Introduction To The Age Of Bronze
Though we knew little about Bronze Age history in the Anatolian region, which encompasses the westernmost ledge of modern-day Asia, archaeological findings are slowly filling in the blanks for us.
Ancient civilisations that once flourished in this region have long been vanquished, either by earthquake or war. All the ancient settlements have one thing in common; all were abandoned at one point or another.
For the better part of eight years now, I have researched one of these ‘archaic nations’… ancient Troy. I have learned much about these ancient peoples and wish to share what I have learned.
Through researching the Trojan people, I have come to understand how they lived, what they ate, how they dressed, and much more. The Bronze Age is profoundly fascinating.
Not only have I learned about the Trojans, but also their close and distant neighbours. The Hittites, Egyptians, and Mycenaens are among the most understood ancient civilisations today. I would like to take this opportunity to forewarn that I occasionally use some of the other names history has given the Trojan people. Some are Egyptian, some ancient Greek, and still others are from the Hittite people. They are: Truwisa, Ilion, Truva, Troia, Wilion, Wilusa, Ilios, Wilusija, Ilion, and Ilium. However, the ones I use most commonly are: Ilios, Wilusa, Ilium, and naturally, Troy. All names refer to the Bronze Age Trojans.
Until 1871 when budding archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, began his quest to find Homer’s Troy, it was commonly believed that Troy was nothing more than the product of one author’s overblown imagination.
Schliemann started digging on a large mound of earth that was called Hisarlik (meaning,’Place of Fortresses‘) with nothing more to go by than a worn copy of The Iliad and a dream. Before Schliemann came along, an English archaeologist by the name of Frank Calvert had been excavating the same spot for several years. (Somewhere between seven and twenty years; accounts differ greatly.)
Since this time, it has become powerfully clear that Troy was once a flourishing Nation. Over the last hundred plus years, there have been some staggering discoveries. Not all of these finds were in ancient Troy. Of the host of settlements mentioned by Homer in his Epic tales, the Iliad and the Odyssey, over a dozen of those have been located to date.
When Troy was first uncovered, there was a general disappointment from Schliemann and many other Iliad enthusiasts, because what was exposed was tiny in comparison to Homer’s descriptions. Schliemann was sure he was wrong on the location of Troy, and began digging elsewhere for a time before returning to the site on Hisarlik.
Chances are he was more than pleased he had returned, because it was then that he discovered what he called Priam’s Treasure (shown in above photo). Thousands of gold items, from diadems to rings, bracelets and earrings were found buried close to one of the palace walls.
Other items discovered were made of copper, such as daggers, axes, vases, cauldron, and a war-shield. Silver items were also recovered from this treasure. Some of those were vases, dagger blades, and goblets. In one of the large silver vases is where most of the gold jewellery items were found. Considering there was close to nine thousand pieces, I would say the vase must have been large indeed!
The unfortunate fact is that none of this treasure belonged to King Priam of Homer’s Troy. The treasure Schliemann discovered was about 1,000 years before Homer’s epic ‘Trojan War‘!
Some of the treasure, Schliemann traded to the Ottoman Empire, so they would allow him to continue digging in Troy. When it was discovered that Schliemann failed to report the find and had run off with it instead, the Ottoman revoked his excavating privileges in Turkey.
Most of this treasure disappeared for a large period of time. In 1880, most of the treasure was acquired by a museum in Berlin, Germany, where it mysteriously disappeared from a bunker beneath the Berlin Zoo. Just as mysteriously, the treasure reappeared in 1993 in another museum in Moscow, Russia. For unclear reasons, the treasure is being withheld in a dispute between Russia and Germany. (I emphasise this is a very cloudy area)
Among many other things Schliemann, the authenticity of most of ‘Priam’s Treasure’ has, and likely always will be, in question. Ironically, when Schliemann dug in Troy, he destroyed a great deal of the layers above what he presumed was the Troy he was searching for.
Deciding that he needed to dig as deep as possible to find a place that existed so long ago, Schliemann dug much too far and wide, and consequently destroyed much of the settlement he sought! Today, a massive trench cuts straight through most of the ancient site.
At least nine settlements, or layers, have been discovered thus far, dating back as far as circa 3,000 B.C.E. Since Schliemann abandoned his work at Hisarlik, many have seen Troy as a ‘ruin of a ruin’. Sadly enough, to a great degree, this is true.
