Skip to comments.Geologists investigate Trojan battlefield
Posted on 02/07/2003 9:52:05 PM PST by TigerLikesRooster
Friday, 7 February, 2003, 11:42 GMT
The subject of the story - the Greeks' 10-year siege of Troy and the wooden horse they used to bring it to an end - may have been a myth, but its geography was not.
It was right in front of Troy that we were drilling a hole and seashells came out
The researchers drilled sediments in northwest Turkey to map how the coastline would have looked around the city more than 2,000 years ago when Homer wrote his epic account of the war.
When they compared their findings with his descriptions of the Trojan plain, they found a match.
Speaking to BBC World Service programme Science In Action, John Luce from Trinity College Dublin, explained the study's significance.
"It has to be taken seriously that the Homeric picture of the fighting at Troy is in close accord with the geological findings," he said.
The whereabouts of Troy had long puzzled scholars. In ancient Greek times, Troy was said to be very close to the sea.
Then in the 1870s, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered what were believed to be the remains of an ancient city well inland from the coast of what is now Turkey.
CITY OF TROY
Ancient settlement on the Aegean coast, also called Ilium
Remains discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1870
Archaeological digs suggest a settlement on the site destroyed by fire 1200 BC
Homer's tale relates to a time when a large inlet of the Aegean Sea reached towards Troy.
Scientists now believe that, over the centuries, this inlet became silted up with the deposits from rivers, pushing the coastline back to its present-day position.
Classics expert Dr John Luce said: "At Schliemann's excavation, he took the site of the camp mentioned by Homer to be on the beach which one sees today, but in the course of 3,000 years the great rivers of [Scamander and Simois] have brought down enormous quantities of silt which have advanced the coastline by miles."
Since 1977, Dr Luce has been involved with an international group of researchers who have taken part in a systematic drilling programme in an attempt to document the landscape changes.
Dr John Kraft, from the University of Delaware in the US, carried out the geological investigations, together with Turkish colleagues, drilling out samples of sediment from well below the surface.
Poet was believed to have lived in the 8th Century BC
Scholars suspect his works were authored by many individuals
The Iliad is set in the final year of the Trojan War
"We drilled for 70 metres below the flood-plain surface and we found 70 metres of marine material," he explained.
Further drilling south on the plain revealed what the researchers believe to have been a major marine area, leading them to conclude that the sea had been pushed back to its present location by a build up of silt deposits in the delta.
"It was right in front of Troy that we were drilling a hole and seashells came out," Dr Kraft enthused.
Back in Dublin, Dr Luce compared Schliemann's original claims with the researchers' findings and tested Homer's phrases in the Iliad.
Axis of attack
Homer wrote of the Greek ships that sailed to the coastal town of Troy, starting a war that would rage for 10 years. But when Dr Luce tried to apply the account of the battle with Schliemann's notion of Troy, he saw "that great difficulties had been raised".
"One of the problems was that you wouldn't cross from Troy," he explained. "But Homer repeatedly refers to the action as swinging backwards and forwards, crossing the river in the process."
Reinterpreting the written material led Dr Luce to "swing the axis of fighting round to a different viewpoint west of Troy".
In so doing, Dr Luce and colleagues have shown that Schliemann's location for Troy does agree with Homer's accounts of the battle.
This research is described in the journal Geology.
One of the major objections made at the time to his location of Troy at Hissarlik was its distance from the coast. This takes care of that objection quite neatly.
My daughter's class just read the Iliad (in Fagles' new - at least to me, I learned on Lattimore - translation) and I was the guest lecturer on antiquities, complete with show and tell (alas, all reproductions albeit official Greek ones!) The kids got a blast out of trying on the "Mask of Agamemnon," even though it wasn't him after all, it was probably one of his relatives. They were amazingly tolerant of the whole thing (maybe it was the baklava I brought . . . ??? )
No, I think we are their cultural and spiritual heirs but probably not in blood to any great extent, other than the common Indo-European ancestry all Westerners share. The Roman Empire stands between us and them, so that there probably was some inevitable mixing around of families that occurred as a result of the extent of the Pax Romana -- and the resulting import and export of Greek slaves here, there and everywhere. The Romans knew their cultural superiors when they saw 'em!
The Celts were already pretty much in place and making characteristic artifacts while the Myceneans were just getting started with their citadels . . . and of course that LONG predates Homer as well as the Greeks Homer was singing about.
There's a typo in the first inset box... John Kraft, not Chris Kraft... someone's daydreaming about a nice fishing boat!
It would not be surprising.
There's a typo in the first inset box... John Kraft, not Chris Kraft... someone's daydreaming about a nice fishing boat!"
The Euphrates did the same thing. Ur was once a seaside town, it is many miles inland now. Also, Chris Kraft was the director of NASA at one time.
The article on Troy is fascinating. If Homer did such a good job describing the geography I wonder why the author feels it was necessary to ascribe the wooden horse to myth.
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Did they by chance find the fossilized snakes that killed Laocoon and his sons?
(couldn't help it ... my tag line has been the same forever..)
No, but the did find 4000 empty small square tinfoil packages.
Bush's fault. Women and children most severely impacted. Little Tommy Daschle "gravely concerned." Michelle Sheehan plans protest outside Crawford ranch. "I didn't raise my son to silt over beach front property for Haliburton." SecState Rice says, "No comment."
