- Peter Pavúk
Major Bronze Age fortified settlement on the West Anatolian coast, south of the Dardanelles, consisting of a citadel and a lower town, changing in size and importance over time. The site, formerly called formerly Hisarlık, has been intermittently excavated for more than a century now, mainly thanks to Heinrich Schliemann’s identification of the site with Homeric Troy. Whereas the Homeric question has become less central over the years, it is clear by now that Troy, thanks to its localisation in the border-zone between Anatolia, the Aegean, and the Balkans, but also thanks to its uninterrupted occupation from c. 2900 bce to the 6th century ce, is an important archaeological site on its own. Troy became a major reference point, with two main cultural peaks: during Troy II/III (c. 2550–2200 bce) and later on during Troy VI Late/VIIa (c. 1400-1180 bce). It must have profited from a fertile surrounding, the trade in raw materials, or its facilitation, and possibly human resources. Situated on the edge of the Near Eastern civilisations, it was still part of the broader Bronze Age world.
- Greek Literature
- Greek Material Culture: Bronze Age
- Near East
Updated in this version
Article substantially rewritten to reflect current scholarship. Digital materials and figures added.
Troy (Hisarlık) is located in north-west Asia Minor 5 km from the Hellespont (Dardanelles), rising above the alluvial plains of the rivers Karamenderes and Dümrek (identified as the ancient Skamander and Simoeis). The site comprises a tell-like mound with c. 16 m of deposits, a fortified citadel for most of the history of the site’s occupation, and a lower settlement to the south, reaching c. 30–35 ha in the Late Bronze Age. It was noted by F. Kauffer (1793), identified as classical Ilion by E. D. Clarke (1810), and identified as Homeric Troy by C. Maclaren (1820). Soundings by Frank Calvert (1863, 1865) revealed prehistoric strata. H. Schliemann excavated much of the mound (1870–1890), with further excavations by W. Dörpfeld (1893–1894), C. W. Blegen (1932–1938), M. O. Korfmann (1987–2006) with C. B. Rose (1988–2002), and E. Pernicka (2006–2012). The site is currently being investigated and curated by R. Aslan and the Çanakkale University.
The site was occupied from c. 2900 bce to the 6th century ce. The numerous architectural phases are conventionally grouped into nine bands, called variously cities, levels, or periods. As now defined, the occupation seems to have been continuous throughout three and a half millennia. Nevertheless, there are some turning points that help to structure the development, but any major changes are rather gradual and not abrupt, contrary to what the previous research seemed to imply. Troy I–III (from c. 2900 bce) represents the Early Bronze Age (EBA) I and II, coming to its end around 2200 bce, which witnessed a major change across the Near East. The following Troy IV and V (from c. 2200 to c. 1800/1750 bce) represent, respectively, the end of the EBA and a large part of the Middle Bronze Age (MBA). The traditional tripartite division into Early, Middle, and Late Bronze Age does not work properly at Troy. The situation changes once more towards the end of the MBA, with the 18th century bce being again a time of transition at Troy and elsewhere, resulting in Troy VI–VIIa (from c. 1800/1750 to c. 1180 bce), representing the end of the MBA and Late Bronze Age (LBA) I and II. Troy VIIb is a specific period on its own, with many Balkan elements (from c. 1180 to c. 1050 bce) understood now as LBA III at Troy, transitional to the subsequent Iron Age, which is represented by Troy VIII, spanning the Protogeometric to the Hellenistic periods (c. 1050 to 85 bce). Finally, Troy IX (85 bce to 6th century ce) is Roman, and Troy X is Byzantine. This entry will concentrate only on the Bronze Age segment of Troy’s development. For the post-Bronze Age development of the site, see Ilium.
The settlement was originally founded on a limestone spur with a shallow marine bay to the north, since silted up, which could be exploited for fish and seafood but which became marshy wetland by the LBA. Larger boats must have used the nearby Beşik-Tepe harbour on the Aegean coast. Throughout the prehistoric occupation, a citadel stood on the highest point, fortified by a succession of stone walls punctuated by gates and towers, with superstructures of mud brick and timber. Within the Troad, Troy must have played a leading role, as there is no other site of comparable size. This does not necessarily mean that Troy controlled all of the Troad, certainly not throughout the entire Bronze Age.
