the biographical sketches
Heinrich Schliemann, a German businessman and a brilliant pioneer in the field of archaeology. He is best known for his excavations at ancient Troy and Mycenae. He was born in the duchy of Mecklenburg Schwerin. Schliemann was mostly self-educated. Because his family was poor, he was apprenticed to a grocer at the age of 14. He continued to study. He had an exceptional ability to learn foreign languages and had a remarkable aptitude for business. He became a successful businessman in Russia and traveled widely. He became an American citizen while he was in California in 1850. He retired from business at the age of 41, with a lot of money. It was 1863 and he devoted himself and his wealth to archaeology. Schliemann has been criticized for his style of quick and destructive excavation. Other archaeologists came after him and worked the lands surrounding the Aegean more methodically. But he deserves credit for creating a method to restore our knowledge of lost civilizations. His importance in the history of archaeology is not because of the accuracy of his theories or his skill as an excavator. Schliemann proved that preclassical Bronze Age civilizations had flourished in the Aegean area. Before Schliemann, this civilization was not known to have existed! He created a new field of research. His discoveries at Troy and Mycenae proved that the world of the Iliad was not totally fanciful.
Stories of his life and discoveries have been based primarily on his own publications. David A. Traill and William M. Calder III have compared these publications with his letters, and with his diaries. This investigation has created some controversy. Frank Calvert was a British citizen and an American consul in northwestern Turkey. He had lived there since childhood. He had explored many archaeological locations in the region, and had conducted brief excavations. Some scholars think that Calvert believed that a large hill, called Hissarlik, probably contained the remains of Troy. He bought the northern part of the hill and began to dig in 1865. He discovered some Bronze Age remains below a classical temple to Athena. Schliemann visited the area in 1868. Calvert convinced him of its antiquity. He offered to allow Schliemann to dig on his land in exchange for half of the treasure. Schliemann's most important discovery at Troy was a collection of bronze, silver, and gold artifacts, known as Priam's Treasure. He said that he found the treasure on the ruins of the city wall, where it had been carried from the royal palace. However, evidence suggests that Schliemann found these objects in different places, over a period of weeks or months. It is possible that some of them came from tombs that were located outside of the city wall. Frank Calvert's descendants say that some of it was discovered on their property, and that Schliemann did not give half of it to Calvert. Russian troops took this treasure from Berlin to the Pushkin Museum in Russia, after World War II. Turkey, Greece, Germany, Russia, and Calvert's heirs, all think they have some claim to this important collection of precious artifacts. It is my belief that burial items, human remains, and cultural artifacts should stay in the place where they are discovered. A museum in Chicago has returned some human remains to their place of origin on the Queen Charlotte Islands. This is a good example for others to follow.
The ruins of Troy are in western Turkey. They extend along a hillside that is 6.5 km from the Aegean Sea and equidistant from the Dardanelles. The hill is known as Hissarlik. Troy was also known as Ilium. The legendary founder of the city was Ilus, the son of Tros. The son of Ilus was Laomedon, who was slain by Hercules. The Trojan War occurred during the reign of Laomedon's son, Priam. This resulted in the capture and destruction of the city. On this hill are the remnants of at least nine successive cities. Troy I: Habitations from 3000 bc with a wall of small stones and clay. Troy II: A fortress from the 3rd millennium bc with strong ramparts, a palace, and houses. Troy III, IV, and V: Prehistoric villages from 2300 to 2000 bc built on the debris of Troy II. Troy VI: A fortress from 1900 to 1300 bc with huge walls, towers, gates, and houses. It is larger than any of the preceding settlements. Troy VIIA: A reconstruction of Troy VI, built after the city had been destroyed by an earthquake. Troy VIIB and VIII: Greek villages from 1100 bc to the 1st century bc with simple stone-houses. Troy IX: The acropolis of the Greco-Roman city of Ilion from the 1st century bc to ad 500 with a temple of Athena, public buildings, and a large theater. Schliemann began to dig at Troy in 1870, and discovered the first five cities. He identified Troy II as the Homeric Troy.
From 1876 to 1878, Schliemann excavated the Treasury of Atreus and the Tomb of Clytemnestra at Mycenae. Mycenae is an ancient city on the plain of Argolis, Greece. The culture that developed in mainland Greece during the late phase of the Bronze Age, was named for it. Other great centers of Mycenaean culture included Tiryns and Pylos. The Mycenaeans were celebrated by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey. He called them Achaeans. They may have been among the tribes that arrived in Greece around 2000 bc as part of the Indo-European migration. Their language was an early Greek dialect. It was written in a script that is known as Linear B. Circa 1400 bc, Mycenae reached its height as the center of Aegean Civilization. It superseded the Minoans of Crete. Mycenae was the home of King Agamemnon from the House of Atreus. It was the leading city in the Greek world, until 1200 bc. It deteriorated primarily because of civil war. The city never regained its former splendor, and circa 468 bc, it was destroyed by the inhabitants of Árgos and was never rebuilt. The ruins of Mycenae include the Cyclopean Walls, the Lion Gate, and the Beehive Tombs. The ruins of the city are near the modern town of Mikínai. Schliemann made excavations at Ithaca in 1878, and at Orchomenus in 1881-82. In 1884-85 he unearthed the ruins of the great palace at Tiryns, Greece. Schliemann's work was continued after his death, by his assistant, Wilhelm Dörpfeld. Dörpfeld's discoveries proved that the Homeric Troy must be identified with Troy VIIA, which was destroyed by fire at the time of the Trojan War. Between 1932 and 1938 new work was carried on at the site by the University of Cincinnati, under the direction of Carl Blegen. He confirmed Dörpfeld's discoveries.
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
William H. Stiebing, Jr.
Edited by Michael Hawes