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers dredging area to restore historic battle plain. Dems plan tax hike to pay for dredging operation.
Arabs blast plans to allow infidels to dredge their fourth holiest site in all the world... vow to continue resistance.
I don't know if the location was that strange. Consider that the Greek galleys would be beached & vulnerable to counterattack. By siezing a defensible peninsula you protect you ships & supply lines back to Hellas.
Britain & France did much the same thing at Normandy.
I often wondered if the remaining Trojans might have been the origin of the Phillistines or sea people who simply fled down the coast as refugees.
Hey, they founded Rome! Just ask Publius
Vergilius Maro!< g >
I always thought that the Phillistines were the same as the Phoenecians. I don't know if that is an established link, or just the Theory-of-the-Day.
Maybe we can capture and hac the hackers for unleashing their Trojan worms, viruses, and spams as well!!!
BTW Schliemann was a business man who made his fortune as an arms dealer during the Crimean war. Being classically trained he had read the Illiad and Odessey as a youngster. With his fortune made, he gave the business to his son and went off to Asia Minor to look for Troy. With the Illiad as his only source document he searched the NW plains of Turkey and found the Hill of Hisarlik. It contained Byzantine ruins on its crest. Having read of the archelogical techniques of the first modern archeologist, one Thomas Jefferson, he dug trenches through the Hisarlik hill and found 11 layers of cities reaching back to the Stone Age. His guess was the 7th city from the top was "Troy". Ther was much ash to suggest that this was the Troy of the Illiad which had been sacked. Many have argued this finding saying that the 8th layer not 7 is Homeric Troy, and the beat goes on.
When he first arrived in Turkey he spoke with farmers and asked if any artifacts had ever been unearthed during plowing season. Artifacts were show which suggested the Battle Field! One farmer brought him to a small Greek burial temple where the podium at the base of some columns had the greek inscription, ACHILLES! He knew he was in the right area!
You are correct about the Phonecians being considered the direct forefathers of the Phillistines. There are numerous references in ancient writings of 'the sea people.' along the eastern mediterranean shores.
I've always wondered if the wandering Phillistine/Phonecians might have migrated from further north--but I'm sure that this has been investigated through the archeological evidence of pot sherds and other artifacts. I bet sunkenciv knows and will give us the straight dope.
The Phoenicians were Semitic, and the Philistines were something else again. Hurrian names are found in the textual references to the Philistines (who AFAIK left no archives that have been found).
The Persian Wars took place between 490 (Battle of Marathon) - 449 B.C. (Peace at Callias) hardly the 800 years you refer to.
And the Persian Wars (invasions of the West) are not myths.
Eberhard Zannger, a Geoarchaeologist has some interesting ideas on the subject, I corrisponded with him until my Ex threw my files away.
The story of the philosopher Xenophon is interesting in respect to Alexander's later conquests. Philosophers in those days didn't just sit and think.
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Personally, I believe the essence of the Epic Stories about Troy. All the characters may not have been real, but the basic tale probably was and some at least, of the characters were.
There are also those mysterious references in the Hittite Archives of about the same period about a king whose name sounds a like "Alexander" a city which sounds alot like "Illion", and an invading people attacking the northwestern part of the Hittite allied states, which would put them near the area of Troy. Those people are referred to in the Hittite archives under a name that sounds suspiciously like "Achaeians".
I think Xenophon went on the expedition as a reporter but when the Greek generals were murdered at a truce, he was elected one of the chief generals along with a Spartan.
One of the better adventure tales of all time and a prelude to Alexander's conquests imo.
You are right that the guy who wore it was likely a relative of Agamemnon.
Yes, it is quite a story. He was very young and not a soldier, yet led 10,000 through very dangerous land under the nose of the enemy to safety when they had pretty much given themselves up as lost.
The unidentified fellow in shaft grave V was about 300 years too early to be Agamemnon, but there's no sign of the fortress changing hands, so they probably were related.
And he wrote the oldest surviving work on horsemanship! Good guy!
Geologists investigate Trojan battlefield - condoms everywhere!
That's right. How to avoid getting a bad deal on a horse. That's the kind of philosophy we like. Do all horse owners read Xenophon?
BTW, most of his advice is still extremely current! We're still doing it his way, by and large (but I like the innovation of stirrups very much).
Interesting, thanks for the post.
I am sure this will be spun as more Global Warming.
Most, maybe all, of the old Cinque Ports in England are miles from the sea now, for the same reason. And they began to silt up in the 14th century, so aerosol cans and automobiles were NOT implicated. (Bet some eco-nut will blame it on sea-coal fires, though.)
I will never forget him correcting me in class. I described Alcibiades as not having a lot of "character". Dr. Agnew said "Oh no, he had lots of character, just perhaps not good character."
I belonged to the Geography club and we invited him to a meeting. He showed a slide show of kodachromes he had taken all over Greece, the Greek Islands, Asia Minor, and Crete.
He was a good photographer and the slides were fascinating as was his talk. He showed one of the throne of King Minos at Knossos. He mentioned that so many tourists had a seat on it that it was wearing.
Someone asked if he sat on it. He said "I am ashamed to say I did".