Troy I, similarly to the previous late Chalcolithic Kum Tepe B period at the end of the 4th millennium bce, originated within a Thracian-Anatolian cultural continuum. Typical is the handmade burnished, sometimes incised and incrusted (the incisions filled with white chalky paste) pottery with links to the northern Aegean and the Balkans, row-houses as we know them from Thermi on Lesbos or Liman Tepe close to Izmir, and well-built fortifications of an already slightly advanced type.
The following Troy II, with its three major rebuilding phases, provides the clearest picture of Troy in the EBA. Two massive gates led into the citadel, one approached by a paved ramp. Within the citadel lay a colonnaded courtyard containing five parallel megara, one more than 40 m long. After a major fire, with all the megara destroyed, the citadel was filled with densely built insulae separated by narrow streets, very much like what is known from Poliochni on Lemnos. This change used to be assigned to Troy IIg (following Blegen), but it is now understood to mark the beginning of Troy III, whose architecture continued in the same style. This re-dating matches Dörpfeld’s original schema and also better fits the ceramic development. Metalworking—probably melting and casting—was practised on the site. This is attested by the presence of crucibles and casting moulds in the settlement layers. Gold, copper, and silver were accessible in north-west Anatolia; tin was imported from elsewhere, perhaps central Asia. Schliemann found sixteen hoards (“treasures”) of weapons, tools, vessels, and jewellery in gold, silver, bronze, and copper, as well as objects made of semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, carnelian, and rock crystal. Treasures also included ingots and semi-finished objects. Their authenticity has been questioned, but subsequent discoveries from both Troy and the north-east Aegean, as well as metal analyses, demonstrate their antiquity. The pottery of Troy II is quite different from the Troy I tradition, influenced mainly by the introduction of the potter’s wheel early in Troy II. This is accompanied by a set of other innovations, which arrived through the so-called Great Caravan Route and were (together with Troy) part of the Anatolian Trade Network, which extended from Syria to the Aegean and Thrace, encompassing also Cyprus.
Troy IV and V are less well known and appear less wealthy. Rudiments of the previously mentioned trade network were still in place during Troy IV, but by the time of Troy V, the Troad drifted into the backwater of local networks and was communicating only with its immediate neighbourhood and the nearby islands. The architecture remains insular, with an agglutinative way of building, and we see the first instance of domed ovens.
It used to be believed that there was an abrupt change, or even hiatus, between Troy V and VI, linked to the arrival of a new “stock of people breeding horses and riding chariots”.1 None of that holds true anymore and we see instead a gradual change over two to three generations. But there is a change nevertheless, since this transition seems to coincide with the end of the Assyrian colonies in Central Anatolia and the rise in maritime trade fuelled by the increased use of the sail. This drastically decreased the role of overland routes, but increased the importance of coastal communities.
The following Troy VI and VIIa will be treated together, as there is substantial continuity between them. We also see that Troy VI was clearly developing over the course of five centuries, from a smaller citadel with freestanding houses surrounded by terrace walls in Troy VI Early, through three rebuilding phases in VI Middle. The last of these features larger buildings and the first stretches of massive fortifications, which become a full-fledged, very well built complete citadel wall in VI Late. The fortifications are characterized by shallow vertical offsets, preserved gates on the west, south, and east sides, and a north-east bastion. Two towers along the southern circuit were possibly added only in Troy VIIa. Inside the citadel, the ground rose in roughly concentric terraces, two or even three, with monumental freestanding buildings but with no evidence of any palace thus far. Unfortunately, the topmost deposits of the eastern part of the citadel were removed in the early 3rd century bce to make way for a sanctuary of Athena. Those in the west, beyond the Athena temple temenos, may have remained somewhat better preserved but were largely dug away by Schliemann. However, if there had been a major structure preserved in some form, he would undoubtedly have noticed it.
