Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890)

From an early age, Heinrich Schliemann was obsessed with the past, and in particular, the Greek poet Homer. At the age of 46, he quit his job to undertake a quest. "A quest to prove that Homer's Illiad and Odyssey were true stories" (13). Schliemann began excavating at Hissarlik in northwestern Turkey in 1871. It was not long before he proclaimed it the site of Homeric Troy. (In reality, British consul Frank Calvert beat him to the punch and had already made the discovery.)

Though he employed skilled engineers to supervise his excavations (some had worked on the construction of the Suez Canal), he was in no regard "a scientific saint" (13). He did indeed find over 8,000 gold ornaments and artifacts, but this collection was assembled from isolated pieces over a series of many months. Schliemann was adamant that this collection was the fabled Treasure of Priam, the Homeric King of Troy. On a side note, this Treasure went missing in the final days of WWII and turned up in Russia after the break up of the Soviet Union.

In 1876, Schliemann shifted his focus to Mycenae, in search of the legendary resting place of King Agamemnon, leader of the Greek armies at Troy. He discovered over 15 burials, many of them "covered in jewels, golden death masks, and adorned with fine inlaid weapons" (13). Though Schliemann is said to have cried "I have gazed on the face of Agamemnon!" archaeologists now date these finds to three or four centuries before the Trojan War.

During the late 1870's, there was a paradigmatic shift in the archaeological world, away from the spectacular hunt and frenzied digging of Schliemann's kind, toward a new precision only possible through meticulous scientific recording.

Source: Brian M. Fagan, Archaeology: A Brief Introduction, 8th ed.

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