarlik in northwest Turkey, south of the southwest end of the Dardanelles / Hellespont and northwest of Mount Ida.

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Mycenaean funeral mask, the so-called “Mask of Agamemnon”; Sophia Schliemann modelling jewelry found at Hisarlik.

Personal story: When I was a kid I had a book on sensational events from the last century (such as the Titanic sinking, the discovery of radium, the Cottingley fairies etc.) and one of my favorite chapters was on the Schleimann digs. It was the first time I ever saw these two very iconic images. I could not have been older than eight, and I’m not sure whether I had even been aware there was any possibility of a historical basis for those stories before. The book was a bit beyond me at that point, but I remember being fascinated by those pictures, and what they meant. It was the first time I consciously encountered something so old that it could actually be mythological, and the first time the sheer antiquity of something made me feel what I can only really describe as haunted; something almost like fear, but also exhilarating; wonder of the sort that sets your hair on end. I got the same feeling the first time I discovered Minoan bull-jumping frescoes not much later; I still get it whenever things are so old that there are no more answers to the questions about them, when they’re so old that the demarcations between history and myth fade to a mist. For me, the point where ancient, ancient history and myth-legend intersect is akin to magic. I’m not even sure why I’m as moved by it as I am, but to this day I can’t look at these pictures and not feel a touch of that first breathlessness and awe. I think that experience and those images are going to remain burned into my mind for the rest of my life. 

Photograph by James Stanfield

(National Geographic) Myth, folklore, mystery, and intrigue surround the ancient city of Troy like no other ruin on Earth. Once thought to be purely imaginary, a prop in Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad.  Excavations in northwestern Turkey in 1871 eventually proved that the city indeed existed.

In 1871, German adventurer Heinrich Schliemann began digging at Hisarlik, Turkey, (shown here) in search of the fabled city. His roughshod excavation wrought havoc on the site, but revealed nine ancient cities, each built on top of the next and dating back some 5,000 years. At the time, most archaeologists were skeptical that Troy was among the ruins, but evidence since the discovery suggests the Trojan capital indeed lies within the site.

Ancient Troy and the Infamous Treasure of Schliemann’s Trench

Heinrich Schliemann, a German businessman who was born in 1822 in Mecklenburg, learned the Iliad by heart at a very young age. He was blessed with enough imagination to endeavor to discover Troy, and felt the excitement of the Trojan War deeply. While many people thought that Troy was only a legendary city which never existed, Schliemann be­lieved every line of the Iliad. He accepted the Trojan War as an historical fact, and learned sev­eral languages in order to under­stand the Iliad better. To make the world believe the existence of Troy, with the guidance of Homer he started making plans to discover Troy.

After a lifetime of research, he found the most possible location near modern Hisarlik, Turkey. Schliemann had to go to great lengths just to get permission and secure the excavation with the local government.  In May 1873, As he was standing near to a trench with his wife Sophie, he suddenly noticed some metal ob­jects slightly sticking out from the ground. He was sure that he had found treasure. The question was, how to protect it from the local workmen, whom he did not trust. None of the workmen had noticed it yet so Schliemann turned to Sophie and said:

“You must go at once and shout PAIDOS!” (Paidos was a Greek word, as well as Turkish, mean­ing rest period) “Now, at seven o’clock?” She asked. “Yes - now!” said Schliemann. “Tell them it is my birthday, and I have only just remembered it! Tell them they will get their wag­es today without working. See that they go to their villages and see that the overseer does not come here.“

Sophia did as she was told. The workmen were pleased with this unexpected holiday and went to rest. After all the workmen had gone, Sophia returned to the trench where Schliemann was at­tempting to dig the treasure out with a pocket knife, in danger from collapsing stones and earth. After a while he turned again to Sophia and said: "Quick, bring me your big shawl” Sophia returned with a big shawl. The treasure was put into the shawl and together they car­ried it back to thier house.

The treasure consisted of a cop­per shield, a copper cauldron, a silver vase and another of cop­per, a gold bottle, two gold cups, and a small electrum cup. There was a silver goblet, three great silver vases, seven double-edged copper daggers, six silver knife blades, and thirteen cop­per lance-heads, two gold di­adems, fifty-six gold earrings, 8750 gold rings and buttons. The two diadems, one of them consisting of ninety chains, en­tirely covering the forehead, were exceptional. Nothing like this had ever been seen before and Schliemann’s dream of finding Homer’s city of Troy had come true!

Ancient Greek historians variously placed the Trojan War in the 12th, 13th, or 14th centuries BC: Eratosthenes to 1184 BC, Herodotus to 1250 BC, Duris of Samos to 1334 BC. Modern archaeologists associate Homeric Troy with archaeological Troy VII, an archaeological layer of Troy representing late Hittite Empire to Neo-Hittite times (ca. 1300 to 950 BC).

photo by Malcolm Bott

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Treasures of Priam: Golden riches legendary city of troy

Homer’s Iliad is often considered as one of the greatest works of Western literature. For many centuries, Homer’s Troy, the city besieged by the Greeks, was considered to be a myth by scholars. During the 19th century, however, one man embarked on a quest to prove that this legendary city actually existed. This was the German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann. He succeeded in his quest, and Hisarlik (the site where Schliemann excavated) is today recognised as the ancient site of Troy. Among the artifacts unearthed at Hisarlik is the so-called ‘Treasure of Priam’, which, according to Schliemann, belonged to the Trojan king, Priam.

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