Hisarlik stood untouched for decades, until an archaeologist by the name of Manfred Korfmann (Who sadly passed away in 2005) and a team from nearly twenty countries, resumed excavations in 1988. The early findings fuelled an earnest endeavour to uncover all they could about this ancient site.
It quickly became clear that Troy, once thought a tiny town, was a very large and wealthy Bronze Age civilisation. It was also clear, by location alone, that Homer’s Holy Ilios had the potential to have been one of the days’ most powerful Kingdoms. As the excavating continued, it became abundantly clear that Troy held a very influential position in the Anatolian region during the Bronze Age.
The Trojan Harbour
The Iliad tells us that the Achaeans anchored their ships at the Hellespont, just north of Troy. Homer also mentions that the ships were anchored near Tenedos Isle. This poses a problem, because the two locations are distinctly different. The Hellespont, (modern Dardanelles) is a strait that separates the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Homer claims this was at the mouth of the Skamander River, where it branched off to the Hellespont and Aegean, north of Troy.
Archaeologists have reason to believe that Homer may have mistaken the exact location. (Not so hard to believe, since Homer wrote his rendition of the events several hundred years after the fact.) Now, if the Achaeans blocked the Trojans near Tenedos Isle (Modern Bozcada), this was directly west and slightly south of the City; this would have been further south than early researchers first assumed. It was presumed that the Achaeans anchored to the north of the City, closer to, or directly on, the (modern) Dardanelles.
Let’s explore this for a moment: First of all, there is reason to believe that Homer never visited the site himself, and that he may in fact have been blind! Homer was, an oral Poet, or Bard, and it is almost certain that he did not write the Iliad and Odyssey himself. Not many people could read, much less write, in this ‘newly literate’ society, in circa 850 B.C.E, Homer’s presumed era.
What’s more, 2,800 years ago, (Homer’s day) the Trojan landscape was considerably different than it is today, just as it was somewhat different 500 years before Homer’s day! (3,200 years ago, is the assumed time of the War itself.) So what we have is an ever-changing landscape, with the facts being relayed by word of mouth. A story heavily embellished with the mythical. Not to say the events did not occur, as researchers are, now more than ever, finding evidence to prove the Trojan War did indeed take place 3,200 years ago, in modern Turkey.
The Acropolis of Troy once stood like ‘a sentinel over the Aegean and Hellespont’, Homer states in his poetic prose. As this bit of information was passed to him orally over the span of 500 years, it may not have been entirely accurate in his time, but may have been 3,200 years ago. Since the date of the Trojan War, the shoreline has
receded at the rate of approximately 1.3 km/millennium. If we consider that is nearly 4 km. since the War, then Homer was fairly accurate in telling us that Troy ‘stood above’ the Sea, since now, the shoreline is less than 6 km from the Citadel.
Beşik Bay, near Troy, remains of an ancient port were discovered during excavations. Among other discoveries, an important discovery came to light – archaic burials, mere metres from the ancient shoreline! These graves were confirmed to belong to the 13th century B.C.E. Archaeologists strongly feel that these could well be the remains of the Achaeans that anchored and camped on Trojan shores for ten years. Paleogeographic studies show that the topography of the Trojan plain was very different 3,200 years ago than it is today. Scientists believe that the centre of the battlefield lay south of Troy and east of Beşik bay. Thus they suggest that Beşik Bay should be considered the site of Homer’s Iliad.
In conclusion, we can safely assume that Homer’s description of the Achaean’s location is accurate. Just before the sack of Troy, we are told that the Achaeans left their camp on Trojan shores and sailed their ‘beaked ships’ behind Tenedos Isle, and out of the Trojan’s sight. There, they lay in wait for the Trojans to bring the large wooden horse into the city; the horse that contained Achaean warriors.
This was a trap that the Achaeans set for the naïve citizens of Troy. The pious Trojans believed the horse was a gift to Poseidon, and brought it to the Deity’s temple inside the City. That night, the Achaeans waited for a signal from Odysseus telling them that that he was inside the Citadel, and would open the City gates.
As the Trojans slept, weary from celebration, the Achaeans entered the City, and began the slaughter. – Virgil.
I will be adding much more to this page over the next few weeks, as the amount of information that is available is overwhelming! I could probably add several paragraphs every day for the next year, and still not come close to sharing all I know about this fascinating era.
I encourage anyone to visit Project Troia for loads of detailed materials and visuals. Project Troia.
Another exciting article on the shady archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, and his treasure hunting escapades can be found on Time.com
A world of Ancient Troy/ Ilium/ Wilusa awaits you at this exciting site: livius.org