L.I. Avilova

Trojan gold

…if hereafter the gods vouchsafe him to sack the city of Priam,
you can come when we Achaeans are dividing the spoil,
and load your ship with gold and bronze to your liking.
Homer. The Iliad. Translation by Samuel Butler.

The position occupied by Troy in the context of ancient history of Anatolia and South-Eastern Europe needs no explanations. Heinrich Schliemann was the first to investigate this site archaeologically over 130 years ago, since 1870 (Schliemann, 1881), and it has been one of the most important monuments in Western Asia and the Balkans ever since, despite Schliemann s erroneous ideas on the chronology of the antiquities he had discovered. The epoch of the Trojan War berhymed in Homer s Iliad corresponds to stratum VII of the site and dates to the Early Iron Age, whilst the most impressive cultural deposits were formed in the Bronze Age, this period comprising five lower strata of the ancient city (Blegen et al., 1950; 1951; 1953). Chronological sequence of Troy represents the ground for dating numerous archaeological cultures and sites, both adjacent and distant ones; it is permanently adjusted and improved using traditional and modern methods, including radiocarbon dating (Korfmann, Kromer, 1993).

Of special interest is the theme of Trojan metal finds, among them those made of precious metals originating from numerous hoards, or treasures, that also were erroneously dated back to the epoch of Homer by Schliemann. Recently the problems related to the Trojan collections has become the subject of wide discussion in Russia, in particular, the interest was induced by the exhibition shown in 1996 in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the conference Troy and her treasures held in the same year (Сокровища Трои из раскопок Генриха Шлимана, 1996).

I have participated in the long-term project of the Laboratory of natural sciences, the Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences, concerning the problems of the Circumpontic metallurgical province, and it was quite logical that my attention turned to the metal finds from Troy. During last 15 years my activity was aimed at compiling and extending computer database (DB) for ancient metal artefacts, detailed information on those from Troy being recorded. The results were published (Авилова, Черных, 1989; Černyh et al., 1991), but the Trojan material was included into the general DB for Asia Minor and was not presented as the subject of special publication. The present work seems of some interest to improve this situation, the more so that the detailed catalogue of the mentioned exhibition contains also the data on the collections from Troy preserved in the museums of Philadelphia and Athens. This has permitted to verify quantitative and morphological characteristics of the Trojan DB published in the present paper, which also suggests the comprehensive evaluation (to the extent now possible) of the collection of non-ferrous and precious metals from Troy considered the against background of culturally related sites of Anatolia.

I should briefly dwell upon the computer DB structure. All the materials are divided into classes in accordance with their function, and classes comprise sets of categories. Class 1 includes tools and weapons, such as shaft-hole axes, flat axes, chisels, spearheads, knives/daggers, awls, sickles, and so forth. Class 2: personal ornaments and costume details (beads, pins, pendants, earrings, buckles, and the like). Class 3: protective armour (helmets, plait armour details). Class 4: horse harness (cheek-pieces, rein-rings). Class 5: metal vessels. Class 6: objects of religious purpose and markers of high social status (figurines, seals, musical instruments details, wands, and so forth). Class 7: non-finished goods (ingots, blanks). Class 8: negatives on casting moulds, both stone and clay ones. Class 0: artefacts of unclear function, fragments. Principally, one artefact corresponds to one DB record containing its characteristic. Nevertheless, sometimes it was impossible to keep this principle, since there are a number of objects that cannot be counted absolutely accurately. Mostly these are small personal ornaments seriously damaged (oxidised or burnt), like necklaces of many tiny beads, or sets of earrings. Such cases are not numerous, nevertheless they were taken into account, and the way out was to evaluate the number of objects approximately at least to shape an idea of whether there were tens or hundreds of the finds of this kind. In fact, the above approach contains an element of uncertainty, but it cannot play any decisive role for the vast collection in question, so the basic figures seem to be quite reliable.

Each DB record includes around 50 fields that describe the artefact proper (category, type, shape, construction); cultural and chronological attribution of the find (archaeological association, stratigraphic and cultural context, relative chronology); references to the site, excavations, publications; material used (metal, or alloy formula if the artefact was spectrally analysed and 10 chemical elements content established). The DB was processed using special statistical programs worked out in the Laboratory of natural sciences, the Institute of Archaeology. The results are shown in the published tables.

