BMCR 1994.03.01

1994.03.01, Traill, Excavating Schliemann: Collected Papers on Schliemann

, Excavating Schliemann : collected papers on Schliemann. Illinois classical studies. Supplement ; 4. Atlanta (GA): Scholars Press, 1993. xiv, 278 pages, 20 pages of plates : illustrations ; 23 cm.. ISBN 9781555408916. $29.95.

“The excavations of Johann Heinrich Julius Schliemann rank among the most important in the history of archaeology” (p. 1). This opening sentence of the book sets the scene for this collection of selected papers dating from 1979 (Ch. 5: ‘Schliemann’s mendacity: fire and fever in California’) to 1992 (Ch. 16: ‘”Priam’s Treasure”: further problems’); one essay is to appear in Boreas (Ch. 20: ‘Schliemann’s Trips 1841-67 and a detailed record of his movements 1868-90) and another is merely “forthcoming” (Ch. 17: ‘Schliemann’s excavations at Mycenae through the eyes of Stamatakis’). Schliemann has clearly and unquestionably left his mark on the history of archaeology. The purpose of this collection of papers is to raise the important question of the continuing validity of statements and claims made by Schliemann.

The essays are in thematic rather than in chronological order of publication. This allows an argument to be developed and followed. The first two chapters are introductory. The first is the entry for Schliemann from Ward W. Briggs and William M. Calder III, Classical Scholarship: a Biographical Encyclopedia (New York 1990), and the second provides an overview of ‘The Schliemann Controversy’. Chapter 3 looks at Schliemann’s “Dream of Troy” which according to him (in Ilios) came as a result of a Christmas gift in 1829 of Jerrer’s Universal History. T. demonstrates effectively that the idea of excavating at Troy “first occurred to him in 1868, when he was forty-six” (p. 30). The reason for this may be to play down criticisms by Calvert (the owner of part of the site of Hissarlik) that Schliemann’s interest in Troy was new found; “it is to be seen as part of his long struggle to appropriate for himself all the glory for discovering the site of Troy” (p. 40).

The second section of the book looks at Schliemann in America. This begins with Schliemann’s apparently eye-witness account of the fire of San Francisco of 1851 (Ch. 4). Schliemann dates the fire to 4 June; but the fire to which he refers took place on the night of 3/4 May. Indeed Traill demonstrates that the detail of his account could have been derived from the Sacramento Daily Union which reported the fire in its issue of 6 May; Schliemann is known to have arrived in Sacramento on 1 June. His departure from California in 1852 which he attributes to “fever” is more likely to be linked to fraudulent dealing in gold. This inclination to use other sources to create incidents in his own life is further illustrated by the study of Schliemann’s visit to Yosemite Valley in 1865 (Ch. 5). Much of his account seems to be based on J.M. Hutchings, Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California (San Francisco 1862); indeed he does not even mention in his journal the fact that he stayed with Hutchings. Such failure to acknowledge his sources is reflected in his Ithaque, le Péloponnèse et Troie where he recalls an incident where he was attacked by four fierce dogs and saved himself by recalling Odysseus’ actions (p. 59); the incident is “clearly fictitious” as it comes straight out of Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Greece (London 1854). Schliemann on Dickens (Ch. 6) records a visit to a reading of A Christmas Carol in New York on 3 January 1868. Schliemann epitomised the work as “a composition of gosts [sic] and humbug” as Traill develops the link between Schliemann and Scrooge by noting that Schliemann’s bank in Sacramento was open every day including Sundays and Christmas Day; “it is easy to see why Schliemann might have had some sympathy for Scrooge’s reluctance to let Bob Cratchit have Christmas Day off” (p. 63). The events surrounding Schliemann’s American citizenship and divorce also reflect his fraudulent reporting (Ch. 7). He claimed (in Ilios) to have been in California when it became a state on 4 July 1850 (it was actually admitted to the Union on 9 September 1850) and that it was then that he became a citizen. In fact Schliemann did not arrive in California until March 1851, and his citizenship was only obtained in 1869. On the citizenship papers a Mr John Bolan swore that Schliemann had been resident “within the United States for the continued term of five years, at least, preceding the present time, and within the State of New York one year, at least, immediately preceding this application” (pp. 65-6); in fact Schliemann’s diary shows that he only arrived in New York two days before the hearing. T. points out, “of the preceding five years Schliemann had spent not more than ten weeks in the United States and none of the preceding year in New York State” (p. 66). T. is no doubt right to think “John Bolan was suitably recompensed for his perjury”. Similarly Schliemann arrived in Indianapolis on 1 April 1869—three days after receiving his citizenship—and on 5 April filed a petition for a divorce. Yet the law required that he be resident in Indiana for a year before filing for a divorce. Somehow the court believed he had fulfilled the requirements (p. 67); it may be linked to him acquiring a false affidavit at Fort Wayne which he visited between 2 and 5 June accompanied by his lawyer (p. 68). Indeed it seems that the translations from Russian of the letters from his wife—which were presented in the case—were deliberately misleading (p. 69).

