Skip to comments.Recent Finds Prove That Homer's Stories Were More Than Myth
Posted on 02/24/2002 4:46:17 PM PST by blam
February 25, 2002
Recent finds prove that Homer's stories were more than myth
By Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent
A CYNICAL scholar once noted that the reason that academic disputes were so bitter was that the stakes were so small. In the real world maybe, but Troy has been a battleground for 3,000 years not because of mundane matters of funding and status but because of its grip on our imaginations.
There may or may not have been a decades siege on the edge of the Dardanelles around 1100BC, pitting Late Mycenaean Greeks against their neighbours and possible distant kin: but three centuries later Homer proclaimed so, and the believers have outnumbered the sceptics ever since.
The Romans were believers: on the western skyline of their city of Ilium, built as we now know over most of the Bronze Age settlement, they raised two tumuli as cenotaphs for Achilles and Patroclus to make up for those no longer extant. In the area around the Scaean Gate, where the Trojan women washed and Hector came to meet Achilles challenge, the Romans cleaned the place up and made it into what a 2nd-century tourist would have expected to see.
A similar belief in Homers essential veracity spurred Heinrich Schliemann to go to the site and take on the Ottoman Empire for the right to rediscover Troy. Although his finds made him famous (though his mendacity has rendered him notorious a century or so later), Schliemanns nine cities were always discouragingly small.
You can walk across the Hisarlik mound in a couple of minutes and round it in ten: how could this be reconciled with Achilless long pursuit of Hector and his victory lap with the heros corpse trailing in the dust behind his chariot? These and other doubts convinced the sceptics that the Trojan War was pure fiction.
In opposition were the diehard literalists and then, as Mycenaean scholarship unfolded the mysteries of the Bronze Age over the past century, a third way emerged. There had been a Troy, there had been a war between the Aegean Greeks and a powerful polity on the Anatolian shore; but Agamemnon and Achilles, Hector and Helen, were brilliant personae giving verisimilitude to this bald ancestral memory.
Into this arena came Manfred Korfmann, well-trained, well-funded and well-organised. I visited his dig at Troy three years ago and was impressed by the professionalism of the whole operation. Banks of computers processed data from the trenches beneath a marquee beside the Hisarlik mound and remote-sensing gear probed the soil to provide an underground map of the vanished Roman city and what lay beneath it.
What Korfmann found was stunning: below the Roman streets a rock-cut ditch snaked around south of Hisarlik, enclosing an area six times larger. Several yards wide and deep, it would plausibly have had a rampart along its inside edge: Schliemanns Troy was just the citadel, not the city.
Suddenly, Homer made sense: a town large enough to besiege rather than overrun, a circuit of walls around which heroes could chase for hours. The overall layout of Troy, with its upper and newly found lower towns, is strikingly like Mycenae and many other Aegean Bronze Age communities. Professor Korfmanns discovery reconnected Homer with the monuments.
Whether he is right about everything, I dont know, but the dispute fits into a common academic pattern in which neither side is demonstrably wrong and both may be right in some measure.
In the 1950s Dame Kathleen Kenyon and Professor Robert Braidwood squared off over whether the earliest Neolithic farmers were in the Jordan Valley at Jericho or in northern Iraq at Jarmo. In East Africa the Leakeys, first Louis and Mary, then Richard and now a third generation, have faced a motley opposition from rival palaeoanthropologists over who or what is the oldest human ancestor.
In the world of al-Qaeda, such arguments may seem trivial, but they concern not just the here and now; they tap into our deepest longings to know where we come from and how we got here.
Academic armies come to blows in battle of Troy
By Philip Howard
A NEW Trojan war only slightly less vicious than the original has broken out among archaeologists over the size of the fabled city of Homers Iliad.
Such are the passions raised that when the two armies of academics met in Germany last week to resolve their differences, their symposium ended in an unseemly bout of fisticuffs. This new battle for Troy is over the excavations at Hisarlik conducted since 1988 by an international team led by Manfred Korfmann of Tübingen University.
One army, led by Professor Korfmann, believes that the city was a sprawling, metropolitan and trading settlement, with a citadel and a royal palace. The other side argues that the archaeological discoveries at Hisarlik from 1300 to 1200BC reveal Troy to have been a trivial nest of pirates at the margin of civilisation.
