The Golden Hoard; a Soviet Secret for 50 Years, Ancient Trojan Treasure Goes Public in Moscow

By Plagens, Peter | Newsweek, April 8, 1996 | Go to article overview

The Golden Hoard; a Soviet Secret for 50 Years, Ancient Trojan Treasure Goes Public in Moscow


Plagens, Peter, Newsweek


STARTING APRIL 16, THE FABLED "Gold of Troy' that Heinrich Schliemann excavated in Turkey will see the light of day for the first time since 1941. in 19 bulletproof-glass cases, 259 priceless objects will be put on public view for a year, in Moscow's Pushkin Museum. Among the small but impressive adornments are pins, pendants, earrings, bracelets, chokers and beads. One delicate pin is decorated with sculpted reliefs of six miniature vessels. All this comes from the recesses of what's called the Bronze Age. "They are in wonderful shake," says Vladimir Tolstikov, 50, the exhibition's curator. "They all have their original German numbers on them." German numbers? Thereby hangs a tale of, well, Homeric proportions. Since the Middle Ages map makers and travelers had tried to find the central site of the Iliad to discover whether perhaps the great literature the human race produce is pure myth or grounded in reality. In 1873, at Hiss Turkey, Schliemann found evidence that what the saw was no illusion. But this rich, vain and often mendacious amateur archeologist also began another tale of greed and national honor that reverberated for more than a century.

"From late May to early June 1873, at a depth of 8.5 meters from the surface," the show's meticulous catalog recounts, "...Schliemann discovered a unique complex, encompassing 8,830 objects." (Yes, Schliemann counted individual beads as objects, but the majority of the gold ones were uniquely manufactured by hand, rather than cast uniformly from molds. archeological pioneer, Schliemann was not above fibbing about his finds, which he liked to call "Priam's Treasure," after the Iliad's Trojan king. In his account of the excavation he told how he called a quick coffee break to divert light-fingered workers, cut an object out of the ground and gave it to his Greek wife, Sophia, who whisked it safely away in her shawl. The truth is that Sophia was home in Athens that day. Schliemann told other probable whoppers: for instance, that he foresaw as a child he'd one day excavate Troy.

In the recent biography "Schliemann of Troy: Treasure and Deceit," David Traill offers considerable, if not conclusive evidence that Schliemann salted the site with goodies found scattered in the general vicinity. Suspiciously, the gold jewelry doesn't appear in Schliemann's first report. Schliemann," says Traill, "wanted the treasure to be found in Priam's palace." Although genuinely Trojan, the gold actually dates from around 2200 B.C., about 1,000 years before Homer's characters. The dig produced artifacts from that period, too, but mostly pots.) Schliemann made other mistakes, most notably digging massive trenches right to bedrock that destroyed much of what he was looking for. Still, most archeologists today agree that despite such shenanigans Hissarlik isn't just "Schliemannopolis." It's Troy.

Schliemann sneaked his Trojan booty to Athens and subsequently tried to sell it. …

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The Golden Hoard; a Soviet Secret for 50 Years, Ancient Trojan Treasure Goes Public in Moscow
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