It is clear therefore that Schliemann was quite prepared to lie and mislead even in legal cases; and that he was not averse to basing accounts of events on the works of others. The question must be “whether an individual with these proclivities in his private life is likely to have refrained from similar behaviour in his archaeological work” (p. 73). Attention is drawn to the way that Schliemann lied about the provenance of some inscriptions which he claimed to have found in the garden of his Athenian house (p. 74). It is clear that the dates of his visits to the Troad derived from his diary are not consistent with the published dates. From his diary we learn that Schliemann was at Bunarbashi for only one and a half days, yet the published account suggests that it was for four (p. 80). Although he claimed in a letter to The Guardian in 1875 he had long held the view that Troy was located at Hissarlik, the published accounts suggest that the survey of Bunarbashi and the inspection of Calvert’s dig showed him where Troy was to be found (pp. 80-1). As a result T. proposes, “Schliemann’s egotism and false claims have robbed Calvert of his proper place in the history of archaeology” (p. 89). Schliemann also went out of his way to play down Calvert’s achievements. Four trenches described as “Fouilles de Mr. Frank Calvert” appeared in Ilios, but his name does not appear in the English version of Troy and its Remains (pp. 90-1). In a third case-study T. draws attention to an anomaly in Shaft Grave I at Mycenae, namely two LH III B terracotta figurines (pp. 91-5). T. proposes that Schliemann found the figures elsewhere and planted them in the grave. This seems to be confirmed by the appearance of pottery in the contents of Grave I which he recorded in his diary as being found “in the acropolis” on 15 November (pp. 92-3).

Schliemann’s capacity to lie is clear in the account of the discovery and disposal of the Helios metope at Troy (Ch. 9). Calvert clearly thought the marble was worth £500, and after deducting the expense of shipment to London, his share would be £240; he asked for a mere £125 (p. 104). Schliemann replied: “I assure you on my honor of my firm belief that no man will ever offer you this”. He offered £40. However once Schliemann had the metope in Athens he claimed the price was 150,000 francs, with 25,000 to 30,000 francs as its market value; as Calvert pointed out to him, this latter estimate was 10 to 12 times the amount he had been paid. Schliemann later valued the metope (in 1873) at 100,000 francs (£4000) (p. 107).

A central part to T.’s work must be his analysis of the discovery of “Priam’s Treasure” (Chs. 10-13, 16). He notes major discrepancies between the first notes made in the field and the final report. They include: i) the role of Sophia; ii) the location of the findspot; iii) the gold sauceboat; iv) the jewellery; v) the date of the discovery. Moreover the report from Yannakis, described by Schliemann as “incomparably useful on account of his honesty” (p. 147), fails to note the gold items. He rejects Easton’s suggestion (“Schliemann’s mendacity—a false trail?”, Antiquity 58 [1984] 200) that Yannakis was no more than “a boastful foreman” by pointing out that on 23 December [1873] Schliemann wrote to Charles Newton at the British Museum and noted the “servant who struck the treasure and assisted me to get it off” (p. 173). T. reconstructs the day—31 May 1873—when he believes that the Treasure was discovered (Ch. 11). The need to remove finds possibly accumulated over a period of time along with the material found on 31 May in order to stop them being confiscated by the Turkish authorities seems quite plausible; and the event itself allowed the find to be augmented by choice pieces from earlier work. There is, after all, the advice from the American Chargé d’Affaires at Constantinople: “When you find any small objects put them in your pocket … You must not find any large amount of Gold and Silver in your diggings” (p. 149). The fact that the Treasure might be a composite hoard is supported by the missing thirty-six weapons (fifteen spearheads and twenty-one knives) from earlier finds which may be linked to the appearance of thirty-seven copper weapons in the Treasure (p. 151).

