Traill (Classics/Univ. of Calif., Davis) is no hagiographer as he builds a persuasive case that Heinrich Schliemann, the...


SCHLIEMANN OF TROY: Treasure and Deceit

Traill (Classics/Univ. of Calif., Davis) is no hagiographer as he builds a persuasive case that Heinrich Schliemann, the revered 19th-century German who excavated Troy in one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time, was a fraud in both his personal and his professional life, including in the record he left of his achievement. Traill concedes Schliemann's great abilities, particularly his genius for achieving fluency in foreign languages (Schliemann ultimately mastered 15 modern languages as well as Latin and ancient Greek). Schliemann was also an astute businessman who earned a fortune and retirement by his 40s. Moreover, Traill acknowledges that Schliemann was motivated by a genuine love of knowledge and that his accomplishments will remain landmarks of archaeological history. But Traill also points out Schliemann's startling penchant for fraud in things great and small. His voluminous diaries and correspondence are replete with internal inconsistencies, unlikely events, accounts and phrasing cribbed from contemporary sources, and narratives of events that simply could not have happened. Schliemann was sued for fraud during his business career; at one point he simultaneously proposed marriage to two different women; and he obtained American citizenship by filing perjurious affidavits. In view of this, Traill reasonably asks to what extent Schliemann's archaeology can be trusted. He admits that his reports ""clearly provide, for the most part, a reliable record of his excavations."" However, Traill argues that Schliemann may have ""bundled"" his best finds together in an effort to dramatize them, and may have even ""salted"" his digs with artifacts found elsewhere. While not disturbing Schliemann's reputation as a great archaeologist or an extraordinary individual, Traill also concludes that his archaeological claims must be treated with skepticism. A larger-than-life portrait of Schliemann, who, despite his unattractive personal qualities, remains a remarkable man and a pioneer of archaeology.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996


Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995