The citadel mound was first identified as the historical Troy, the inspiration of Homers legendary, literary city, by Charles Maclaren in 1820. After soundings by Frank Calvert in 1863 and 1865, it was excavated by Heinrich Schliemann between 1870 and 1890.
Korfmann, like Schliemann and Sir Mortimer Wheeler, is no anonymous potsherd about his digging. He has been vastly successful at raising money. DaimlerChrysler sponsors him at about £300,000 a year. Two exhibitions are must-sees in Bonn: one on the Hittites, the other entitled Troy: Dream and Reality. The public are fascinated by Korfmanns computer-generated reconstructions of the topless towers of Ilium.
But Korfmanns research and claims have been disparaged by his colleague at Tübingen, the ancient historian Professor Frank Kolb, and Dieter Hertel, Professor of Classical Archaeology at Munich University.
Unforgivable accusations are being made. Korfmann is accused of exaggeration to the point of falsification and charlatanism. He has been compared (unfavourably) with the batty Erich von Daniken, who made a cult out of the lost city of Atlantis and little green men with wickerwork heads from outer space.
Accordingly, last weekend Tübingen University summoned a scientific symposium on the meaning of Troja in the late Bronze Age. Its goal was to debate the charges levelled by Professor Kolb against Professor Korfmann.
Professor Kolb was invited to retract his charges and apologise. But the proper academic atmosphere broke down, Professor David Hawkins, of the School of Oriental and African Studies, attended the conference as one of the British delegates. He holds the only chair of Ancient Anatolian languages in Britain and is an expert on the Hittites, who ruled prehistoric Asia Minor.
Professor Hawkins, shell-shocked on his return, says: The charges against Professor Korfmann are being made with a vehemence and a degree of personal vituperation that suggest that they are motivated by something other than an academic pursuit of truth.
The charges focus partly on Korfmanns excavations in pursuit of the lower city (the slums outside the citadel) and partly on his imaginative and populist computer-generated record of the area.
The witnesses for the prosecution, professors of prehistory, presented their case in measured terms. But the prosecuting counsel attacked the archaeology with intemperate language(Ahew), according to Professor Hawkins, well beyond the academically acceptable. While the final session was on air, fisticuffs broke out.
Over the past 15 years the geography of Ancient Anatolia has been emerging from the dust and ashes of prehistory.
In 1998 Professor Hawkins helped to to pin down the location of the city known as Troy when he published the key Hittite inscription that located the places that the Greeks named Sardis and Ephesus. His work meant that Wilusa, the other Western centre named in Hittite treaties, was almost certainly a major settlement in the Troad (the region around Troy). That work helped to identify what the Romans called Ilium and what the Turks call Hisarlik. That is what we (apart from Professor Kolb) call Troy.
The mound at Hisarlik was occupied from about 3000BC to AD1200. It has revealed well over 46 building phases, conventionally grouped into nine bands, sometimes misleadingly called cities. There is evidence of fire and destruction. Stones and mudbrick were continually recycled for each new phase.
The citadel at the top of the hill was sliced away in Hellenistic or Roman times to create a platform for the Temple of Athena. Reading the past here is harder than reading a manuscript palimpsest. The argument over the site of Troy is important to prehistory. But Achilles and Patroclus, Hector and Priam are too important and too human to be left to the archaeologists.
Bart, Marge, and Lisa will be pleased to hear this. Doh!
Here is a book review discussing this:
He has proposed to Korfmann that he do a ground penitrating radar mapping of the Troy site, mainly to prove or disprove his, Zanaggers, interpertation of satilite photos of the area, the area is much more complex than imagined. Korfmann labled him a nutcase, I have read alot of Zanaggers stuff and he is a very bright young man and primarily a geologist.
I can never remember is it 2 ns or 2gs, I am away from my files. Read the "Flood from Heaven".
I still have a request in for an 'inter-libray' loan on this book from the last time you suggested I read it. Hopefully they'll find a copy.
You mean to tell me there really was a cyclops?????
||And here I thought it was all about Homer & Jethro...|
My dad (bless his soul) loved Homer and Jethro. (Thanks for the memory)
A: Because her face launched a thousand ships. ( We use champagne these days).
there = their
||No, that photo is from the early sixties. H & J were wearing "Beatle wigs"...|