Trojan War - The Real Story
 
 
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[ 'Where Troy Once Stood' by I.Wilkens, revised edition; Part II, Chapter 1; page 16 of 22 ]

Although the survivors recuperated most of the bronze from the battlefield - much of the remaining metal presumably being found and re-used or sold by local inhabitants ever since - archaeologists have nevertheless discovered many more bronze objects dating from the late Bronze Age. The region is even nicknamed ‘the paradise of field archaeologists', and understandingly so, judging by a recent survey of English Heritage of archaeological finds from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age21. The enumeration of finds made between 1844 and 1994 and their find-spots becomes really meaningful if we map them out. It then appears that the highest concentration of discoveries dating from the late Bronze Age is found in the region situated between the Devil's Dyke and the former coastline between Littleport and Shippea Hill. This region corresponds to the northern half of the presumed battlefield of the Trojan War. It is precisely here that by far the greatest quantities of bronze objects found in England were discovered (the region south of the Devil's Dyke is not included in the survey). The most important finds are the following (see the corresponding numbers on Map 3):

  1. Isleham: a hoard of more than 6500 pieces of bronze, in particular swords, spear-heads, arrows, axes, palstaves, knives, daggers, armour, decorative fitments (in particular for horses) and many fragments of sheet bronze, all dating from the late Bronze Age (Britton,1960; see Plates). The greater part of these objects have been entrusted to the Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds, while other items are within the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge. The swords show holes where rivets or studs held the wooden hilt in place. The studs were usually made of bronze except for commanders like Achilles or Menelaüs who had ‘silver-studded swords' while the Commander-in Chief Agamemnon had both a silver- and a gold-studded sword.

  2. Stuntney : 80 pieces, including bronze axes, swords and palstaves (1939).

  3. Soham: a couple of hoards of bronze objects are known from the area, including one with swords and spearheads of the later Bronze Age as well as a gold torque (1938); an extensive ditch system was found, not visible on aerial photographs; and a wooden trackway 800m in length between Fordey Farm (Barway) and Little Thetford (where King Priam is supposed to have crossed the river with his waggons) with associated sherds of later Bronze Age pottery (1935).

  4. Wicken: some Bronze Age activity known; a number of barrows survive.

  5. Freckenham (Isleham Plantation): a circular earthworks measuring 70 meter across with a ‘tail'of another 50 meter; some later Bronze Age metalwork; traces of various activities.

  6. Snailwell and:

  7. Chippenham : from here northwards along the eastern edge of the fenlands are many find-spots from the Bronze Age, including traces of cremations and barrows, the largest one measuring 43 meter across.

  8. From Mildenhall to:

  9. West Row : over a hundred Bronze Age sites, most of which still have to be investigated; a large quantity of metalwork was found well spread over the landscape.

  10. Eriswell22: 40 scattered finds, including battle axes, palstaves and rapiers (long swords).

  11. Lakenheath : various find-spots, most of which have not yet been investigated. It goes without saying that no bronze was found where the Achaean camp stood, as the warriors took their booty home after the war, leaving only a lot of rubbish behind. And much waste has indeed been discovered, for instance near:

 

[ 'Where Troy Once Stood' by I.Wilkens, revised edition; Part II, Chapter 1; page 17 of 22 ]

  1. Shippea Hill : many finds from the Stone Age to the late Bronze Age were made in 1934 during excavations to a depth of 5 meter.

  2. Burnt Fen : an ‘unusual find' consisting of a huge pit filled with potsherds and all sorts of household refuse. Finds of bronze were also reported in the region to the west of the Cam:

  3. Downham and:

  4. Downham Fen : scattered finds of bronze armour.

  5. Coveny and:

  6. Mepal : several bronze axes, two shields, a few swords and a spear-head.

  7. Wilburton : a hoard of 163 bronze objects including 115 spear-heads (1882) while earlier three palstaves and a heavy gold torque were found here (1844).

Bronze razors (called ksuron by Homer, X,173) have also been found and it is well-known that the Celts shaved their cheeks. So did the Sea Peoples pictured on a low relief in the temple of Medinet Habu in Egypt. They are shown with two-horned helmets and although they look very European, they cannot have been Greek, as is always thought, as the Greeks did not shave before the fifth century BC. On Mycenaean pottery men are usually shown with beards and this is how the Greeks also pictured Homer's heroes, although this does not correspond to the descriptions in the Iliad nor to Celtic custom. As Immanuel Velikovsky rightly pointed out, the soldiers of the Sea Peoples used to shave, a fact which ‘casts serious doubt on the generally held opinion that the Sea Peoples were Mycenaean Greeks'23.

A number of small barges (length 10 to 14 meters) for local transport were found in Bronze Age deposits, for instance at Warboys west of Littleport. Elsewhere in England also remains of seaworthy vessels dating from that period have been discovered, but no traces of the Achaean ships were found as they had left after the war except for those burned by the Trojans. There are obviously no Bronze Age finds in the region once covered by the sea north of the Little Ouse.

