Heinrich Schliemann

Schliemann, Heinrich (hĪnˈrĭkh shlēˈmän) [key], 1822–90, German archaeologist, discoverer of the ruins of Troy. He accumulated a fortune in the indigo trade and as a military contractor and retired from business in 1863 to dedicate himself to finding Troy and other Homeric sites. After several years of study and travel, in 1871 he undertook at his own expense excavations at Hissarlik that resulted in the discovery of four superimposed towns. Schliemann's research at Hissarlik represented the archaeological discovery of a Homeric civilization, previously considered by many experts to be legendary. Schliemann related every object he found to the verses of Homer, which he knew by heart. He made other notable excavations at Mycenae (1876–78), Ithaca (1878), Orchomenus, Boeotia (1881–82), and Tiryns (1884–85) and was assisted by Wilhelm Dörpfeld from 1882. His work in Greece demonstrated the existence of the previously unknown civilization of the Greek Bronze Age. Schliemann made two of the most spectacular discoveries in the history of archaeology, finding the "Treasure of Priam" at Hissarlik in 1873 (a trove that included two gold diadems, thousands of pieces of gold jewelry, bronze weapons, and silver and copper vessels) and an even larger treasure of gold, silver, and copper ornaments, masks, and swords at the Shaft Graves at Mycenae in 1876–77. The Treasure of Priam has always been controversial, as Schliemann's accounts of this discovery were inconsistent, and he smuggled the items out of Turkey. Schliemann's work, widely reported by the international press, captured the public imagination and dramatically revealed the great potential of archaeological research. Schliemann wrote several books describing his discoveries and an autobiography (published posthumously in 1892) and left a vast collection of personal papers and records, He acquired American citizenship because he was living in California when it became a state (1850).

See biographies by E. Ludwig (1931), R. Payne (1958), A. C. Brackman (1974), and D. A. Traill (1995); C. Schuchhardt, Schliemann's Excavations and Archaeological and Historical Studies (1977); S. H. Allen, Finding the Walls of Troy (1999).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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