Lecture: Greece and Asia in the Late Bronze Age: The Historical Background of Homer’s Iliad

The intro:

Dr. Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier, Director of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens, speaks. In 1924, Swiss archaeologist Emil Forrer announced a new discovery relating to the Trojan War. After examining texts found at Hattusa, once the capital of the Hittite empire in Asia Minor, he identified the Hittite words for Troy (Wilusa) and Mycenaean Greece (Ahhiyawa), and concluded that there was evidence for conflict between them. While Forrer’s “Greek Hypothesis” was once widely attacked by other academics, recent research and excavations have confirmed his theory, which offers exciting insights into the historical background of Homer’s Iliad.

Video: Was There a Trojan War?

I seem to have missed this UPenn video last week:

Was there a Trojan War? Assessing the Evidence from Recent Excavations at Troy
In the course of the latest campaign of excavations at Troy, in northwestern Turkey, archaeologists have uncovered a wealth of evidence that enables us to situate the site within the political and military history of the late Bronze Age (14th/13th centuries BCE). Dr. C. Brian Rose, Curator, Mediterranean Section, Penn Museum, speaks at this “Great Battles: Moments in Time that Changed History” series lecture program.

COMU Applies to ‘Take Over’ Troy Excavations

Another somewhat strange item from Hurriyet:

Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University (ÇOMU) has applied to the Culture and Tourism Ministry to carry out the archaeological excavations at the ancient city of Troy in the northwestern province of Çanakkale.

Excavations at the site have been carried out by foreign institutions for 150 years. Germany’s Tubingen University has been conducting excavations since 1998, first headed by Professor Manfred Osman Korfmann and then by Professor Ernst Pernicka since 2005. The university halted excavations because of financial problems in 2012. In a written statement, ÇOMU Rector, Professor Sedat Laçiner, said Turkish universities were experienced enough to carry out international excavations such as those at Troy.

“Foreigners worked for very short periods of time and spent very little money. We think the Troy excavations will be accelerated with ÇOMU. Its team is made up of very experienced archaeologists,” Laçiner said. “The [Culture and Tourism] ministry has resources for the excavations and the university will also allocate some. We are also thinking of private financial providers. In this way, resources for excavations will increase five fold.”

Why this has suddenly become news is beyond me.  Back in October we noted a UW-Madison press release outlining an expedition heading to Troy under the direction of William Aylward. That press release also noted the participation/partnership/under the auspices with COMU (UW-Madison Heads to Troy). So why did it take so long for this to make the Turkish papers?

Rebranding Troy?

Okay … this one has me confused. From New Scientist comes the ‘rebranding’ spin:

EVEN ancient cities knew about rebranding. Troy was destroyed by war about 3200 years ago – an event that may have inspired Homer to write the Iliad, 400 years later. But the famous city rose again, reinventing itself to fit a new political landscape.

Troy lies in north-west Turkey and has been studied for decades. Pottery made before the war has a distinct Trojan style but after the war its style is typical of the Balkans. This led archaeologists to believe that the locals had been forced out and replaced by populations from overseas.

But when Peter Grave at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, and his colleagues examined the chemical make-up of the pottery, they realised that both pre and post-war objects contained clay from exactly the same local sources, suggesting the same people were making the pots.

“There is substantial evidence for cultural continuity,” says Grave. So if the Trojans never left the city, why did their pottery style change?

Before the sack of Troy, the city looked east towards the powerful Hittite Empire. But this political powerhouse collapsed around the time that Troy was destroyed. Grave says the post-war pottery is Balkan in style because the Trojans were keen to align themselves with the people there, who had become the new political elite in the region.

The abstract for the very expensive article itself reads:

Changes in resource use over time can provide insight into technological choice and the extent of long term stability in cultural practices. In this paper we re-evaluate the evidence for a marked demographic shift at the inception of the Early Iron Age at Troy by applying a robust macroscale analysis of changing ceramic resource use over the Late Bronze and Iron Age. We use a combination of new and legacy analytical datasets (NAA and XRF), from excavated ceramics, to evaluate the potential compositional range of local resources (based on comparisons with sediments from within a 10 kilometer site radius). Results show a clear distinction between sediment-defined local and non-local ceramic compositional groups. Two discrete local ceramic resources have been previously identified and we confirm a third local resource for a major class of EIA handmade wares and cooking pots. This third source appears to derive from a residual resource on the Troy peninsula (rather than adjacent alluvial valleys). The presence of a group of large and heavy pithoi among the non-local groups raises questions about their regional or maritime origin.

Without having read the article, does this not seem to be reading an awful lot into things? If a new group moves into an area, do we not expect them to make use of available resources? Why should be expect a change in the fabric of the pots?

UW-Madison Heads to Troy

From a UW-Madison press release:

The ruins of ancient Troy will be examined by a cross-disciplinary team of scientists in an expedition led by UW-Madison classics professor William Aylward.

Troy, the palatial city of prehistory, sacked by the Greeks through trickery and a fabled wooden horse, will be excavated anew beginning in 2013 by a cross-disciplinary team of archaeologists and other scientists, it was announced today (Monday, Oct. 15).

The new expedition will be led by University of Wisconsin-Madison classics Professor William Aylward, an archaeologist with long experience digging in the ruins of classical antiquity, including Troy itself. The new international project at Troy, to be conducted under the auspices of and in cooperation with Turkey’s Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, will begin a series of summer-time expeditions beginning in 2013.

