From the #HistoryOfUs series: Heinrich Schliemann  – Indiana Jones From The German Province

1876, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

If anybody knew how to make a lot out of very little it was Heinrich Schliemann. The poor pastor's son became a millionaire! He traded in Russia, founded a bank for gold seekers in California and finally, at the age of 46, he was with just one thing – to find Troy, the legendary city described by Homer in the ‘Iliad’.

Silver vessels from the "Treasure of Priam", Unknown, c. 2500 BCE, From the collection of: Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
To find Troy ...
To find Troy, Schliemann studied Homer’s epics, located the forgotten city on the west coast of Anatolia and started excavating Hisarlik hill near the Dardanelles. It was not long before he started finding goblets, vases and spearheads, gold and silver.
Halskette (Nachbildung) aus dem sog. "Schatz des Priamos", 2nd half of the 3rd millennium BC, From the collection of: Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

One handled vessel was full of magnificent jewellery – fine chains, diadems, drop earrings and bracelets. With more than ten thousand pieces being excavated of one thing Schliemann was sure – this had to be the Priam’s Treasure! Troy really existed, and he had found it!

Ear drops (replica) from the so-called "Treasure of Priam", 2nd half of the 3rd millennium BC, From the collection of: Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Schliemann was not just a successful businessman. He also knew a thing or two about marketing.

Diadem out of the Treasure Find of Troy (reproduction, so-called Large Diadem part of the "Treasure of Priam"), Unknown, 2600 - 1800 BC (Bronze Age), From the collection of: Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

He dressed his wife in the jewellery, took a photo, and wrote beneath it, “The jewels of Helen“ (the most beautiful woman in the ancient world and the face that set off the Trojan War). A full success: Foto and finds caused a sensation!

Schliemann. Heinrich Mycaenae & Troy., From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

In 1881 Schliemann presented the treasure to “The German People for eternal possession and inseparable safekeeping in the Imperial Capital”. It was the main attraction of the Prehistory section of the Royal Ethnology Museum.

Neues Museum Berlin - Schliemannfunde, From the collection of: Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
And yet Schliemann got it wrong.
Shortly before he died he had to accept that the layer he had been digging in was more than a thousand years older than Troy. The jewels did not belong to Helen, nor the treasure to Priam. And Troy continued to be a mystery.
Room "Schliemann's Troy", Neues Museum, Museum Island Berlin, Friedrich August Stüler / David Chipperfield a.o., 1843/2009, From the collection of: Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

But that did not lessen the value of the finds. On the contrary: In the Second World War, parts of the treasure were carted off as “looted art” to the Soviet Union. In the Neue Museum, replicas are on display to this day. The possible return of the treasure to Germany is still a hot political issue. And now Turkey is claiming the finds as well.

Credits: Story

#HistoryOfUs series

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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