The presented material was distributed according to two basic chronological the Early and the Middle Bronze Ages. The EBA corresponds to level I of Troy, and the MBA to layers II-V. The periods of the Late Bronze Age (Troy VI) and the Early Iron Age (Troy VII) are not considered in this work. The database includes 32381 finds from Troy, all the artefacts but 4 stone shaft-hole axes attested to treasure L were made of copper and copper-based alloys, silver, gold, and lead. Striking disparity of the total amount of finds as considered within the chronological periods is observed: only 10 of them are dated to the EBA, and 32371 to the MBA. The contrast is even more staggering if the metals represented in the both collections is taken into account. The EBA artefacts are made of copper/bronze, one lead item being registered, while the MBA collection comprises mass finds manufactured of precious metals (gold and silver), the former making the overwhelming majority of practically 99% (Table 1).

Table 1
Troy. Chronological distribution of finds.
Material EBA MBA %%
Copper/bronze 9 320 1
Gold   31945 98,7
Silver   101 0,3
Lead 1 1  
Stone   4  
Total 10 32371 100

Considerable difference is also observed in representativeness of the functional classes of finds, class 1 of tools/weapons and class 2 of personal ornaments being the basic statistical indicators. Again the picture of sharp contrast in their distribution arises: in the EBA selection, though strongly limited, only the mentioned classes are present in equal parts, whilst in the next period the repertoire of functionally different classes is far more extensive. Besides tools/weapons and personal ornaments there appear metal vessels, objects of religious purpose and social markers, as well as half-finished items (the silver ingots of standard shape and weight, golden wire with regularly cut up marks on it to produce small ornaments). These observations evidence not only sharp quantitative growth of production, but also impressive diversity of the repertoire of metal artefacts (Table 2).

Table 2
Troy. Chronological distribution of functional classes of finds.
Functional classes of finds EBA MBA %%
1 - tools/weapons 5 121 0,4
2 - ornaments 5 32126 99,2
5 - vessels   19  
6 - finds of religious purpose   93 0,3
7 - half-finished items   12  
Total   32371 100

Personal ornaments are enormously abundant, they dominate over the remainder making over 99% of the selection. A question may arise, whether it is correct to interpret all the multiple minor finds, such as beads, pendants making up necklaces and diadems, and so forth to be registered as a separate artefact each. I consider them to be such, since each tiny bead was produced individually: cast or forged, then processed by a professional craftsman with certain labour expenditure. The value of the raw material also should be taken into account. Gold and silver were highly valued in prehistoric times, price ratio of gold to copper in ancient Babylonia was approximately 1 to 1000, and that of silver to copper was determined around 1 to 180 (Янковская, 1986). That is why beads and pendants were counted accurate to one, to the extent possible.

The cultural deposits dated back to the discussed epoch of the MBA had yielded a number of individual finds and 14 associations of artefacts traditionally termed as treasures (on the reliability of this attribution see below). I should give a brief account for the composition of the complexes.

Treasure A (Priam s treasure). 27259 finds (27210 Au, 7 Ag, 42 bronze). 10 knives, 15 flat axes, 3 chisels, 8 spearheads, 1 saw of bronze; 13 vessels (5 bronze, 4 Au, 4 Ag); 8130 Au beads; 16 Au pendants; 44 Au conical plates; great Au diadem (includes 16441 details: 12271 rings, 4066 scale-plates, 90 chains, 14 pendant idols); minor Au diadem (includes 2211 details: 1750 rings, 354 scale-plates, 64 chains, 1 ribbon, 42 pendant idols); 2 Au basket-shaped earrings (totally include 158 details: 11 chains, 118 scale-plates, 18 tubes, 11 pendant idols); 2 Au basket-shaped earrings (totally include 145 details: 11 chains, 107 scale-plates, 16 tubes, 11 pendant idols); 51 Au lunate earrings; 3 Au bracelets; 3 Au torques (bracelets?); 4 Au tacks; 3 Ag ingots.

Treasure В. 3 finds. 3 vessels (1 bronze, 2 Ag).