A more sinister side to Schliemann’s discoveries is hinted at in his plans to have duplicates made in Paris (Ch. 13). Fearing that the Turkish Government might try to reclaim the Treasure, he wrote to his agent in Paris on 28 June 1873: “so I beg you to tell me if there is a goldsmith’s in Paris in which one could placed absolute confidence … In the course of your enquiries please speak of objects found in Norway and in God’s name don’t mention the word ‘Troy'” (pp. 175-6). Although there is no evidence that duplicates were made, there was clearly a belief at the time—stated by Frank Calvert in a letter to The Guardian on 11 August 1875—that Athenian goldsmiths had made parts of the Treasure. Calvert himself “believe[d] that Dr. Schliemann did discover a number of gold and silver ornaments at Hissarlik” (p. 181). T. raises the uncomfortable question: “Is it not possible that the explanation for the extraordinary wealth of the shaft graves of Grave Circle A at Mycenae may be that they contain a fair number of forged duplicates and purchased items?” (p. 182).

T.’s work has not gone by without questioning. Responses to Easton and Bloedow are included (Chs. 14 and 15). Easton’s main thrust was that although Schliemann was clearly a liar and invented claims, he did not perceive his archaeological work to be flawed. He felt that too much emphasis had been placed on Schliemann’s mendacity. T. finds that there are eight broad areas where they are in agreement: 1) “Schliemann’s excavation notebooks are, for the most part, truthful and accurate records of the finds he made”; 2) “Like everyone else Schliemann made innocent mistakes”; 3) “In his non-archaeological activities and writings Schliemann was dishonest”; 4) “There is some evidence that Schliemann could tell lies in his archaeological writings”; 5) “Schliemann purchased objects and passed them off as finds from his own excavations”; 6) “In his published reports Schliemann at times represented as coming from a single find objects which had in fact been found in quite different places sometimes months apart”; 7) “A substantial find was probably made on 31 May 1873”; and 8) “Schliemann’s account of the discovery of ‘Priam’s Treasure’ is fraudulent” (pp. 183-4).

Bloedow (‘Schliemann on his accusers’, Tyche 1 [1986] 30-40; ‘Schliemann on his accusers II: a study in the re-use of sources’, AntClass 57 [1988] 5-30) h as refuted the charge that Schliemann falsified the account about the discovery of “Priam’s Treasure” and has rejected Traill’s thesis. T. draws attention to how Schliemann “did not hesitate to ask a distinguished academic [Max Müller] to write a public denial of what he (Schliemann) knew to be true” and how he “had no qualms about impugning the veracity and character of witnesses whom he knew to be true” (p. 194). T. argues—quite rightly I believe—that the “unscrupulous” (p. 194) image of Schliemann which has emerged from his own research means that scholars “have no choice … but to regard all inconsistencies with the utmost skepticism, especially in a context where we know him to be lying” (p. 194). T. implies that Bloedow has “stretch[ed] credulity in an effort to find an innocent explanation for these inconsistencies”, a method which is “both naive and unscholarly” (p. 194). These may be strong words, but I think that T. is methodologically correct to trust witnesses such as Yannakis (“whose credibility we have no reason to doubt”) rather than “the shifting testimony of a witness we know to be lying” (p. 195). He concludes the chapter with a forceful rejection of Bloedow’s methodology over suggestion’s that T.’s work was a “quagmire of ambiguity” (p. 198).

