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Part of Priam's treasure.

Priam’s Treasure is a cache of gold and other artifacts discovered by classical archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann claimed the site to be that of ancient Troy, and assigned the artifacts to the Homeric king Priam. This assignment is now thought to be a result of Schliemann's zeal to find sites and objects mentioned in the Homeric epics. At the time the stratigraphy at Troy had not been solidified, which was done subsequently by the archaeologist Carl Blegen. The layer in which Priam's Treasure was alleged to have been found was assigned to Troy II, whereas Priam would have been king of Troy VI or VIIa, occupied hundreds of years later.



With the rise of modern critical history, Troy and the Trojan War were consigned to the realms of legend. In the 1870s (in two campaigns, 1871-73 and 1878-79) Schliemann excavated a hill called Hissarlik in the Ottoman Empire, near the town of Chanak (Çanakkale) in north-western Anatolia. Here he discovered the ruins of a series of ancient cities, dating from the Bronze Age to the Roman period. Schliemann declared one of these cities—at first Troy I, later Troy II—to be the city of Troy, and this identification was widely accepted at that time.

Concerning events on or about May 27, 1873 Schliemann reported:

In excavating this wall further and directly by the side of the palace of King Priam, I came upon a large copper article of the most remarkable form, which attracted my attention all the more as I thought I saw gold behind it. … In order to withdraw the treasure from the greed of my workmen, and to save it for archaeology, … I immediately had “paidos” (lunch break) called. … While the men were eating and resting, I cut out the Treasure with a large knife…. It would, however, have been impossible for me to have removed the Treasure without the help of my dear wife, who stood by me ready to pack the things which I cut out in her shawl and to carry them away.

The treasure

A partial catalogue of the treasure is approximately as follows:

  • A copper shield
  • a copper cauldron with handles
  • an unknown copper artifact, perhaps the hasp of a chest
  • a silver vase containing two gold diadems (the “Jewels of Helen”), 8750 gold rings, buttons and other small objects, six gold bracelets, two gold goblets
  • a copper vase
  • a wrought gold bottle
  • two gold cups, one wrought, one cast
  • a number of red terra cotta goblets
  • an electrum cup (mixture of gold and silver)
  • six wrought silver knife blades (which Schliemann put forward as money)
  • three silver vases with fused copper parts
  • more silver goblets and vases
  • thirteen copper lance heads
  • fourteen copper axes
  • seven copper daggers
  • other copper artifacts with the key to a chest

The treasure as an art collection

Apparently, Schliemann smuggled Priam's Treasure out of Anatolia. The Ottoman official assigned to watch the excavation, Amin Effendi, received a prison sentence. The Ottoman government revoked Schliemann's permission to dig and sued him for its share of the gold. Schliemann went on to Mycenae. There, however, the Greek Archaeological Society sent an agent to monitor him.

Later Schliemann traded some treasure to the government of the Ottoman Empire in exchange for permission to dig at Troy again. It is located in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. The rest was acquired in 1880 by the Imperial Museum of Berlin[citation needed] (it was on display for a time at the Pergamon Museum), in whose hands it remained until 1945, when it disappeared from a protective bunker beneath the Berlin Zoo.

In fact, the treasure had been removed to the Soviet Union by the Red Army. During the Cold War, the government of the Soviet Union denied any knowledge of the fate of Priam’s Treasure. However, in September 1993 the treasure turned up at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.[1][2] The return of items taken from museums has been arranged in a treaty with Germany but, as of January 2010, is being blocked by museum directors in Russia. They are keeping the looted art, they say, as compensation for the destruction of Russian cities and looting of Russian museums by Nazi Germany in World War II.

Authenticity of the treasure

There have always been doubts about the authenticity of the treasure. Within the last few decades these doubts have found fuller expression in articles and books.[3]


  1. ^ Tolstikov, 2007
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Wood, 1987; Silberman, 1989; Traill, 1997.


  • Silberman, Neil Asher (1989). Between Past and Present: Archaeology, Ideology and Nationalism in the Modern Middle East, Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-41610-5.
  • Smith, Philip, editor (1976). Heinrich Schliemann: Troy and Its Remains: A Narrative of Researches and Discoveries Made on the Site of Ilium, and in the Trojan Plain, Arno Press, New York, 1976, ISBN 0-405-09855-3.
  • Tolstikov, Vladimir; Treister, Mikhail (1996). The Gold of Troy. Searching for Homer's Fabled City. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0810933942.  A catalog of artifacts from Schliemann's excavations at Troy, with photographs.
  • Traill, David (1997). Schliemann of Troy: Treasure and Deceit, St. Martin's Press, 1997, ISBN 0-312-15647-2
  • Wood, Michael (1987). In Search of the Trojan War, New American Library, ISBN 0-452-25960-6.

External links



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