Frank Calvert: The Man Behind the Discovery of Troy

Post by Darci Clark

Walls of Troy
Walls of Troy

I remember reading about amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann and his discovery of the legendary city of Troy when I was a kid. This triggered my fascination with archaeology which continues to this day. The story goes, Schliemann was a very successful businessman who developed an obsession with the discovery of Troy, the city made famous in Homer’s Trojan War epic poem The Iliad. In the nineteenth century scholars considered Troy to be pure fantasy, even though The Iliad had described a specific location for the city in Anatolia, the name for present-day Turkey. With The Iliad in hand, Schliemann set out to prove the experts wrong. His excavations began at a site called Hisarlik in 1870, and by 1873 he had discovered what he believed were the ruins of Troy.

What I didn’t know about Schliemann’s amazing story was that he didn’t actually discover the site on his own. The credit goes to a British amateur archaeologist named Frank Calvert. Calvert’s family owned a section of land at Hisarlik, and Frank conducted minor excavations at the site and was convinced it was the location of Troy. Unfortunately, he did not have the funds to mount a complete excavation. At this time, Schliemann had been searching for Troy with no success. They met in 1868 and discussed the Hisarlik site. Schliemann had plenty of resources to begin the excavation, so Calvert gave him the opportunity.

The sad part of this story is that Schliemann never gave any credit to Calvert when he announced his discovery of Troy. He never mentioned that it was Calvert who originally studied the site and believed it was Troy. If only Frank Calvert had the means to excavate the entire site on his own, he may be remembered as the “father of archaeology”.