Sophia has been seen as “perhaps the first woman in history to combine successfully the task of raising a family with achieving international distinction for her contributions to classical studies” and so T. analyses her archaeological career (Ch. 19). Sophia’s place at Athens during the excavations at Troy of 1871 is contrasted with the Pooles’ ( One Passion, Two Loves [London 1967] 94) view of her showing the workmen “how the earth should be lifted up and thrown into a basket” (p. 236). In Troy and its Remains Schliemann claimed that both he and Sophia were “working on the excavations” at Troy in February 1873; yet Sophia did not arrive at the site until mid-April (p. 237). Her reported excavation of Pasha Tepe in late April, so soon after an attempted rape by one of the workmen which made her ill from shock, either shows her courage in going there with “workmen she scarcely knew or … Schliemann’s insensitivity in asking her” (p. 238). T. estimates that of the 110 weeks of excavations at Troy, Sophia was only present for eight, and “an active participant for less than six” (p. 238). Her reported excavation of the so-called Tomb of Clytemnestra at Mycenae seems unnoticed in Schliemann’s diary and preliminary reports; one of the few pieces of evidence comes from her confrontation with Stamatakis when he tried to intervene during the demolition of a wall (p. 239). Sophia returned to Athens where she tried to persuade the Greek authorities “to get our enemy replaced by a reasonable being” (p. 239). Schliemann praised her for her Greek reports of the excavations which seem to T. to be “simply Greek versions of Schliemann’s reports in English” (p. 240). A problem arises with her presence during the excavation of the Shaft Graves as she was ill in bed on 16 November (p. 241). Moreover she left Mycenae on 27 November at the start of work on Shaft Grave IV and before Grave V; in so doing, she missed some of the most important finds at Mycenae. This would not appear to be the action of a dedicated archaeologist. One of Sophia’s most important finds was the side chamber in the tholos at Orchomenos, an action noted by the Greek engineer, G. Ioannides, and totally overlooked by Schliemann himself (p. 242). T.’s conclusion after reading several hundred letters between Sophia and Schliemann is that she was “a devoted mother and wife” but “seems to have had a limited interest in archaeology” (p. 243).

The study of Sophia is well-balanced by the chapter on Stamatakis, the official representative of the Greek Archaeological Service at Mycenae (Ch. 17). It was he who devised the system of classification of finds at the site, as well as endeavoured to protect the ‘Lion Gate’ for posterity (pp. 206-7). It was he who was interested in later periods—including Roman—at Mycenae and tried to stop Schliemann removing features before they had been properly recorded. His reports provide another side of Schliemann. An example is provided by a dispute over the removal of a door-sill which Stamatakis has ordered not to be removed. “… Mr Schliemann instructed the workmen, contrary to my view, to remove the door-sill … Seeing from a distance that it was being carried off, I hurried up and reproached the workmen for removing it when it was forbidden to do so. Mr Schliemann, who happened to be there, began to insult me coarsely. Unable to control my temper, I replied with similar insults. Later his wife came up and began to insult me in front of the workers, saying that I was illiterate and fit only to conduct animals and not archaeological excavations” (p. 211). T. concludes with the tribute that Stamatakis is “one of the great Greek archaeologists of the nineteenth century” (p. 213).

Writers and excavators could learn from ‘Schliemann and his academic employees’ (Ch. 18). In particular much may be gleaned from the study of those who were employed to edit the books. Thus Philip Smith’s work as editor of Ilios went unacknowledged (as it did for Mycenae)—at Schliemann’s insistence (p. 222)—and thus he was able to review the book for Quarterly Review. In 1884 Schliemann wrote to Professor John Mahaffy of Trinity College, Dublin asking him to make a translation of Tiryns : “I would ask you whether it would suit you to make the English translation and help editing it without any mention being made of this service on the titlepage or in the text … Thus your only reward would be in pounds Stlg.” (p. 224). Mahaffy wrote to Schliemann in 1885 on completion of the book, “I shall take care to incur the reviewing of it in Academy or Athenaeum or both, in order that its superior merits may be at once be brought before the public” (p. 225). He did indeed write a review for the Academy which appeared in November and December 1885. In a similar way the Assyriologist A.H. Sayce was asked to assist with the editing of Ilios : “Your name must not appear on the title page as editor, but all observations you may suggest shall be put to your credit” (p. 226). After bad reviews, Schliemann wrote to Sayce: “Should all the reviews of Ilios have fallen into the hands of my libellers and should no periodical be left to you or Prof. Mahaffy to review the work, then pray, do me at least the justice to write an article to the Academy …” (p. 227). When Sayce was asked to write the preface for Troja in 1883, he replied: “If I write a Preface, I shall not be able to write a review of it in the Academy (where the articles are signed), and I do not know of any other person into whose hands it can safely be placed. Mahaffy will not be able to write the review for the same reason as myself, tho’ he will review the work for the Athenaeum (where the articles are unsigned)” (p. 229). Schliemann wanted Edward B. Tylor (who was appointed ‘Keeper of the University Museum’ at Oxford in 1883) to review the book in the Academy : “I wrote to him that on my return to Athens I shall but be too happy to send to his Museum a box full of Trojan antiquities, provided it could be done without the newspapers knowing anything about it”. The chapter concludes with a remarkable incident when Schliemann read a flattering review of his work in a French newspaper; he sent a check to the reviewer which was returned (p. 233). As T. notes: “The business of book-reviewing has always been an area of rather shady ethics” (p. 232).