Troy VI introduced a distinctive grey pottery, which used to be seen as an offspring of the Grey Minyan Ware on the Greek mainland, but is currently regarded as an independent development on the Anatolian margin of the Aegean and termed Anatolian Grey Ware. It was complemented in VI Middle by the so-called Tan Ware, which becomes dominant by Troy VIIa, but gives way again during Troy VIIb to Grey Ware, whose popularity then survives well into the 7th century bce.
Horses and chariots also arrived, but only during VI Middle, roughly the 16th–15th centuries bce, and they are evidenced also in the following phases. The gradually increasing prosperity, culminating in the 14th and 13th centuries bce, is undeniable now, and the latest research indicates that a number of aspects converge here. We see the first imports from Cyprus arriving in the late 15th century bce, becoming more numerous in the following two centuries—complemented by exports of Trojan Grey Ware to Cyprus and the Levant, beginning in the 14th century bce (Troy VI Late)—and growing more numerous in the 13th century bce (Troy VIIa). It has become clear very recently that the ore for all of the LBA copper ox-hide ingots from modern-day Bulgaria is of Cypriot origin, and there is also a gold mine at Ada Tepe, in the eastern Rhodope mountains, which started its production in the 15th century bce. Beşik-Tepe is the northernmost navigable harbour on the west Anatolian coast, and it therefore seems logical to conclude that Troy profited from conducting, or at least participating in, trade in raw materials between the eastern Mediterranean and the southeast Balkans. Mycenaean decorated pottery might have played some role in all of this, but its agency is not yet completely understood. At Troy, it never reaches more than 1–3 percent of all ceramic finds, but it is remarkable that open and closed shapes are equally present, which is not common elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean.
Mycenaean-style pottery first appears in VI Middle, becomes locally imitated in VIIa, and survives even into the VIIb period. A reassessment by P. A. Mountjoy indicates that Troy VI continued until the end of Late Helladic (LH) IIIA2 (c. 1300 bce), and that VIIa ended during the transition from LH IIIB to IIIC (c. 1180 bce). Both events were dramatic, as demonstrated by fallen masonry that was not cleared away (especially in VI) and signs of fire (especially in VIIa). Blegen attributed the earlier destruction to an earthquake and the later one to human agency. While his explanation of the earlier destruction is widely accepted, it is not clear what the actual cause of the later destruction was. Its date would fit the traditional date for the Trojan War, but there is almost no evidence, after all the years of excavation at Troy, that the VIIa destruction was the result of an armed conflict. It is noteworthy that experts recognize that some of the Homeric descriptions actually do match the uncovered remains or the local topography. The best explanation for this is the fact that in the 8th century, when the Troy narrative was being shaped into its canonical, “Homeric” form, the site went through a period of reduced habitation but with an active ancestor or hero cult in front of the still standing LBA citadel walls. While the site was most likely in ruins, its topography could thus have been reflected in the Homeric epics. That of course precludes the assumption that Calvert and Schliemann excavated on the Hisarlık mound the “real” Troy described by Homer. The mound was certainly the site of the later city of Ilion, which was believed by its inhabitants to stand above Homeric Troy.
After the destruction of Troy VIIa, occupation continued (Troy VIIb), but only in simpler houses on, and in the immediate vicinity of, the citadel. New influences from the southeast Balkans are visible, especially in the pottery, which led Blegen to conclude that a group of Balkan migrants arrived at Troy at that time.
