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Excavation of Troy: Lead Archeologist Discuses Latest Findings at CUA

The archeologist in charge of excavations at the fabled city of Troy visited The Catholic University of America this week, sharing news of his team’s latest discoveries from the city immortalized by Homer in The Iliad.

Icons of a mother goddess, a bronze seal inscribed with pictograms and marble statuary – including a sculpted head of Rome’s first emperor Augustus – are some of the artifacts recently unearthed by C. Brian Rose and his team of German, Turkish and American archeologists, who have been working at the site each summer since 1988.

Rose, the head of Greek and Roman excavations at the site in present-day Turkey, was invited by CUA’s Department of Greek and Latin to lecture on Troy’s myth-shrouded history and archeologists’ recent discoveries.

Troy is most famous as the site of the Iliad’s Trojan War, which according to legend took place during the Bronze Age from 1,800 to 1,250 B.C., Rose said. At that time in history, the walled city of Troy may well have been besieged with the spoils being profit from critical waterways rather than the most beautiful woman in the world.

"Whoever controlled Troy, controlled the Dardanelles, where ships would lie before heading to Istanbul and the Black Sea," Rose said, noting that the hill – commonly called "The Citadel" – which Troy was located lies at a crossing between the Orient and southwest Europe, and between the Aegean and Black seas.

Throughout history, The Citadel in western Turkey has been home to nine cities, each built over the other during the past 4,000 years. Rose described how previous excavation teams in the late 1800s and early 1930s were so focused on finding the legendary city of Troy, they would dig through ancient Greek and Roman structures from later periods, carelessly tossing aside artifacts with the rubble. By contrast, Rose’s team has concentrated most of their energy on uncovering and conserving artifacts from the later Greek and Roman periods at The Citadel. Some of their recent findings include:

Important evidence that Troy once had an extensive wooden fortification network unlike any other discovered so far in the Bronze Age. This find, coupled with previous discoveries of a wide defensive trench and stone walls, shows that the city had at least three major points of defense, Rose said. The wooden network included a wooden palisade, which formed a protective south boundary outside Troy’s citadel. A parallel series of post holes undoubtedly held support beams for a sentry walk behind the wall, Rose said. Cuttings in the bedrock also provide evidence of an entryway measuring approximately three meters.

An electrum coin made of a gold and silver alloy dating to the late fifth century B.C., the earliest coin found so far at Troy.

A series of ovens for casting bronze, datable to the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. The channels into which the molten bronze was poured are similar in shape to modern-day tennis racquets. "None of us has ever seen anything like this," said Rose. The ovens indicate industrial activity in the sanctuary area.

The first Christian discovery since the current excavations began, a bronze reliquary probably dating to the 13th century A.D. The container for relics, shaped like a crucifix, had been emptied when the graveyard in which it was located was robbed.

What appears to be a fishery, made of stone channels and ponds for water with large urns where fish and eels could escape the light.

About an hour’s drive from the citadel, Rose’s team has found several burial mounds. Though the Mafia is suspected of looting the sites – in one case using a tractor to bash in the side of an intricately carved stone sarcophagus – the team has been able to recover gold jewelry, paintings and undamaged pieces of the sarcophagus itself.






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Revised: January 25, 1999

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