The Troy Treasures in Russia

By Easton, D. F. | Antiquity, March 1995 | Go to article overview
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The Troy Treasures in Russia


Easton, D. F., Antiquity


The treasures from Troy, removed from Berlin to be kept quietly in Moscow and - it now proves - in St Petersburg these last 50 years, are now being seen. Here is a first first-hand report on just what they amount to.

This article reports on Troy material recently seen in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, and in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (see also Korfmann 1994).

Readers of ANTIQUITY will know that in 1993 Russia admitted to having the Troy 'Treasures'. These 'treasures' derive from at least 18 groups of metalwork which Schliemann found in 1872-3, 1878-9, 1882 and 1890 during his excavations at Troy. Together with much other material from Troy they were variously given or bequeathed to the Berlin Museums between 1881 and 1891. They were briefly described by Alfred Gotze in Troja und Ilion (Dorpfeld 1902: 325-43) and were catalogued by Hubert Schmidt (Schmidt 1902: 225-47). They disappeared, however, at the end of the Second World War. Documentation published since 1991 has proved beyond doubt that the material was taken by a Red Army Trophy Brigade and that the gold-work went to the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. There it has been stored in secret for nearly 50 years. I have attempted to tell the fascinating story in full elsewhere (Easton 1994).

The Pushkin Museum, Moscow

By kind invitation of Dr Irina Antonova, Director of the Pushkin Museum, I was one of a small number of scholars invited to examine the Trojan material during the course of October and November 1994. The order of visits was, first, Prof. Dr Manfred Korfmann (Tubingen, Director of the Troy excavations); then Prof. Dr Engin Ozgen (Director-General of Antiquities, Turkey), Prof. Dr Ufuk Esin (Istanbul) and Prof. Dr Mehmet Ozdogan (Istanbul); and finally Prof. Dr Machteld Mellink (Bryn Mawr) and myself (9-10 November). Prof. Dr Wolfgang Radt (Director of the Pergamon excavations), also invited, was unable to go. And in the event we were all preceded by an official delegation from the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin. Otherwise the material had not been seen by westerners since 1945. We were all most courteously received by Dr Antonova, Dr Ludmila Akimova, Dr Vladimir Tolstikov and Dr Mikhail Treister.

In 1939 the most valuable Trojan objects were packed up by the Berlin Museums in a crate numbered MVF 1. We can follow the progress of this crate from Berlin to the Pushkin Museum in the published documentation. Also published is an extant list of its contents (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin 1993: 25f). So, apart from a few identifiable errors made in haste, one knew what to expect.

In the time available we were not able to count every bead, every ear-ring and every fragment. Nor was it our job. But it was clear that the collection in the Pushkin Museum agreed closely with our expectations. That is, it more or less fully represents the listed contents of MVF 1. The museum has most of the gold and silver, the ceremonial axes, the rock-crystal lenses, the lead figurine, and a lump of meteoric iron. Almost all are originally from Treasures A-S.

The objects were all weighed and inventoried at some time between 1945 and 1949. This is a higher standard of recording than that achieved by Schmidt or Gotze. The pieces were not cleaned or treated. They were then re-packed in a new box which was sealed and apparently left unopened until recently, when they were weighed again and photographed. The re-packing of 1949 was presumably a reaction to the changing climate of opinion with regard to war booty which led to the Hague Convention of 1954. Similarly it is political changes since glasnost which have made its reappearance possible.

The question had been raised whether the objects might in fact have been electrotypes. The Berlin Museums believe that a set of duplicates was given to the Pushkin Museum before the First World War. Whatever that set consisted of, Dr Mikhail Treister, at least, had no knowledge of it - although there are electrotypes of the Mycenaean gold.

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