Jan 18



A brilliant pioneer in field archaeology, Heinrich Schliemann was born on January 6, 1822 in the small village of Neu Buckow, Germany. His parents were Ernst and Luise Therese Sophie Schliemann. His interest in Homeric Troy started when his father, a protestant minister, gave him a book or Christmas in 1829 by Ludwig Jerrer entitled Illustrated History of the World .

Schliemann is best known for his excavations at ancient TROY and MYCENAE.

Schliemann was largely self-educated. Because his family was poor, he had to leave school at the age of 14 to earn a living. He continued studying on his own, however, showing an exceptional ability to master foreign languages. Soon he began to exploit his remarkable aptitude for business dealings, which enabled him to amass a large fortune early in life and to retire at the age of 41. From then on, he devoted himself to archaeology.

When Schliemann traveled to Greece in the summer of 1868 he had already determined that he wanted to do archaeology. When he arrived at Ithaca, he went to work finding the Palace of Odysseus. Using Homer and the locals' legends as his guides, he started excavating on the isthmus of the island and uncovered a group of over 20 vases, each filled with ashes that Schliemann was certain were human. They also uncovered a 6-inch long sacrificial knife, a clay goddess figurine, and some animal bones. In his journal, Schliemann wrote "it is quite possible that they [the vases] contain the ashes of Odysseus and Penelope, or their descendants."

After finding nothing more at Ithaca, Schliemann set out to find Troy. At that time, Bunarbashi was believed to be the site of Troy, but Schliemann thought that the nearby hill Hissarlik was a more likely area. Frank Calvert, an Englishman who owned the eastern half of the hill, agreed with Schliemann, and had discovered the ruins of a palace or temple made out of large blocks of hewn stone. Schliemann enlisted Calvert's aid Calvert agreed to assist him and, to Schliemann's surprise, asked for nothing in return.

Location of Troy

Schliemann sent a letter to his friend asking him to find him a poor, beautiful, dark-haired, well-educated Greek woman who was interested in Homer. The friend replied andat the end of July of 1869 Schliemann went to visit Sophie Engastromenos in Colonus. They married on September 23, 1869.

Schliemann returned to Hissarlik in 1870, convinced that the most important discoveries would be found on the western side of the hill, which was owned by two Turks. The owners agreed to let Schliemann continue digging on their property if Schliemann would let them have the stones of the building foundation he had uncovered for a bridge they were building. Schliemann reluctantly agreed, and his excavation progressed until April 21, when the Turks decided they had enough stone and ordered him to stop his excavation. From this date until October of 1871, Schliemann went through a frustrating series of negotiations with the Turkish government. Finally, on Wednesday, October 11, he returned to Troy determined to uncover Priam's palace.

He found little that he deemed important during that excavation - among the more common finds were phallus-shaped objects, tiles with sketches of an owl's head, terra-cotta top-shaped objects, obsidian knife blades, and clay tiles with swastika sketches.

On June 18, 1872, Schliemann uncovered a relief of the sun god Apollo riding the four horses of the sun. The work was most likely from the Ptolemaic period, much later than the supposed time of the Trojan War. Though Schliemann had promised to give the Turkish government half of the treasure he found, he and Calvert smuggled the relief out of the country, and it ended up adorning Schliemann's garden for many years.

At that point, Schliemann had found little to suggest the site was indeed Homeric Troy, and he became depressed and discouraged. On August 4, 1872 a breakthrough finally came Schliemann discovered his first treasure, which consisted of three gold earrings and a gold dress-pin. Nearby, he found the skeleton of a woman who he thought, judging by the color of her bones, had died during the burning of Troy.

More progress came in May of 1873 when his crew found two gates 20 feet apart, and the foundation of a large building behind the gates. In typical form, Schliemann interpreted the findings in a way that fit his hopes - he dubbed the entrance the Scaean Gates, and named the building Priam's Palace.

Ruins of Troy

Shortly after that find came one of the most interesting of Schliemann's discoveries. Schliemann himself found a golden treasure near the Scaean Gates, and hoping to keep his find secret, let the crew have the rest of the day off. He and Sophie quietly excavated the hoard themselves, certain that they had found the treasure of King Priam. Among their findings were a copper shield, a copper cauldron, a silver vase, a copper vase, a gold bottle, 2 gold cups, a small electrum cup, a silver goblet, 3 silver vases, 7 double-edged copper daggers, 6 silver knife blades, 13 copper lance-heads, 2 gold diadems, a fillet, 4 gold ear-drops, 56 gold earrings, and 8,750 gold rings and buttons.

Though he never wrote down the exact date of the discovery, it is known that he did smuggle it off the site and to Frank Calvert on May 30, 1873. On May 31, certain that the treasure was safe with his friend, Schliemann wrote his first journal account of the find. He later split the artifacts up, and hid them with friends all over Greece with the treasure spread out, he knew neither the Greek nor the Turkish government could claim ownership of it.

The Turkish government eventually discovered Schliemann's treachery, however, and demanded the treasure back. Schliemann refused, and attempted to offer the find to the Greek government, if they would let him excavate at Mycenae and Mount Olympus. They refused his offer, and Schliemann was left in constant conflict between the two governments until Greek officials agreed to let him excavate at Mycenae, with the agreement that officials from the Greek Archaeological Society would work with him.

