Every student knows of the story of Troy, the tale told by Homer in the Iliad thousands of years ago. For centuries, it was believed that it was just that, a story, while the city of Troy lay buried beneath the sands of Turkey and the mythology of the past. But in 1870, a German entrepreneur by the name of Heinrich Schliemann set out, with Iliad in hand, to discover the ancient city and validate the story of Homer. By 1873, he had unearthed the city of Troy, one of archaeology's most famous discoveries.
Schliemann illegally began his excavations of Troy at the Turkish site of Hissarlik in 1870. Without a permit from the Turkish government, he had his workers dig two long trenches at the site. From this one excavation, coins, pottery, and other artifacts were discovered, as well as a wall, which Schliemann believed belonged to a temple or palace. This dig also revealed that many levels of the city were buried in the strata, indicating that it was rebuilt numerous times
In 1871, Schliemann was forced to obtain permission from the Turkish government to excavate. Once permission was obtained, he began the dig. Because Schliemann felt that the most important layer of the city was the oldest, he had his workers destroy much of the newer cities to reach the bedrock. There, in 1873, he discovered what he thought was Homer's Troy, Ilium. The gold ornaments and artifacts were found, as well as the city walls, gates, and buildings. To "protect" the treasures found at Troy, Schliemann smuggled out helmets, shields, cauldrons, vases, spearheads, axes, a gold headband, gold earrings, and approximately 9,000 small golden ornaments. Eventually the Turkish government discovered the deception and demanded compensation. Schliemann paid the Turkish government approximately $15,000, while the treasure was worth about $80,000.
Unfortunately, these allegations could not be proven or disproved until 1993. In 1945, despite careful precautions, the treasure of Troy was stolen from Germany after the fall of the Third Reich. In 1993, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow revealed that the Red Army sole the treasure from Germany at the end of World War II and returned it to Russia. Later, the artifacts were examined by archaeologists from around the world, and they were authenticated as being from the bronze age, not fakes.
That was not the end of the story of Troy, however. Today, excavations are still going on to learn more about the newer settlements on the site. It has been found that at least nine cities were built on the site, ranging from the original Troy, c. 3000 B.C., to Roman New Ilium, c. 600 A.D. Most interesting are Troy VI (c. 1700 - 1250 B.C.) and VIIa (c. 1250 - 1000 B.C.). Troy VI was greatly damaged by Schliemann's expeditions, but researchers have found that it was built after Troy V was destroyed by fire. Troy VI was a major reconstruction and renovation of the original settlement, much larger and more magnificent. The people of Troy VI probably spoke Luvian, and Indo-European language, and hunting and fishing were major sources of food. Troy VI was destroyed by earthquake, but due to the lack of human remains, archaeologists believe the majority of the people escaped. The survivors built Troy VIIa, whose inhabitants prepared for and were destroyed by war. Troy VIIa is the best candidate for the Troy of Homer, which is dated somewhere around 1250 B.C. Additionally, a foreign graveyard dating to about the same time was discovered outside the city, where Greek armies may have landed and set up camp. Researchers are still excavating parts of this rich site. Despite the fact that it was first discovered over a hundred years ago, new discoveries are still being made at this amazing ancient city