“Troy is a touchstone of Western civilization,” says Aylward. “Although the site has been excavated in the past, there is much yet to be discovered. Our plan is to extend work to unexplored areas of the site and to systematically employ new technologies to extract even more information about the people who lived here thousands of years ago.”

Troy and the Trojan War were immortalized in Homer’s epic poem the Iliad centuries after the supposed events of the conflict. The site was occupied almost continuously for about 4,500 years, from the beginning of the Bronze Age to the 13th century A.D., when it was abandoned and consigned to myth. It was rediscovered in the 1870s by the wealthy German businessman and pioneering archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann whose work at Troy laid the foundations for modern archaeology.

“Our goal is to add a new layer of information to what we already know about Troy,” says Aylward, who is contributing an international team of archaeologists and scientists to conduct what promises to be the most comprehensive dig since Troy’s discovery over 140 years ago. “The archaeological record is rich. If we take a closer look with new scientific tools for study of ancient biological and cultural environments, there is much to be found for telling the story of this world heritage site.”

The site of Troy is in modern Turkey and is situated on the Dardanelles, a crossroads between East and West and a flashpoint for conflict in both ancient and modern times. The archaeological site is a complex layer cake of history and prehistory, with 10 cities superimposed one atop the other, some with clear evidence for violent destruction.

Following the demise of Troy at the end of the Bronze Age, the site was re-settled by Greeks, Romans and others, who all claimed Homer’s Troy and its cast of characters — Achilles, Helen, Patroclus, Priam and Ajax — as their own cultural heritage. The ancient city was visited by the Persian general Xerxes, Alexander the Great, and Roman emperors, including Augustus and Hadrian. Homer’s epic poems about a lost age of heroes and the legendary Trojan War have endured as sources of inspiration for art and literature ever since.

Although archaeologists have been digging at Troy for almost 140 years, with the exception of a 50-year hiatus between 1938 and 1988, less than one-fifth of the site has been scientifically excavated. With about 4,500 years of nearly uninterrupted settlement at a crossroads between Europe and Asia, Troy is fundamental for questions about the development of civilization in Europe and the Near East. “Troy deserves a world-class archaeological program,” says Aylward.

In its heyday, Troy’s citadel, with walls 12 feet thick and more than 30 feet high, was about 6 acres in size. A walled lower town covered an expanse of 50 acres, much of which is unexplored. Mysteries abound. Ancient Troy’s royal cemetery, for example, has yet to be discovered and archaeologists are eager to add to the single example of prehistoric writing known from Troy, a small bronze seal from the Bronze Age.

“Major gaps in our knowledge involve the identity of the prehistoric Trojans, the location of their principal cemeteries and the nature of their writing system,” says Aylward. “The enduring question of the historicity of the Trojan War is also worthy of further exploration.”

In future work at Troy, Aylward plans an array of collaborations in order to deploy powerful new scientific techniques to reveal the hidden record of the ancient city and its inhabitants. New methods to examine chemical residues on pottery from ancient kitchens and banquet halls, for example, may reveal secrets of ancient Trojan culinary proclivities, and genomic analyses of human and animal remains may shed light on diseases and afflictions at a crossroads of civilization.

Much of the new work in the area of “molecular archaeology,” which includes DNA sequencing and protein analysis, will be conducted in collaboration with the UW-Madison Biotechnology Center, which has become an active partner in the new Troy project. This past summer, researchers from the center participated in reconnaissance for future studies.

The new Wisconsin expedition to Troy builds on years of existing work and international collaboration at the site. The new program to be inaugurated in 2013 will be conducted under the auspices of Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, which is situated near the site of Troy.

The Germans Have Left the Building … er Troy

From Hurriyet:

A team of German archaeologists, conducting excavations for nearly 25 years in the ancient city of Troy in Turkey’s northwest, are set to turn over their positions to U.S. archaeologists, daily Hürriyet reported. The German team is leaving the excavations to the Americans because of financial problems, Professor Ernst Pernicka, the head of the excavation team, said.

German archaeologists were still interested in the excavations at Troy, but Turkey wanted the site’s excavations to eventually be carried out by Turkish archaeologists, Pernicka said. The most interesting archaeological find in Troy would be to uncover a cemetery, Pernicka said. “There must definitely be a big cemetery in a city with a population of thousands. But such a cemetery has yet to be discovered.”

According to Pernicka now is the time for the archaeologists to publicize the results of their many years of excavations through a six-volume book to be published in 2015. The book will shed light on the Iliad, an epic poem, often attributed to Homer, which details the Trojan War, as well as the city of Troy in both Greek and Roman periods, Pernicka said.

The scientific work will serve as a monument to the former chairman of the excavations, Professor Manfred Korfmann, who dies in 2005. The work will be devoid of sensational information, according to Pernicka, who claims it will be a very important kind of documentary text for Troy.

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem iii idus junias

Miniature of the Trojan Horse, from the Vergil...
Image via Wikipedia

ante diem iii idus junias

  • Matralia — a festival held in honor of Mater Matuta involving matrons and their nieces (with some slave abuse thrown in as well)
  • 1184 B.C. — Greeks capture Troy (according to one reckoning)
  • during the time of Servius — dedication of the Temple of Mater Matuta and the Temple of Fortuna in the Forum Boarium
  • 17 B.C.. — ludi Latini et Graeci honorarii(day 7)
  • 86 A.D. — ludi Capitolini (day 6)
  • 204 A.D. — lusus Troiae performed during the Saecular Games