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The Troy treasures in Russia.

The treasures from Troy, removed from Berlin to be kept quietly in Moscow and - it now proves - in St Petersburg these last 50 years, are now being seen. Here is a first first-hand report on just what they amount to.

This article reports on Troy material recently seen in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, and in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (see also Korfmann 1994).

Readers of ANTIQUITY will know that in 1993 Russia admitted to having the Troy 'Treasures'. These 'treasures' derive from at least 18 groups of metalwork which Schliemann found in 1872-3, 1878-9, 1882 and 1890 during his excavations at Troy. Together with much other material from Troy they were variously given or bequeathed to the Berlin Museums between 1881 and 1891. They were briefly described by Alfred Gotze in Troja und Ilion (Dorpfeld 1902: 325-43) and were catalogued by Hubert Schmidt (Schmidt 1902: 225-47). They disappeared, however, at the end of the Second World War. Documentation published since 1991 has proved beyond doubt that the material was taken by a Red Army Trophy Brigade and that the gold-work went to the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. There it has been stored in secret for nearly 50 years. I have attempted to tell the fascinating story in full elsewhere (Easton 1994).

The Pushkin Museum, Moscow

By kind invitation of Dr Irina Antonova, Director of the Pushkin Museum, I was one of a small number of scholars invited to examine the Trojan material during the course of October and November 1994. The order of visits was, first, Prof. Dr Manfred Korfmann (Tubingen, Director of the Troy excavations); then Prof. Dr Engin Ozgen (Director-General of Antiquities, Turkey), Prof. Dr Ufuk Esin (Istanbul) and Prof. Dr Mehmet Ozdogan (Istanbul); and finally Prof. Dr Machteld Mellink (Bryn Mawr) and myself (9-10 November). Prof. Dr Wolfgang Radt (Director of the Pergamon excavations), also invited, was unable to go. And in the event we were all preceded by an official delegation from the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin. Otherwise the material had not been seen by westerners since 1945. We were all most courteously received by Dr Antonova, Dr Ludmila Akimova, Dr Vladimir Tolstikov and Dr Mikhail Treister.

In 1939 the most valuable Trojan objects were packed up by the Berlin Museums in a crate numbered MVF 1. We can follow the progress of this crate from Berlin to the Pushkin Museum in the published documentation. Also published is an extant list of its contents (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin 1993: 25f). So, apart from a few identifiable errors made in haste, one knew what to expect.

In the time available we were not able to count every bead, every ear-ring and every fragment. Nor was it our job. But it was clear that the collection in the Pushkin Museum agreed closely with our expectations. That is, it more or less fully represents the listed contents of MVF 1. The museum has most of the gold and silver, the ceremonial axes, the rock-crystal lenses, the lead figurine, and a lump of meteoric iron. Almost all are originally from Treasures A-S.

The objects were all weighed and inventoried at some time between 1945 and 1949. This is a higher standard of recording than that achieved by Schmidt or Gotze. The pieces were not cleaned or treated. They were then re-packed in a new box which was sealed and apparently left unopened until recently, when they were weighed again and photographed. The re-packing of 1949 was presumably a reaction to the changing climate of opinion with regard to war booty which led to the Hague Convention of 1954. Similarly it is political changes since glasnost which have made its reappearance possible.

The question had been raised whether the objects might in fact have been electrotypes. The Berlin Museums believe that a set of duplicates was given to the Pushkin Museum before the First World War. Whatever that set consisted of, Dr Mikhail Treister, at least, had no knowledge of it - although there are electrotypes of the Mycenaean gold.

But there can be no real doubt as to the authenticity of the pieces we saw. The Schmidt catalogue-numbers are still on many of the objects, either inked on and lacquered over, or printed on labels gummed onto the objects. Some also have larger labels from an apparently earlier series of numbers, possibly the original Berlin inventory-numbers. Odd scraps of old Berlin documentation are present. The condition of the objects is little changed from that visible in the Berlin photographs published by Dorpfeld and Schmidt except where the Berlin Museums have carried out some restoration. Some of the strings of gold beads are fastened at each end by sealing-wax bearing the impression of an 'S' - presumably from Schliemann or from Schmidt. Adhering to a number of objects are patches of dirt; it looks as though they may never have been fully cleaned since excavation.

