Schliemann's Trench in Troy

GPS coordinates: 39.957646, 26.238114

Archaeological site: 

Schliemann's Trench
Schliemann's Trench


This text is a fragment of a guidebook to Troy "The Secrets of Troy (TAN Travel Guide)".

Schliemann's Trench is a reminder of the actions of the famous Heinrich Schliemann, frequently dubbed the discoverer of Troy. In search of the castle of King Priam described by Homer in the Iliad, Schliemann made a huge trench in Hisarlık mound, 40 meters wide and 17 meters deep, oriented along the north-south axis. It was dug through the centre of the mound between 1871 and 1873 as the test-trench reaching bedrock.

The person most commonly associated with the discovery of Troy in the modern era is, most certainly, Heinrich Schliemann, a German amateur archaeologist, and adventurer. He was also great at self-promotion and built a web of legends and tales about himself, including the story of how at the age of seven, he had already claimed that one day he would excavate the ancient Troy.

However, his ambitions had to be put on a shelf for many years, as he gathered the necessary funds, starting as an apprentice at a grocery and a cabin boy on the steamer bound for Venezuela. Many years later, after many successful business decisions, when he was 46, Schliemann accumulated a vast fortune and was able to start the search for Troy. He was only able to find it because of the suggestions of Frank Calvert whose family owned the area of the Hisarlık Mound.

Schliemann's Trench is a perfect example of how desperate Schliemann was to discover the Homeric Troy. As he was confident that this legendary city must be in the lowest layer of the settlement, the workers dug hastily through all the higher layers, to quickly reach the target. This method stands in stark contrast with the techniques of modern archaeology when all the layers are carefully studied. However, Schliemann was not educated as an archaeologist, and he had only one dream: to find the city of King~Priam.

Today, scholars agree that Schliemann's excavations destroyed the layer of the "real Troy", the city that could be dated to be contemporary with the legendary Trojan War. Ironically, Schliemann's actions completed the task of the Greeks trying to destroy Troy as he razed the walls of this city to the ground. His search for Troy also resulted in irreversible damage to the site and the loss of much valuable information.

Despite the significant loss of knowledge caused by digging the trench, this place enables a better understanding of the multiple layers of Troy, similar to the layers of a gigantic wedding cake, visible when the first slice is cut out. Standing with your back to the foundations of the Early Bronze Age houses, you can see the levels of Troy, carefully marked by archaeologists.

The lowest layer visible here is Troy II and to see the level of Troy IX you need to look up. The span between these layers represents a period of more than two and a half millennia. This profile is the result of the work of Schliemann's assistant Wilhelm Dörpfeld who continued his work, and much later excavations of Manfred Korfmann.

Visitor tips: 

From the Manor House of Troy II, follow the path to the west. Just 20 meters away, you will reach the platform over the Schliemann's Trench. Directly below this platform, there are traces of a stone wall, thought to be a rampart of Troy I. The mud-brick wall to your right is a modern structure that protects the trench.

In front of you, there are several parallel stone walls erected with the herringbone technique, meaning that the stones were put in diagonally. These walls are among the oldest objects found in Troy because they are the foundations of the Early Bronze Age houses from around 2920 BCE.

Image gallery: