Heinrich Schliemann


Heinrich Schliemann : biography

6 January 1822 – 26 December 1890

"King Priam’s Treasure" was found in the Troy II level, that of the Early Bronze Age, long before Priam’s city of Troy VI or Troy VIIa in the prosperous and elaborate Mycenaean Age. Moreover, the finds were unique. The elaborate gold artifacts do not appear to belong to the Early Bronze Age.

In 1972, Professor William Calder of the University of Colorado, speaking at a commemoration of Schliemann’s birthday, claimed that he had uncovered several possible problems in Schliemann’s work. Other investigators followed, such as Professor David Traill of the University of California.

An article published by the National Geographic Society called into question Schliemann’s qualifications, his motives, and his methods:

In northwestern Turkey, Heinrich Schliemann excavated the site believed to be Troy in 1870. Schliemann was a German adventurer and con man who took sole credit for the discovery, even though he was digging at the site, called Hisarlik, at the behest of British archaeologist Frank Calvert. … Eager to find the legendary treasures of Troy, Schliemann blasted his way down to the second city, where he found what he believed were the jewels that once belonged to Helen. As it turns out, the jewels were a thousand years older than the time described in Homer’s epic.

Another article presented similar criticisms when reporting on a speech by University of Pennsylvania scholar C. Brian Rose:

German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann was the first to explore the Mound of Troy in the 1870s. Unfortunately, he had had no formal education in archaeology, and dug an enormous trench “which we still call the Schliemann Trench,” according to Rose, because in the process Schliemann “destroyed a phenomenal amount of material.” … Only much later in his career would he accept the fact that the treasure had been found at a layer one thousand years removed from the battle between the Greeks and Trojans, and thus that it could not have been the treasure of King Priam. Schliemann may not have discovered the truth, but the publicity stunt worked, making Schliemann and the site famous and igniting the field of Homeric studies in the late 19th century.

Career and family

On March 1, 1844, 22-year old Schliemann took a position with B. H. Schröder & Co., an import/export firm. In 1846 the firm sent him as a General Agent to St. Petersburg. In time, Schliemann represented a number of companies. He learned Russian and Greek, employing a system that he used his entire life to learn languages—Schliemann claimed that it took him six weeks to learn a languagePayne, . and wrote his diary in the language of whatever country he happened to be in.

By the end of his life, he could converse in English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Polish, Italian, Greek, Latin, Russian, Arabic, and Turkish as well as German. Schliemann’s ability with languages was an important part of his career as a businessman in the importing trade. In 1850, Heinrich learned of the death of his brother, Ludwig, who had become wealthy as a speculator in the California gold fields. Schliemann went to California in early 1851 and started a bank in Sacramento buying and reselling over a million dollars of gold dust in just six months. When the local Rothschild agent complained about short-weight consignments he left California, pretending it was because of illness. While he was there, California became the 31st state in September 1850 and Schliemann acquired United States citizenship.

According to his memoirs, before arriving in California he dined in Washington with President Millard Fillmore and his family,Leo Deuel, Memoirs of Heinrich Schliemann: A Documentary Portrait Drawn from his Autobiographical Writings, Letters, and Excavation Reports, New York: Harper, 1977, ISBN 0-06-011106-2, ; he also mentions meeting President Andrew Johnson, p. 126. but Eric Cline says that he didn’t attend but simply read about it in the papers. He also published what he said was an eyewitness account of the San Francisco fire of 1851 which he said was in June although it took place in May. At the time he was actually in Sacramento and used the report of the fire in the Sacramento Daily Journal to write his report.