The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Professor Korfmann, Professor Mellink and I also received an invitation to examine the Trojan objects in the Hermitage. This invitation, which was generously made by the Director, Dr Mikhail Piotrovsky, came as a surprise. We had no idea that the Hermitage contained any Trojan material, and were very curious to see what it might consist of. Our visit took place on 14-15 November, when we were made very welcome by Dr Vilinbahov and Dr Yuri Piotrovsky.

The Hermitage has 414 inventoried items from Troy, mainly bronzes but including 55 pots. It is clear that all these, too, had been in Berlin. The same inked-on Schmidt numbers are present, and the same labels. Many of the latter have fallen off, so that not all objects can be readily identified in the old catalogue. Again, there are bits of old, Berlin documentation with the objects; some are even still wired on vto what seem to have been the Berlin display-cards. Most objects are from Treasures A-S, but some bronzes and all the pottery are listed elsewhere in the Schmidt catalogue.

How these objects reached St Petersburg is as yet unclear. Evidently they were not in MVF 1, and were not (so far as we presently know) a part of the same transport that left Berlin by air on 30 June 1945. Relevant documentation will no doubt be investigated by the museum staff. We ourselves saw both the inventory-books and the card catalogue, but these do not date the acquisitions. The objects were certainly in the museum by 1953, when chemical treatment of some objects was carried out.

Again, the physical condition of the objects appears to be much as it was in Berlin, except that a few bronzes have been stabilized and that some earlier plaster restoration has broken down. The collection is, however, in some need of ordering.

What is where?

The contents of Treasure A ('Priam's Treasure') as found by Schliemann have been listed elsewhere (Easton 1984: 151-6; 1994: n.81). The gold and electrum vessels are all in the Pushkin Museum, also the two silver flasks 5859, 5860 (all such numbers are the catalogue numbers in Schmidt 1902) and a silver cup 5866. The fragments of the silver bowl 5870 and the lugged jar 5861 are in Berlin, as are the three silver vessels of Treasure A2 5887-9. The remaining silver vessels 5871-3) seem still to be unlocated. Of the bronze vessels, the Pushkin Museum has the bowl of the long-handled pan 5817. The Hermitage has its handle, 5822 (only recognized in 1959 to have belonged with 5817: Bittel 1959), and the cauldron 5818. Berlin has the bucket or kettle and its fragments 5819-21 and, apparently, additional fragments of the handle 5822 (Zengel 1990: 165).

The six silver ingots 5967-5972 are in the Hermitage.

A small number of the bronze tools and weapons is in Berlin (for details see Easton 1994: notes 189-90). The remainder may all be in the Hermitage, but in our rapid examination we identified only three of the bronze spearheads, six of the bronze daggers, three of the bronze flat axes, one of the chisels, and three of the other bronze tools.

The full complement of the gold jewellery formerly in Berlin seems to be in the Pushkin Museum although we were not able to check every item.

Of Treasures B-S the Pushkin Museum has at least: the silver vessels from Treasure B; most of those items from Treasures D, E, F, Ha, Hb, J, L, N and O which had been in Berlin; the bronze figurine 6054 from Treasure K; also the lead figurine 6446, and the silver flask 6254. To judge from the listed contents of MVF 1, the Pushkin Museum should also have Treasure R and 6425-37.

The Hermitage Museum has at least: 6046-9, 6051-2 from Treasure K; Treasure Q; 6146 from Treasure S; also a variety of bronze spearheads, knives, chisels, pins, toggle-pins, needles, sickles, hammer-axes, flat axes and fragments from 6148-6722. Notable pieces include the ornamented dagger (6151), a massive spike (6240) and the Troy VII axes (6479-81).

Many objects recorded by Schliemann among the Treasures never went to Berlin in the first place. Their absence was noted by Schmidt. Treasure C has always been in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul (cf. Schliemann 1881: 43, 485-8; Siebler 1994: figure 58), along with, it seems from Siebler's plate, a number of other missing pieces from Treasures D, F, O and J. There would have been . more, but some objects were stolen before 1881 (Saherwala et al. 1993: 81, 225). The National Museum in Athens has what seem to be parts of at least Treasures D and G (Konsola 1990: 83-5, 150-52), but as their beads have been re-strung it is difficult to be more specific. The other missing items from Treasures D, E, G, J, K, N and R remain, so far as I know, unlocated.

