Discovering Troy

Up until the 19th century, many historians doubted whether ancient Troy had ever existed. One man who was convinced of its existence – to an almost obsessive level – was the German businessman Heinrich Schliemann (1822–90), who in 1870 received permission from the Ottoman government to excavate a hill near the village of Hisarlık, which archaeologists had previously identified as a possible site for the city.

Schliemann was more of an eager treasure hunter than a methodical archaeologist and he quickly tore open the site, uncovering the remains of a ruined city, which he confidently identified as the Troy of Homeric legend. He also found a great cache of gold artefacts that he named 'Priam's Treasure'.

In his haste, Schliemann failed to appreciate that Troy was not a single city but rather a series of settlements built one on top of the other over the course of about 2500 years. Subsequent archaeologists have identified the remains of nine separate Troys, large sections of which were damaged during Schliemann's hot-headed pursuit of glory. Furthermore, it was soon established that his precious treasures were not from the time of Homer's Troy, but from the much earlier Troy II.

Schliemann's dubious approach continued after the excavation, when he smuggled part of 'Priam's Treasure' out of the Ottoman Empire. Much of it was displayed in Berlin, where it was seized by invading Soviet troops at the end of WWII. Following decades of denials about their whereabouts, the treasures were eventually found hidden away in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, where they remain today.

Located nearby in the village of Tevfikiye, a new Troy Museum is scheduled to open in September 2018 during the 'Year of Troy' (www.2018troia.com), the 20th anniversary of the site's inclusion on Unesco's World Heritage list. It is hoped that the treasures in Moscow's Pushkin Museum will be returned to Turkey for display in the new museum.