Treasure С. 1 find. 1 bronze flat axe.

Treasure D. 832 finds of Au. 1 pin, 5 lunate earrings, 2 granulated earrings, 1quadruple spiral bead, 373 big hollow beads, ~450 loop-like pendants.

Treasure F. 12 finds of Au. 1 bracelet, 1 pin, 2 basket-shaped earrings, 2 ring-shaped earrings, 1 bar-ingot with openings, 5 bar-ingots cut up with marks.

Treasure H a. 62 finds of Au. 9 pendant idols, 5 chains, 48 scale-plates.

Treasure J. 171 finds. 169 finds of Au. 5 lunate pendants, 5 lunate earrings, 1 basket-shaped earring, 5 chains, 85 scale-plates, 5 pendant idols, 1quadruple spiral bead, 61 rings, 1 bracelet (torque?). 2 shapeless ornaments of Ag.

Treasure К. 5 bronze finds. 3 flat axes, 1 anthropomorphic figurine, 1 open-work ornament of uncertain function.

Treasure L. 104 finds. 4 ceremonial shaft-hole axes of stone, ~50 Au ornaments (conglomerate of small-size artefacts), ~50 Ag ornaments (conglomerate of small-size artefacts).

Treasure N. 39 finds. 37 finds of Ag. 1 bracelet, 2 torques, 1 ring-shaped earring, 12 earrings in conglomerate, 20 small beads in conglomerate. 2 finds of Au 1 lunate earring, 1 crescentic earring.

Treasure О. 2 finds of Au. 1 pin surmounted with tiny vessels, 1 bispiral pin decorated with rosette.

Treasure R. 8 finds. 6 finds of Au. 1 pin, 1lunate earring, 1 quadruple spiral bead, 3 spirally coiled wires. 2 bronze pins.

Treasure in room 206. 151 Au beads.

Treasure in room 252. 1284 finds of Au. 2 pins, 1 ring-shaped earring, the remainder beads.

Two more treasures originate from layer VI attested to the period of the Late Bronze Age and are not considered in the paper. These are treasure Н b (large golden plate decorated with rosette), and treasure P (5 bronze artefacts 1 double-axe, 1 flat axe, 3 sickles).

The most of the associations in question were discovered in the course of Schliemann s excavations, their archaeological context is not quite clear, which is logical having in mind the level of field investigations of the epoch. Controversial information given by Schliemann in his field records and publications had resulted in accusation him of forgery; he was suspected of having put together the artefacts found in many findspots at Troy (or even purchased from the art dealers) to form a sensational artificial association with the aim to cause a big stir in the scientific circles. This concerned at least the most startling treasure A (called by Schliemann Priam s treasure). The debates have lasted till recently (Traill, 1983). However, the position of those who do not back up these accusations (Easton, 1984) seems to be more grounded, the more so that the posterior excavations have also recovered treasures comprising precious ornaments in rooms 206 and 252 of layer II g (Blegen et al., 1950). Two reliable treasures of precious artefacts were discovered in the settlement Eskiyapar in Central Anatolia dated from the same period of Troy II-III (Özgüc, Temizer, 1993).

The identification of the rich associations from Schliemann s excavations as treasures proper raises much more doubts, most probably, the scholar had not realised that they were rather the burials of elite, a royal cemetery similar to those investigated at Alacahöyük (Koşay, 1951) and Horoztepe (Özgüc, 1965). In fact, the Bronze Age necropolis did exist at the site of Troy: the burial in stone cist, though not furnished with grave goods was accounted for by K. Blegen s excavations (Blegen et al., 1950. P.255).

Let me suggest a brief survey of the Anatolian sites comparable with Troy of the MBA epoch.

Eskiyapar treasures A and B. 1765 finds, 1531 Au, 234 Ag. They represent personal ornaments (99,5%), 7 vessels, and ceremonial electrum shaft-hole axe.

Alacahöyük royal tombs. I have succeeded in reliable recording 853 finds (330 ones of bronze, 1 of iron, 491 Au, 31 Ag). They comprise personal ornaments (74%), the items of religious function and markers of high social status (13,6%), tools/weapons, and vessels.