The picture of Bronze Age Troy has been almost revolutionized by the excavations directed by Korfmann/Pernicka, which have revealed a Bronze Age lower town south of the citadel (previously only suspected). The lower town was occupied to a certain extent from at least Troy II, but the picture is clearest for Troy VI and VIIa. Approximately 450 m to the south of the citadel are traces of a footing-trench from a palisade and a gate. The gate interrupts a ditch, which is about 4 m wide and 2 m deep. It dates to VI Late and has been traced around most of the lower town. This defensive system, possibly combined with a moat, is interrupted by several crossing-points that can also be considered as gates. It was intentionally filled at the end of Troy VI and replaced by another ditch further outside that dates to VIIa, indicating that the lower town then required more space. Buildings or other signs of occupation have been uncovered in the lower town wherever excavations were conducted. However, excavations were hampered by major erosion down to the bedrock during the Early or Middle Iron Age in the southern part of the lower town. There, Troy VI and VIIa contexts are sometimes preserved only as negative rock-cut features. A Troy VI cemetery discovered by Blegen, shielded by a ridge, lies just outside the earlier ditch and probably extends further west along it, as the detailed field survey of the lower town by P. Jablonka indicated. A remarkable water-mine was dug into the bedrock below the lower town; analysis of the earliest sinter shows that it was used from Troy II onwards.
Of similar importance is the realization that Troy VIIa was not a pauperized version of Troy VI Late, which only became clear during post-excavation analysis. We do see clear changes in behaviour (crop diversification, use of different types of land for agriculture, and increase in storage capacities), likely a reaction to the dangers created by the earthquake at the end of Troy VI, and the seemingly makeshift reconstruction of the buildings within the citadel, but we otherwise see a flourishing manufacturing sector and international trade (direct or indirect), including evidence of Canaanite and Egyptian amphorae at Troy. However, the changes are best represented by the installation of hundreds of storage pithoi in and around the citadel, a fact which was previously known but is now much better understood.
In terms of specific finds, the biconvex metal seal, with inscriptions in Anatolian hieroglyphic script (likely Luwian) on both sides, needs to be mentioned. Side 1 gives the incomplete name of a scribe, and side 2 gives the incomplete name of a woman, presumably his wife. The seal was found within the citadel, in a secondary debris-context of a VIIb1 or very early VIIb2 date, roughly the second half of 12th century bce. Perhaps it has received more attention than it deserved, becoming one of the visual symbols for the new excavations. This is understandable, however, since it is the only LBA inscription from Troy and in fact one of only a few in all of western Anatolia. Although it is clear that the seal was intended for the sealing of clay objects, and, given its worn surface, that it was used for this purpose—a decorative secondary use cannot be excluded. What remains unclear is where and when it was created and used. It is thus hard to draw from it any sound conclusions that are relevant for Troy.
Another major new discovery of the Korfmann/Rose excavations was the realization that there was no hiatus at the end of Troy VIIb and that some of the handmade pottery tradition continued into the Early Iron Age (EIA), accompanied by imports of Protogeometric and sub-Protogeometric pottery. The wheel-made tradition did not cease either and resulted in the so called Aeolian bucchero, which is now more aptly termed EIA Grey Ware.
Renewed archaeological work at Troy naturally triggered an upsurge in attention by ancient historians. The question has always been there: is Troy mentioned among the numerous toponyms listed in the Hittite written documents? Several possible identifications have been suggested over the years, including Ahhiyawa or Atrya, but it is the land of Wilusa which has been discussed most in recent years. The new excavations did not bring to light any specific evidence to verify such an identification, but a number of prominent scholars (T. Watkins, D. Hawkins, F. Starke, J. Latacz) have strongly embraced the identification based on other types circumstantial evidence. While others (including S. Heinhold-Krahmer and I. Hainal) are sceptical about this, none of the other toponymic identifications seems to be admissible any longer, since the developing understanding of the so-called Hittite Geography has situated those places elsewhere. As unlikely as it may seem, this could imply that Troy was not known to the Hittites at all. However, if we do accept the identification with Wilusa, then the best-preserved historical document linked with LBA Troy would be the vassal treaty between Alaksandu of Wilusa and Muwatalli II of Hattusa from early 13th century bce, corresponding thus to Troy VIIa.