Selected observations

On much of the jewellery the gold is very dull, but whether this is due to low quality or to lack of cleaning is unclear. The sauceboat, however, is a fine piece, still quite shiny and very heavy (c. 600 g). The finely detailed workmanship on the head-dresses and some of the ear-rings with pendent decoration is striking: applique rosettes and granulation are recurrent features, and there is a uniform style of very finely-made chainwork. These may suggest some unity of craftsmanship (cf. Kuckenburg 1992). Similarly there are fine, applique double spirals on several pieces: 6003, 6133 and Ilios 874 (in Istanbul). Less well made are the gold diadem (5877), which is flimsy and roughly finished, and the ear-ring 5879, which is noticeably cruder than its 'pair', 5878.

If 5875-6 are really head-dresses, they can only have been worn in conjunction with some other head-gear such as a turban, or on a piled-up hair-do (as in the famous fashion-plate of Sophie Schliemann); otherwise the pendent decoration would have hung down over the eyes. Few of the shell 'earrings' can have been ear-rings: either they are too small, or the pin lies too close to the body, to allow them to be threaded through a hole in the ear. They may, rather, have been hair-rings. 5929-32 and 6126 are exceptions to this. Some (5932, 5986-7, 6126) show irregular wear on the granulation which, if experimentally analysed, might allow deductions as to mode of use. Some of the circular bracelets (5937-9) are too small for a normal adult.

The ceremonial stone axes show an interesting variety. 6058, which we all thought to be of genuine lapis lazuli, shows signs of wear and may have been already broken when excavated. The other three have beautifully polished bodies, but only 6055 seems to have been finished: on 6056 and 6057 the decoration around the shaft-hole has only been roughed-out. One wonders whether they came from the workshop of a craftsman who had nearly completed three new copies in green stone of an old and damaged axe in lapis lazuli. Other objects in the same Treasure (L) support the idea that it may have been a craftsman's hoard: the collection of rock-crystal pommels, rock-crystal lenses, many minute gold tacks in the clump 6107 and beads of carnelian and amber, although Gotze doubted whether these last truly belonged (Dorpfeld 1902: 340). The lenses have roughly double magnification. One of the largest, 6119, is particularly good and has bevelled edges. Possibly it had a rim and handle or stand, and was used by the craftsman.

While the silver vessels of Treasure A are heavily oxidized (e.g. 5859-60, 5973), it is difficult to believe that fire was the culprit: the gold objects show no sign of heat. It may simply be corrosion. The clumps 6128 and 6129, however, do look reddened.

Some pieces have clearly at some time been restored; possibly in Berlin. This applies to all three silver flasks 5859, 5860, 5973, the ornate pin 6134 (incorrectly restored), the shallow pan 5817 (heavily restored with plaster), the cauldron 5818 (heavily restored with plaster and now re-broken), and to the lead figurine 6446 (broken, repaired, and painted over with lacquer). A number of bronzes have bore-holes where samples have been taken.

Plans for the future

The Pushkin Museum is planning an exhibition for January 1996, to run for one year. The Hermitage Museum hopes also to arrange an exhibition, but will be unable to meet the same deadline. In any case there are administrative difficulties which stand in the way of a joint exhibition. Arrangements concerning the catalogue and other publications for the Pushkin exhibition may be made by the Ministry of Culture. There are plans for a conference to coincide with the exhibition in Moscow, and the Hermitage may follow suit in due course.

A suggestion receiving support in many quarters is that, after the exhibition, an international committee be formed. This could coordinate and help to arrange the conservation, scientific analyses and detailed publication of the two collections, and could enable the Russian museums to draw on international funding.

As to the eventual ownership of the Treasures, this will be decided by lawyers and politicians. But there is much to attract in the suggestion that an internationally-sponsored museum be built at Troy where Trojan material from collections in all countries can be gathered on permanent loan. The present distribution is, for serious students, disastrous; and Troy is perhaps the one place whose appropriateness cannot be disputed.

Acknowledgements. I am very grateful to Professors Manfred Korfmann and Machteld Mellink for reading a draft of this paper and suggesting some minor modifications which I have incorporated.


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EASTON, D.F. 1984. Priam's treasure, Anatolian Studies 34: 141-69.

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SCHMIDT, H. 1902. Heinrich Schliemanns Sammlung Trojanischer Altertumer. Berlin: Georg Reimer.

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Author:Easton, D.F.
Date:Mar 1, 1995
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