From an archeological point of view, Troy was probably the most complicated site we visited. Olympia was strewn with the ruins of structures from the first Olympic Games and Crete gave us a look at an astounding civilization that waxed and waned over several millennia before Christ, but Troy was home to at least nine successive fortified cities built on the same site over the course of about 3500 years. Each city was destroyed by enemies, natural disasters, or perhaps a combination of both, but people returned each time to build a new city atop the rubble of what came before. How would you sort it all out if you were excavating the site?

Stepping back from the archeological challenges, what first comes to mind when you think of Troy? Probably the Trojan Horse rather than the USC football team. When the Greek army was unable to conquer the city, they retreated but left behind a large wooden structure fashioned after a horse, the symbol of Troy’s strength. As the story goes, a dozen Greek warriors hid inside the horse. The Trojans brought the horse into the city, closed the gates, and retired for the night. Once the city was quiet, the Greek warriors quietly exited the horse, killed the guards, and opened the gate for the rest of the Greek army to invade the city. Nobody knows exactly what the horse looked like, but you can see a full-scale replica of what it might have looked like below. The original horse probably did not have obvious windows, much less a staircase, but this version has both for the convenience of tourists.

Replica of the Trojan Horse.

The chart below provides a rough timeline and a schematic of the layers (or strata) of ruins for nine successive cities built on the site of Troy. Regardless of how each city met its fate (military defeat, earthquake, fire, etc), how would an archeologist sifting through the ruins distinguish one city from another? It’s enough to give Indiana Jones a headache!

Chart and timeline explaining the successive cities built on the site of Troy.

The photo below shows part of the archeological excavations at Troy. Small white placards label layers III and IV in the sequence of cities that rose and fell on the site. Perhaps the archeologists can identify marker layers (e.g., a layer of ash?) to distinguish the ruins of one city from the next one above or below.

Deciphering Troy III from Troy IV.

The stone walls shown below provide some of the clues used to identify different ages in the history of Troy. Look closely and see if you can discern different styles of construction. How well are the stones quarried, shaped, and placed? Are they rectangular or rounded? Do the stones have regular heights or different heights? How closely do they fit with each other?

Two different types of stone walls in the ruins of Troy.

Some of the old construction used brick rather than stone, as you can see below. These walls are made of at least two different types of bricks. The holes seen in one of the walls were made by some kind of bee (similar to a carpenter bee?) that burrows into the brick to make its nest.

Walls built of brick rather than stone.

After we left Troy and set sail for Istanbul, we passed beneath the longest and one of the newest single-span suspension bridge in the world. This bridge spans the Dardanelles, and opened to traffic only a few years ago. Some construction is still in progress; you can see a crane atop the tower and some kind of scaffolding around the base of the tower. And it was a beautiful sunset!

Bridge over the Dardanelles.

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