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’.
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!
Schliemann was not just a successful businessman. He also knew a thing or two about marketing.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz