Retracing the Path of Troy's Gold

Article excerpt

Lost and Found: the 9,000 Treasures of Troy, Heinrich Schliemann and the Gold That Got Away

By Caroline Moorehead

Viking Press

307 pp., $26.95

Amid the chaos that was Europe at the end of World War II, it was hard to know what had been lost, destroyed, stolen, or merely mislaid. Only gradually did the Allied powers realize that, even as the Nazis had looted their neighbors, Germany had in turn been systematically stripped of its treasures - its paintings, sculptures, and furnishings - by the Soviets. The Allies did their best to return things to their rightful owners and to organize equitable reparation, but much remained hidden - or had it been bombed? Who knew?

Then, as the cold war ended, rumors of hidden treasure - unacknowledged and unseen for nearly 50 years - began to trickle out of Russia, the most intriguing of which involved large amounts of ancient gold.

This gold, a cache to rival, if not supercede, the gold of Tutankamen, went on display earlier this year at Moscow's Pushkin Museum. Before 1945, it had resided in Berlin's Museum of Pre-and-Early History as part of the vast collection of ancient artifacts excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in Turkey and Greece between 1872 and 1888. And this gold is at the center of "Lost and Found: The 9,000 Treasures of Troy," Caroline Moorehead's history of the discover and disappearance of Schliemann's archaeological treasures.

The gold's original discoverer is one of those legendary characters from the last century whose life was so extraordinary, his rise from poverty to untold riches so dramatic, that it is hard to get it all between the covers of a book. But it is with Schliemann's story that Moorehead rightfully begins.

Born in northeastern Germany in 1822, Schliemann was the son of an undistinguished and intemperate schoolmaster turned minister. By the time he was 50, Schliemann had amassed a fortune, mastered seven languages, and traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, India, China, and the Americas. …