In August of 1876, using ancient texts and locals' legends, Schliemann began excavation on Mycenae. From the beginning he was involved in a battle with Greek officials over whether or not he should be supervised, and what sort of field methods he could use.

Lions Gate

Schliemann immediately started digging near the Lion Gate, an imposing structure with a large lintel topped by a relief of two Lionesses facing each other. There was a great circular space south of the Lion Gate, perhaps an ancient open-air meeting place, and in this space his workers found two tombstones. They excavated these graves, as well as several others found within the circle, and found an abundance of gold funerary goods. Schliemann was convinced that he had found the bodies of the great Agamemnon, Cassandra, Eurymedon, Clytemnestra, and Aegisthus, people he had been reading about for decades.

The "Mask of Agamemnon"

South of the circle, Schliemann also found an immense building, which he interpreted as a palace. In it, his workers uncovered a 12-inch high vase with a painting of a procession of soldiers marching off to war. This find was especially interesting, for it was possible the Homeric war dress was similar to that of the Mycenaean soldiers.

In July of 1878, Schliemann left Mycenae and excavated at Ithaca. He identified a site he thought was the palace of Odysseus the effort was a failure by his standards, however, for he found neither the palace nor treasure. He did uncover the ruins of 190 houses, a discovery modern archaeologists would be pleased with. Convinced he would find nothing of "value," he abandoned Ithaca and decided to concentrate his efforts once again upon Hissarlik.

In September of 1878, Schliemann arrived at Hissarlik, and on October 21, 1878 he found a small cache consisting of 20 gold earrings, some gold spiral rings, 2 electrum bracelets, 11 silver earrings, 158 silver rings, and many gold beads. This time Schliemann was able to kept only one-third of his findings the Imperial Museum at Constantinople claimed the rest.

Heinrich Schliemann found his last treasure in April of 1879 with two small areas of treasure, consisting of gold disks, chains, earrings, and bracelets. His years of luck had run out he would continue attempts at excavation for the rest of his life, but never again would he experience the success of his earlier years.

He eventually built himself a house in Athens, where he ruled like a Homeric king - his messages were sent to him in ancient Greek, he insisted that Greek be spoken at the dinner table, and he renamed all his servants after characters in Greek mythology and history. He wrote about his excavations at Hissarlik in a work entitled Ilios, but the more he pondered his discoveries, the more he became plagued with doubt that Hissarlik was really Troy.

In May 1881 Schliemann returned to Hissarlik, determined to find something that proved the hill was Homeric Troy. He found very little, but on the top of nearby Mount Ida found a slab of marble which he claimed were the ruins of Zeus' throne.

In February of 1884, Schliemann excavated the mound at Marathon, where according to legend, the bodies of 192 Athenians who fell against the Persians were buried. Expecting to find skeletons, swords, helmets, shields and spears, he dug a trench through the mound, but the only artifacts he uncovered were a few potsherds.

In March of 1884, Schliemann began an excavation at Nauplia, a citadel at Tiryns. During the first season his workers uncovered the foundation of a Homeric palace the summer afterward they found a fresco showing a boy jumping over a bull, some obsidian knives and arrowheads, and a single gold ax half an inch wide.

The Citadel of Tiryns

At the end of 1886, Schliemann took a three-month cruise down the Nile in Egypt, where he met the young Egyptologist E.A. Wallace Budge. In 1888 Schliemann uncovered what he called Aphrodite's temple on the Island of Cythera, and on the island of Sphacteria, he found old fortifications supposedly used by the Spartans in 425 BC. During this period, he attempted several times to get permission to excavate Knossus on the island of Crete, but was continually turned away.

On August 1, 1890, Schliemann returned to Athens, and in November traveled to Halle for an operation on his chronically infected ears. The doctors dubbed the operation a success, but his inner ear became painfully inflamed. Ignoring his doctors' advice, he left the hospital and traveled to Leipzig, Berlin, and Paris. From Paris, he planned to return to Athens in time for Christmas, but his ears became even worse. Too sick to make the boat ride from Napels to Greece, Schliemann remained in Naples, but managed to make a journey to the ruins of Pompeii. On Christmas day he collapsed in the Piazza della Santa Carita and died in a hotel room on December 26, 1890.

Heinrich Schliemann's body was brought back to Athens. His funeral tool place on January 4, 1891, and he was buried in a cemetery south of the Ilissus, in a great mausoleum he had built for himself. The inscription above the entrance is a powerful declaration of how he wanted to be remembered it simply says "For the hero Schliemann."


British and American heirs of Frank Calvert, the British field archaeologist and diplomat who preceded Heinrich Schliemann as excavator of Troy (see ARCHAEOLOGY, May/June 1995) are planning to file a claim to a portion of Schliemann's Trojan treasures. Frederick Calvert of London, great-grandson of Frank Calvert's elder brother Frederick, says the claim would apply to that portion of the treasures found on his family's land.


King, Wellington. Heinrich Schliemann: Heros & Mythos. University of Texas, 1997.

Payne, Robert. The Gold of Troy: The Story of Heinrich Schliemann and the Buried Cities of Ancient Greece. Funk &Wagnalls Co. New York, 1959.

Poole, Gary and Lynn. One Passion, Two Loves: The Story of Heinrich and Sophie Schliemann, Discoverers of Troy. Thomas Y Crowell Company. New York, 1966.

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