Biblical Archaeology Review 45:1, January/February 2019

Strata: Who Did It?

Which archaeologist first discovered the ancient city of Troy?

Answer: Frank Calvert

Although Heinrich Schliemann is most famously associated with the discovery of Troy, it was actually Frank Calvert (1828–1908) who first identified the fabled city.

Calvert, a British expatriate and self-taught scholar, was serving as a U.S. consular official to Turkey when Schliemann arrived in the country on a hunt to find Troy. Like Schliemann, Calvert was interested in finding the city. He had a hunch that Troy was buried beneath an ancient mound called Hisarlik, which means “Place of Fortresses” in Turkish, part of which was located on his family’s property in Turkey. Unlike Schliemann, however, Calvert did not have the funds to excavate the site past his preliminary excavations in 1865. The two men got in contact with each other, and, with the combination of Calvert’s expertise and Schliemann’s wealth, excavations at Hisarlik commenced.

Almost immediately, Schliemann became convinced that he and Calvert had finally found the legendary city. However, Schliemann had his eyes—and his eyes only—on the prize, and he purposefully excluded Calvert’s name in all of the fanfare that followed.

As Calvert’s name faded into the background, Schliemann’s excavation practices became more unscrupulous—and his finds more stunning. In 1873, Schliemann produced a photograph of his wife, Sophia, wearing the hoard of royal gold jewelry of “Priam’s Treasure,” which he claimed to have found at the site. This was after he had smuggled the treasure from Turkey to Athens.

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