This “Treasure from Troy” is part of what became called the “Treasure of Priam” discovered in the ancient site of Troy, which is in modern-day Turkey. Ancient Troy was the setting of the Trojan War described in the Iliad, one of the epic poems by Homer. “Priam’s Treasure” was a cache of jewellery, gold, copper, terra cotta and other ancient artefacts discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1873. A partial catalogue of the treasure is shown in an early 1880 photograph below.
“Priam’s Treasure” discovered by Heinrich Schliemann. The collection was divided after 1880. This photo most was taken before the collection was broken up across multiple museums
Schliemann claimed the site to be that of ancient Troy and therefore assigned the artefacts to the King Priam of Troy, from Homeric. This assumption was the result of Schliemann’s ambition to find sites and objects mentioned in Homer’s epics which took place in southwestern Turkey. At that time, archaeology was in its infancy, and the stratigraphy at Troy had not been scientifically undertaken.
Following Schliemann’s discoveries, the layer in which “Priam’s Treasure” was alleged to have been found, has been historically assessed and assigned to an earlier period of Troy, which pre-dated Priam the King of Troy, of Trojan War fame, by hundreds of years. Many experts believe that the treasures are a thousand years older than Homer’s King Priam of Troy, who died about 1200 B.C. The artefacts discovered at ancient Troy are now spread across multiple museums including:
- Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia
- Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany
- Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Istanbul, Turkey
The stories of Heinrich Schliemann discoveries are now famous and controversial. During 1871-73 and then 1878–79, Schliemann excavated a hill called Hissarlik in the Ottoman Empire, near the town of Chanak (Çanakkale) in north-western Anatolia, Turkey. At this site, he discovered the ruins of a series of ancient cities, dating from the Bronze Age to the Roman period. Heinrich Schliemann declared one of these cities to be the city of Troy and this declaration was widely accepted at that time and publicised in the global press. Schliemann reported the discovery as follows:
“In excavating this wall further and directly by the side of the palace of King Priam, I came upon a large copper article of the most remarkable form, which attracted my attention all the more as I thought I saw gold behind it. … In order to withdraw the treasure from the greed of my workmen, and to save it for archaeology, … I immediately had lunch break called. … While the men were eating and resting, I cut out the Treasure with a large knife…. It would, however, have been impossible for me to have removed the Treasure without the help of my dear wife, who stood by me ready to pack the things which I cut out in her shawl and to carry them away.”
Portrait of Sophia Schliemann (wife Heinrich Schliemann) wearing “Jewels of Helen” from “Treasure of Priam.”
Schliemann’s excavations were condemned by later archaeologists as having destroyed the primary layers of the real Troy. It is claimed that Schliemann’s excavations were carried out with such haste and non-archaeological methods that “he did to Troy what the Greeks couldn’t do in their time”. Other scholars agree that the damage caused to the site is irreparable.
Part of Priam’s treasure discovered at the Trojan site in 1873. The jewels are dated from an earlier period to the Trojan War.
More insights on Heinrich Schliemann’s historical discoveries can be found at the following links:
Treasure of Priam:
- Title: Treasure from Troy
- Date: 2200 BCE
- Material: Gold, Silver, Copper, Terracotta
- Discovered: 1873: Site of Ancient Troy in modern Turkey
- Museums: Neues Museum, Berlin
“Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”
― Homer, The Iliad
Photo Credit: 1) By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Collier du Trésor de Priam (Neues Museum, Berlin)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 2) CherryX per Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 3) See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 5) See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 6) By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France (Collier du Trésor de Priam (Neues Museum, Berlin)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons