Heinrich Schliemann and the discovery of Troy

Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/troy-ruin-schliemann-dig-707796/
Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/troy-ruin-schliemann-dig-707796/

Heinrich Schliemann was a German businessman and archaeologist who is best known for his excavations of the ancient city of Troy. He made many other significant contributions to the field of archaeology, including the discovery of Mycenaean treasures. Schliemann's work was highly controversial in his day, but he is now recognized as one of the most important archaeologists ever to have lived.

Early life

Heinrich Schliemann was born in 1822 in the small town of Neubukow, Germany. As a small child, we are told that his mother used to tell him stories about the Trojan War. These ancient stories were attributed to the ancient Greek poet Homer. Schliemann was fascinated by these stories and he vowed to one day find the lost city of Troy.


His father was a poor pastor and his family was often on the verge of poverty. After finishing his schooling, Schliemann began working in various businesses. 


In 1841, at the age of nineteen, Schliemann left Germany to travel around the world. In 1851, he made a fortune when he sold his share of a California gold mine. He used this money to finance his lifelong dream of excavating Troy. 


He then moved to St Petersburg, Russia, where he started a successful business importing German goods into Russia. Schliemann made another fortune as a military contractor in the Crimean War.


In 1868, Schliemann travelled throughout Greece and Turkey, looking for the site of Troy. He finally settled on a hill called Hissarlik in modern-day Turkey. 


The site of Hissarlik had already been excavated by a number of archaeologists, but they had all been looking in the wrong place. Schliemann believed that the city of Troy was located on the lower slopes of the hill. 

Schliemann's excavations

In 1871, Schliemann began excavating at Hissarlik with the help of local workers. He quickly made some amazing discoveries. 


Using the methods of careful excavation and stratigraphic analysis, Schliemann and his team uncovered many layers of occupation at the site. They also found a number of artifacts, including pottery, weapons, and jewelry. 


The first layer of Troy that he uncovered was from the Bronze Age. This was the Troy of Homer's stories. But as he dug deeper, he found an even older city beneath this one. 


This city became known as Troy II and it is thought to date back to around 3000 BC. The most famous discovery from this period is the so-called "Treasure of Priam". This treasure consists of a number of gold and silver objects, including jewelry, weapons, and armor. 


The discovery of the Treasure of Priam caused a sensation in the archaeological world. It was proof that Homer's stories were based on real events. This find caused a sensation and made Schliemann world-famous overnight. 


However, he quickly made the Turkish authorities angry, as he had smuggled the treasure out of the country. He eventually returned it to Turkey, but a replica was made and is now on display in Berlin.

Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/achillion-door-bronze-metal-old-4296103/
Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/achillion-door-bronze-metal-old-4296103/

Schliemann's later years

Schliemann continued to excavate at various sites around the Mediterranean for the rest of his life. He published several books about his findings, which were widely read and helped to popularize archaeology among the general public. 


In 1876, Schliemann announced that he had found the site of Mycenae, another ancient city mentioned in Homer's poems. This discovery caused even more controversy than his earlier work at Troy. 


While excavating the site in Greece, Schliemann claimed to have found the palace of Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae who was said to have led the Greeks in the Trojan War. 


However, many archaeologists were skeptical of his claims and they argued that the palace was actually from a later period. Despite the controversy, Schliemann's work at Mycenae was very important in the development of archaeology. 


Heinrich Schliemann died in 1890 at the age of 68. He left a lasting legacy and his work has inspired generations of archaeologists.

Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/mycenae-excavations-greece-499183/
Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/mycenae-excavations-greece-499183/

Controversy surrounding Schliemann's work

Despite his many successes, Schliemann's work was often controversial. Many archaeologists argued that he had destroyed more than he had found. His methods were not always scientific, and he was often more interested in finding treasures than in understanding the past. His use of dynamite to excavate the site of Troy was particularly controversial. 


In his 1876 book on Mycenae, in which he claimed to have discovered the graves of Agamemnon and other heroes of the Trojan War, were la were later shown to be false. Schliemann was forced to admit that he had faked some of the evidence. 


However, Schliemann showed that it was possible to use ancient texts, such as Homer's poems, to help locate and excavate ancient sites. He also showed that it was possible to find evidence of real events that were described in myths and legends.