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Schliemann of Troy: Treasure and Deceit Hardcover – 1996
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The history of archaeology brims with tales of grave robbers and dig salters, of men (and a few women) so bent on fame that they all but destroyed the historical record in order to extract a few precious pieces of gold, marble, or jade for distant museums or, sometimes, their own studies. Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890), who excavated Troy and Mycenae, was notorious in his own time for taking liberties with scientific method in order to prove pet theories and line his own pockets. David Traill, drawing on a trove of unpublished sources, tries a little too hard to paint Schliemann as a deviant--he was not the worst of his kind by a long shot--but he offers a rich account of how archaeology was once done, and of how history is made.
From Library Journal
This biography of the famed 19th-century excavator of Troy and Mycenae is the outgrowth of the author's scholarly research into Schliemann's correspondence and diaries. In meticulously comparing this source material with final, published excavation reports, Traill (classics, Univ. of California) finds discrepancies not only in the image that Schliemann presented to the public but also in his fieldwork; even specific instances of fraud and deceit on the part of Schliemann are uncovered here. At the same time, Traill reminds readers of the archaeologist's remarkable and indisputable accomplishments. Only an archaeologist can access the fine points of fieldwork. Therefore, this biography is certainly not for beginners. Whether the wider audience for whom this biography is intended can sift through all the details and emerge with a fair view of Schliemann and his work is debatable. However, there is valuable information here-much of it colorful and revealing, as in the portrayal of Schliemann's wife, Sophia, and their marriage. For history and biography collections and readers with previous knowledge of Schliemann's life and work.
Joan M. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Mr. Traill in his concluding chapter is sympathetic to Schliemann’s Dickensian childhood, admires his industry and perseverance, and opines that even with tarnished credibility, Schliemann remains a major figure in archaeology; here too he enumerates some of Schliemann’s good qualities. Yet I was disturbed that there were few anecdotes that illustrated Schliemann’s good qualities in the main body of text (some 300+ pages).
If you want an inspiring biography, look elsewhere; the subject here is made singularly unattractive. If you want to read this but cut to the chase, the first and last chapters plus Chapter Ten are the most important.
The story of the marriage to the final Mrs. Schliemann is a fascinating one in itself. He virtually bought her from her parents in an arranged marriage when he was over 40 years of age. He molded her into the wife he wanted, forcing her to study night and day to become as fluent in languages as he was, converting a naïve girl into his helpmate and intellectual companion as well as his fellow archeologist.
Traill probably goes overboard in his zeal to discredit Schliemann. He wants to make his case so strongly that he goes for overkill. There were times when I wanted to say to the author, "Yes, he was an S.O.B., but you said that already! Now get on with it!" As a result this book was not an easy reading experience for me. However, I feel that this book is essential reading for anyone who has an interest in archeology. It certainly reveals the importance of questioning evidence and investigating the sources. There are more balanced accounts of Schliemann available, but Traille's book gives a good context to place them in.