Throughout the region countless bones of humans and horses have been found by farmers, archaeologists, construction workers, pipe-layers and metal-detectorists although ‘the region is not known to have been the site of a major battle' as a puzzled Prof. McKenny Hughes noted in his report of 190424. Excavations also have turned up many oyster shells. It seems that oysters, which are cultivated on East Anglia's coast, were already much appreciated in the Bronze Age as Homer compares a wounded warrior falling head-on from his chariot with an oyster diver !

The Burial Mound of Patroclus and Achilles

When Achilles' inseparable friend and comrade-in-arms Patroclus, who had been educated as a brother in his parental home, had died in combat, a pyre of 100 feet square (30´ 30 meters) was built near Achilles' barracks for the cremation of the corpse (XXIII, 138ff). The circular earthen wall around the pyre was therefore about 40 meters across, but Achilles, who wanted to share not only the golden urn, as Patroclus had requested, but also the barrow with his friend, had ordered that it be enlarged after his own death (XXIII, 247). But the barrow on the beach must have been a temporary one as it seems unlikely that a monument destined for eternity would be built on the seashore or in the floodplain of the rivers, where nature could destroy it in short order as it did the campwall. One may therefore suspect that those who

 

[ 'Where Troy Once Stood' by I.Wilkens, revised edition; Part II, Chapter 1; page 18 of 22 ]

lived after Achilles (who, according to other sources, was killed by Paris under the walls of Troy) decided to build a new burial mound on higher ground, and that the Iliad mentions only the measurements of the permanent structure to impress posterity. Now it so happens that the largest burial mound in the region, measuring 70 meters across, with a ‘tail' of another 50 meters, is situated at Isleham Plantation near Freckenham, not far from the Achaean camp (see Map 3, key 29). This monument might well be the last resting place of the two famous warriors despite the fact that, according to the Odyssey (24,81), Achilles' barrow was visible from the sea. This was of course never the case with the earthworks near Freckenham, but it is generally agreed that lines 1 to 204 of Book 24 of the Odyssey are a post-Homeric addition, and for that reason placed in square brackets in some translations, such as the French version by Prof. Victor Bérard. These lines, which are not only contradictory but also of inferior poetic quality, apparently date from a much later period when the Greeks took the huge Stone Age tumulus on the coast of Asia Minor for Achilles' tomb. As also the critics Aristophanes and Aristarchus, who lived in the 2nd century BC, considered line 296 of Book 23 as the end of the authentic Odyssey, we may ignore the line that Achilles' burial mound was visible from a passing ship.

Other Sites in the Troad (see Map 3, keys 13 – 28)

Not only rivers, dykes and barrows are important features of the Trojan landscape, but so are hills, regions and towns. To start with, Homer mentions three famous hills in the region:

Zeus, who supported the Trojans, was believed to have watched the battles from a peak of Ida, the Gargarus, where he had a sanctuary and an altar for burnt-offerings (VIII,48; XIV,292). The most likely site is the high hill (147 meter) of the Ditton Woods south of Cambridge which is called Chrishall in our era (Cristeshala in 1068). In our era a church was built on top of the hill where once Zeus' altar may have been.

The Callicolone or ‘Beauty Hill', from where the wargod Ares exhorted the warring parties, was situated on the Simoïs (XX,53). According to classical mythology it was the scene of the judgement of Paris whose golden apple, given to him by Eris, was at the root of the hostilities. This hill was never identified anywhere, but colone (=‘hill') became Colne, the name of a little town next to a hill which is effectively situated on the Great Ouse. Later, during the Iron Age, the river flowed around the hill northward to the Wash, but at present the Great Ouse again flows eastward to join the Cam as it did in Homer's time.

Poseidon, who sided with the Achaeans, had risen from the sea and was believed to have watched the events from the highest hill of wooded Samos of Thrace (Samos Threikies, XIII,12, usually translated as Samothrace with the Aegean island in mind). However, Samos, which the Iliad does not describe as an island, was a region east of the Wash. Here are the hills of Sandringham, north-east of King's Lynn, from where Poseidon, sitting opposite Zeus at the other end of the theatre of war, could see 'the whole of Ida, as well as Priam's city and the ships of the Achaeans' (nr.15 on Map 2).

When the goddess Iris had a message for the sea-nymph Thetis who was residing on the bottom of the sea near the Achaean camp, she 'leapt into the dark sea half-way between Samos and hilly Imbros' (XXIV,78). Most translations speak of the 'rocky island of Imbros' although it is described by HOmer neitheras rocky nor as an island. In reality it was a wide region situated west of thh Wash. (In the Agean Sea the story of Iris does not amke any sense due to the haphazard transfer of place-names, as Samos anmd Imbros are 200 kilometers apart with the big islands of Lesbos and Chios in between. Besides, one would expect Poseidon to watch the battles from the island nearest Hissrlik, Imbros rather than Samothrace).25.

 

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Author: Iman Wilkens, FRANCE
Contact address: Trojan War, Tipyn o Gymru, Northway Lane, Tewkesbury, GL20 8HA, United Kingdom

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