Horoztepe (the remains of pillaged royal cemetery). 110 finds were recorded (96 ones of bronze, 6 Au, 8 Ag). Their repertoire is not quite the same as that displayed by Trojan complexes, the picture has been distorted due to the finds' provenance from the illegal diggings. Personal ornaments' share is very small (7%), the items of religious purpose prevail (38%), classes of tools/weapons and vessels are also numerous (33% and 21% respectively).

The above comparisons permit to state that the amazingly rich associations from Schliemann s excavations in Troy did not constituted absolutely isolated phenomena in the Middle Bronze Age Anatolia. To show this I point out some statistical characteristics of the Trojan collection of metal artefacts against the background of Anatolia as a whole. Of 22 processed sites with the EBA deposits the collection of 373 finds originate, including trifling number of 10 items from Troy I, which makes 2,7% of the total. As for the MBA collection, cardinal shift is observed: 54 sites with the corresponding deposits have produced 36586 finds, and 32371 or 88,5% of them were found in Troy. The rest of 4215 originate from 53 other sites (Table 3).

Table 3
Distribution of the MBA finds according to the material used.
Material Anatolia as a whole Troy %%
Copper/bronze 2125 320 15
Gold 33997 31945 94
Silver 396 101 29
Lead 33 1  
Iron 1    
Stone/clay 34 4  

Thus we can clearly see that in the EBA Troy was an ordinary, moreover, a very modest settlement, and Anatolia was far from being abundant in any metal artefacts, it was surpassed by Mesopotamia and the Levant (the corresponding databases include 580 and 700 finds respectively). But the MBA epoch in Anatolia is marked by considerable progress in metal producing and metalworking; the region had shot ahead and occupied practically the same positions as Mesopotamia, its social development having reached the stage of early state. The MBA Anatolia displays all the indications typical of this pattern of civilisation: urban settlements, architecture of palace type, temple structures, cemeteries of social elite. The impressive collections of metal artefacts, including treasures of gold and silver finds should be viewed as the evidences of this breakthrough. The present work is also aimed at making more clear the position occupied in the early society by jeweller s craft: it was its production that served for visible personification and vivid manifestation of the basic ideas of advanced social position, power, and related material wealth, and their ideological substantiation.


Авилова Л.И., Черных Е.Н., 1989. Малая Азия в системе металлургических провинций // Естественнонаучные методы в археологии. М.

Сокровища Трои из раскопок Генриха Шлимана. ГМИИ им. А.С.Пушкина - Леонардо Арте. М., 1996.

Янковская Н.Б., 1986. К проблеме оптовой торговли Каниша // ВДИ. № 2.

Blegen C.W., Caskey J.L., Rawson M., Sperling J. 1950. Troy. Vol. I. The first and second settlements. Princeton.

Blegen C.W., Caskey J.L., Rawson M., 1951. Troy. Vol. II. The third, fourth and fifth settlements. Princeton.

Blegen C.W., Caskey J.L., Rawson M., 1953. Troy. Vol. III. The sixth settlement. Princeton.

Cernyh E.N., Avilova L.I., Barceva T.B., Orlovskaja L.B., Tenejsvili T.O., 1991. The Circumpontic metallurgical province as a system // East and West. Vol. 41.

Easton D.F., 1984. "Priam's treasure" // Anatolian Studies. V. 34.

Korfmann M., Kromer B. Demircihoyuk, Besiktepe, Troia - eine Zwischenbilanz zur Chronologie dreier Orte in Westanatolien // Studia Troica. Bd. 3. Mainz am Rhein.

Koşay H.Z., 1951. Alaca Höyük kazisi 1937-1939. Les fouilles d Alaca Höyük. Ankara.

Özgüc Т., 1965. New finds from Horoztepe // Anatolia. V. 8.

Özgüc T., Temizer R., 1993. The Eskiyapar treasure // Aspects of art and iconography: Anatolia and its neighbours. Studies in honour of Nimet Özgüc. Ankara.

Schliemann H., 1881. Ilios: The city and country of the Trojans. London.

Traill D.A., 1983. Schliemann's "discovery" of "Priam's treasure" // Antiquity. V. 57.