T.’s work could be uncomfortable reading to those who admire Schliemann. The detailed study of his psychopathic tendencies could be seen by some as taking the research too far, but this reviewer found the point-by-point analysis a helpful framework in which to understand how Schliemann worked (Ch. 9). T. has rightly made us sceptical about Schliemann’s work. The task for archaeologists is to handle his material with more care. This reviewer (see also the comments, with C. Chippindale, in AJA 97.4 [1993] 601-59) believes strongly that archaeologists and indeed students of antiquity have failed to recognise the intellectual consequences of people such as Schliemann corrupting the archaeological record with false information and perhaps even forgeries. Thus how far do we need to reassess Schliemann’s ‘achievements’ and his finds? Should we reject all of his work? Part? None? Calder (in the Editor’s Foreword; p. xii) suggests that T.’s work has wider implications: “My hope is that they [sc. the collected papers] will inspire younger workers to follow him [sc. Traill] and younger archaeologists to view their predecessors’ work sceptically”. Thus we know that Winifred Lamb (a twentieth-century archaeologist of western Anatolia) could be fooled by clever forgeries, even in her area of expertise, ancient bronzes (see this reviewer and K. Butcher in AJA 97.3 [1993] 383-401). Sir Arthur Evans could be taken in by ‘Minoan’ works created by the very workmen he had trained to help reconstruct the Palace at Knossos. Although such errors of judgement do not affect the places of those scholars in the history of scholarship (although our perception of them might be altered), it does cause us younger scholars to have good reason to question their opinions, findings and results. There are those who do not wish archaeological boats to be rocked: but some will have to be if the subject is to move ahead.

T. certainly demolishes myths and perhaps shatters long and firmly held beliefs. One of my earliest archaeological books (purchased when I was aged twelve [the dated receipt from Foyles on Charing Cross Road, London is still inside]) was Glyn Daniel’s The Origins and Growth of Archaeology (Harmondsworth 1967). This work almost certainly introduced me to Schliemann’s writings. There I can read (quoted from Leo Duel), “Every profession has its hero, the man of genius whose struggles and accomplishment seem to personify the highest aspirations of his chosen field and who captures the imagination of the general public … In archaeology that unique hero has long been Heinrich Schliemann”. Within Daniel’s selected readings I was introduced to Schliemann’s writings: his childhood dreams, his identification of Hissarlik, Sophia’s admiration of Homer, and the discovery of Priam’s Treasure ably assisted by his own “dear wife”. I record my first remembered encounter with Schliemann’s writings here in this review for one reason: his words—among those of others—may have inspired me to develop my interest and study of archaeology, but I do not feel obliged to give up my profession because the excavator of Troy has been shown to be a pathological liar.

In a collection of previously published papers there is bound to be some repetition. The author is faced with the dilemma of reissuing previous work within one volume in order to allow scholars better access to his work, or of rewriting the essays into a coherent account. There are times when the book seems repetitive and sometimes one would have liked to have star ted with William M. Calder III’s essay, written for Sir Ronald Syme on his birthday, ‘Schliemann on Schliemann: a study in the use of sources’ ( GRBS 13 [1972] 335-53). The occasional changes have been made; notes about the removal of pages from the diary (p. 78) are corrected later in the text (p. 83, and not p. 85 as suggested).

As I complete this review “Priam’s Treasure” has re-emerged in Russia and Turkey has indicated that it will pursue its claim of ownership; Donald Easton is to make another statement in London. There is clearly going to be more to add to the ‘story’ (including Bloedow in BMCR 4.6 [1993] 439-46). Yet any who are involved cannot afford to be without this valuable study, complete with index, and a diary of Schliemann’s movements. This reviewer found it an absorbing and entertaining read and he would warmly recommend it to anybody, even if they are not involved with the archaeology of the Bronze Age.