Jan. 21, 2000
Contact: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
DIGGING UP THE DIRT ON THE EXCAVATORS,
SETTING THE TROY RECORD STRAIGHT
Cincinnati -- Except among archaeologists in the know, most people give the glory for finding the site of Troy to the man who claimed he discovered it in the middle of the 19th century: Heinrich Schleimann, the German archaeologist who uncovered the famous golden treasures of Priam.
But a book by a UC alumna is spreading the truth to a wider audience, placing the distinction of locating Troy with the archaeologist who first excavated it: Frank Calvert, a British "gentleman" and archaeologist, who began digging at the site in 1863.
In the process of vindicating Calvert, author Susan Heuck Allen has earned some prestige of her own, garnering rave reviews and lots of exposure in several prominent quarters, including the History Book Club, Book of the Month Club, The London Review of Books, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post, and in Athens. A feature film maker has even voiced interest in making the book into a movie.
At first, Heuck Allen, visiting scholar at Brown University and lecturer in archaeology at Smith College who earned her master's degree in classics at UC in 1982, intended to focus on Calvert's archaeological work at and around Troy, but instead her "Finding the Walls of Troy" wound up becoming a full-blown biography and examination of the Calvert-Schliemann relationship. In contrast, Michael Wood's "In Search of the Trojan War" devotes only half a page to Calvert.
Heuck Allen's detailed account became possible through the serendipity of her own family acquaintances. She found a mountain of Calvert research materials, including diaries, photos and journals through descendants of Calvert's older brother. She also dug into archives in Washington, London, Athens, Berlin and Canakkale, the town nearest to the current site of Troy on the Dardanelles in Turkey.
The work proved to become an exercise in admiration as Heuck Allen grew to respect Calvert more, the more she learned about him. "He was a complete gentleman. He was shy and unassuming. That was his problem, because Schliemann wasn't," she said.
She reports that once Calvert had proved to himself the significance of the site, he approached the British Museum for funding in 1863, offering in exchange all the artifacts that would be uncovered. Because of a recent Calvert business scandal that sent his elder brother to prison, the museum declined. Five years later, Schliemann appeared and Frank Calvert gave him permission to dig on his land near Canakkale, which contained part of the site of Troy. Schliemann then stole Calvert's ideas and relentlessly promoted himself as the man who first uncovered the walls of Troy although he did not begin to dig there until 1870, she said.
When Schliemann first arrived in Turkey in 1868 on the hunt for Troy, one of Western culture's most captivating mysteries, he first traveled to Pinarbasi, then popularly believed to be Troy. It was not until he met Calvert that Schliemann was persuaded to dig at the place that would make him famous.
Like Calvert and Schliemann, Heuck Allen possesses an interest in archaeology that
has roots in the magic of Troy. Her first exposure to archaeology was through her
grandfather's neighbor in Cincinnati: the late UC archaeologist Jack Caskey, who was a
graduate student excavating at Troy when UC's Carl W. Blegen dug there in the 1930s.
"I first met Caskey as a toddler," said Heuck Allen, who took part in Caskey's last Troy
seminar in 1978.