Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Korfmann Excavation Substantiates More of Troy Legend

An excavation team led by Professor Manfred Korfmann of Tubingen University uncovered part of a wide ditch cut into the rock and has traced its path for 700 metres. It's from the late Bronze Age, the time of the legend. He believes it was designed to stop enemy chariots, and so marked the outer limit of the lower city.

He estimates the population of the city that lay behind the outer defences in the late Bronze Age as between 4,000 and 8,000. Troy was more than just a citadel of a few hundred people. "People who think there was a Homeric Troy - a city of substantial size and population - will be happy with this result," he says.

In the myth, Troy is razed by the army of Agamemnon. The early archaeologists believed the city might have been destroyed between 1200 and 1300 BC either by fighting or by an earthquake. Now, with access to the lost lower city, Prof Korfmann has discovered evidence that it suffered a catastrophe at around 1200 BC.

"There are skeletons. We found for example a girl, I think 16 years old, half buried. The feet were burnt by fire and half of the corpse was buried underground. This is strange, so rapid a burial within a public space within the city."

He also found arrowheads, which suggested close-quarter fighting. But a key clue to the fate of Troy came from collections of slingshots that he discovered. These were an important weapon of the time, used to keep enemy archers at bay. Korfmann believes that finding them in piles is significant. If the defenders had won the battle they would have taken the slingshots to be used elsewhere, for example by shepherds in the fields.

Hence, Korfmann believes, the Trojans must have lost the battle. "It was a city that was besieged. It was a city that defended itself. They lost the war and were obviously defeated."