Archaeology Odyssey 1:1, Winter 1998

Can Archaeology Discover Homer’s Troy?

Following in the footsteps of Heinrich Schliemann, modern archaeologists give a surprising answer to the question, Who were the fabled Trojans?

By Birgit Brandau

King Agamemnon rose to his feet: “Friends, Zeus vowed to me long ago that I should never embark for home till I had brought the walls of Ilium crashing down.”

“Metal object, biconvex.” Thus wrote English archaeologist Donald Easton in his excavation diary in July 1995, dispassionately recording what every excavator at Troy had previously hoped for in vain. He had discovered the only known example of Bronze Age writing at Troy. It turned out to be a key indicator of the people who lived in the Troy that Homer wrote about.

Archaeologists had long puzzled over why not even a single piece of writing had been found at Late Bronze Age Troy. It was unlikely that the Trojan culture of the time was nonliterate. Without writing, it would have been almost impossible to administer the extensive trade Troy enjoyed with her neighbors. And how could Troy have remained nonliterate while such cultures as Egypt, Canaanite Ugarit, Mycenaean Greece, Hittite Anatolia and Minoan Crete—to choose just several examples—all possessed sophisticated forms of writing?

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