Archaeology Myth: Excavating Troy
There is no city or inhabitants on the site today. The ancient ruins are situated on an elevated hill in northwestern Turkey at a critical crossing point between the Orient and southwest Europe. Troy gained immortality as the legendary city of Homer’s poem ‘Iliad’ and centre of the great Trojan War. Today it is the name of the archaeological site near the seacoast of the Dardanelle.
German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, was the first to excavate the abandoned site in the 1870s. Later expeditions revealed that several cities had been built over and above each other creating the ‘tell’ or hill of the site. The area of Troy is of archaeological interest and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.
The First Excavation CampaignsCritical historians have consigned Troy and the Trojan War to the realms of legend. However, ancient Troy’s true location has always remained the subject of profound interest and speculation. In 1822, Scottish journalist Charles Maclaren published a review of the available data on Troy. He identified the position of the last known city, that of Augustus’s Ilium. In 1866 Frank Calvert surveyed farmland owned by his family and he too identified the hill of New Ilium as the site of ancient Troy.
Heinrich SchliemannTwo years after Calvert published his findings the self-taught Schliemann gained permission from Calvert to excavate on the family property. Schliemann embarked on two archaeological campaigns: The first from 1871 to 1873 and another from 1878 to 1879. His expedition dug the hill site and uncovered the ruins of ancient cities that dated from the Bronze Age through to the Roman period.
Schliemann was known as an archaeological scoundrel and doubts still exist as to the authenticity of the artefacts that he ‘discovered’ on the site. The collection of gold relics is known as Priam’s Treasure and was acquired by the Berlin Museum.
Dörpfeld and BlegenFor over a decade the site once again lay undisturbed until it was reopened in 1893 under the site direction of Wilhelm Dorpfeld and much later by Carl Blegen for six years between 1932 and 1938. The beginning of WW2 in 1939 ended his excavation work but not before it was shown that there were no less than nine cities built one on top of the other at the fabled site. The cities are classified by Roman numerals with the earliest called Troy I and the latest Troy IX. Troy VIIa is regarded as the most likely ruin for the famous Troy of Homer’s Iliad.
Manfred KorfmannIt was not until 1988 that the Turkish University of Tubingen resumed excavations in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati (UC). Under the site direction of UC Professor Manfred Korfmann a substantial international team, comprising archaeologists and representatives from many other academic disciplines, has conducted excavations at the Troy site. The excavators found evidence for a possible battle during the period of occupation of Troy VII with artefacts in the form of arrowheads found in strata that was dated around the early 12th century BC.
Ernst PernickaIn the archaeological digging season of 2006, and armed with a new digging permit, the excavations at Troy continued under the direction of Ernst Pernicka, a friend and professional colleague of Korfmann.
Human RemainsSince Schliemann’s treasure hunting rampage in the 1870’s very few significant relics have been uncovered. Palaeontologists have discovered human skull fragments inside House 700, which is a ruin located inside the southern gate. Another bone of interest is a lower jawbone from a male adult located outside the citadel in rubble from the floor of House 741. Most interesting is the full skeleton found at the top of a layer west of the wall. These bones are thought to be from the deaths of Troy VII citizens and may show the unlikeliness of any survivors of the Troy VII battle to bury their dead, suggesting that either all inhabitants were killed or survivors were enslaved and exported.
By applying the latest scientific equipment and archaeological methods archaeology is rousing the dormant Troy of the Bronze Age back to the life.