Bronze Age Troy changed over time, witnessing ups and downs which very much mirrored overall developments in the neighbouring cultures to the east and west. It must have profited from fertile surroundings and the trade in raw materials or its facilitation, and it was part of the larger Bronze Age world. Being the northernmost of the major Anatolian coastal sites, and situated on the border with the Balkans, it is likely that it profited specifically from exchange with the regions further north beyond the Dardanelles.
The Post Bronze Age development of the site is not part of this entry. See: Ilium.
- Preliminary reports and studies from the new excavations may be found in the journal Studia Troica (1990–2011).
- Blegen, Carl W. Troy and the Trojans. Ancient Peoples and Places 33. New York: Praeger, 1963.
- Blegen, Carl W., Cedric G. Boulter, John L. Caskey, and Marion Rawson. Troy. Vol. 4, Settlements VIIa, VIIb and VIII. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1958.
- Blegen, Carl W., John L. Caskey, and Marion Rawson. Troy. Vol. 2, The Third, Fourth and Fifth Settlements. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951.
- Blegen, Carl W., John L. Caskey, and Marion Rawson. Troy. Vol. 3, The Sixth Settlement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953.
- Blegen, Carl W., John L. Caskey, Marion Rawson, and Jerome Sperling. Troy. Vol. 1, General Introduction, The First and Second Settlements. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950.
- Blum, Stephan W. E. Die ausgehende frühe und die beginnende mittlere Bronzezeit in Troia: Archäologische Untersuchungen zu ausgewählten Fundkomplexen der Perioden Troia IV und Troia V. Studia Troica Monographien 4. Darmstadt: Philipp von Zabern, 2012.
- Dörpfeld, Wilhelm. Troia und Ilion: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen in den vorhistorischen und historischen Schichten von Ilion 1870–1894. Athen: Beck & Barth, 1902.
- Easton, Donald F. Schliemann’s Excavations at Troia, 1870–1873. Studia Troica Monographien 2. Mainz, Germany: Philipp von Zabern, 2002.
- Korfmann, Manfred O., ed. Troia: Archäologie eines Siedlungshügels und seiner Landschaft. Mainz, Germany: Philipp von Zabern, 2006.
- Mountjoy, Penelope A. Troy VI Middle, VI Late and VII. The Mycenaean Pottery. Studia Troica Monographien 9. Bonn, Germany: Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2017.
- Pavúk, Peter. Troia VI Früh und Mitte: Keramik, Stratigraphie, Chronologie. Studia Troica Monographien 3. Bonn, Germany: Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2014.
- Pernicka, Ernst, Charles Brian Rose, and Peter Jablonka, eds. Troia, 1987–2012: Grabungen und Forschungen. Vol. 1, Forschungsgeschichte, Methoden und Landschaft. Studia Troica Monographien 5. Bonn, Germany: Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2014.
- Pernicka, Ernst, Sinan Ünlüsoy, and Stephan W. E. Blum, eds. Early Bronze Age Troy: Chronology, Cultural Development and Interregional Contacts. Proceedings of an international conference held at the University of Tübingen, May 8–10, 2009. Studia Troica Monographien 8. Bonn, Germany: Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2016.
- Pieniążek, Magda, Peter Pavúk, Diane Thumm-Doğrayan, and Ernst Pernicka, eds. Troia 1987–2012: Grabungen und Forschungen. Vol. 3, Troia VI bis Troia VII. Studia Troica Monographien 7. Bonn, Germany: Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2020.
- Rose, Charles Brian. The Archaeology of Greek and Roman Troy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
- Schliemann, Heinrich. Troy and Its Remains. London: Murray, 1875.
- Schliemann, Heinrich. Ilios: The City and Country of the Trojans. London: Murray, 1880.
- Schliemann, Heinrich. Troja: Results of the Latest Researches and Discoveries on the Site of Homer’s Troy. London: Murray, 1884.
- Schmidt, Hubert. Heinrich Schliemann’s Sammlung trojanischer Altertümer. Berlin: G. Reimer, 1902
- Wagner, Günther A., Ernst Pernicka, and Hans-Peter Uerpmann, eds. The Troad—Scientific Approaches. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, 2003.