Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has declared 2018 as the Year of Troy. Located in northwest Anatolia near the Dardanelles, Troy is a site immortalised by the ancient Greek poet Homer in his mythical epics the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey."
ISTANBUL — Troia, or Troy, was a city that existed about 4,000 years ago. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwestern Anatolian region of Turkey in 1998. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of this event with various events and activities, the Turkish government is planning to establish a museum to display goods found in excavations over the years.
TRT World recently caught up with archaeologist Nezih Basgelen to ask him about the significance of Troia.
Basgelen says since 1978, he has been trying to connect people to archaeology that goes back to prehistoric times.
Can you tell us about the significance of 2018 being celebrated as the Year of Troia?
Nezih Basgelen: Thanks to Turkey’s hard work, Troia was accepted as a [UNESCO] World Heritage Site 20 years ago. Our Ministry of Culture and Tourism is celebrating this year as the 20th anniversary of its acceptance. Like I mentioned, the subject needs to come to the forefront in this multilayered society, be it archaeology or history, or ancient literature, or other sub-branches. Because Troia is connected in one aspect to Homer and hisIliad, and it’s connected in another aspect to the excavations of [Heinrich] Schliemann and [Frank] Calvert. Troia has taken a front seat at the world agenda, having started, in a way, [interest in] archaeology, a locale that has placed archaeological digs in an important framework. On top of that it is a location that the whole world has taken an interest in and wants to visit due to the Brad Pitt film and more. Therefore we need to make good use of this year be it with the [Turkish] public or international interest.
Why is Troia so significant despite being such an ancient site?
NB: You know, in written culture, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey have formed the basis of Western culture, have nourished many aspect of this culture up to medieval literature, and then became one of the most significant aspects of basic education. In the West, you can’t imagine a young [student] who hasn’t read the Iliad. One of the primary antique sources that [the West] studies and is influenced by in varying degrees since primary school is Homer’s work. Homer’s depictions of events has attracted many Westerners, be they travelers, researchers, artists or scientists, including Schliemann at the fore, to this geography. These [visitors] have brought back many artefacts to the West. Turkey has to make good use of this. We need to act like a cultural Trojan horse – Troia is a cultural initiative that can overcome our problems in diplomatic and other circles with the West. That’s why we need to develop activities around Troia, then there’s the museum that we’re establishing – we need to think very carefully about these and bring the to life in a brilliant manner within an international framework without making any mistakes.
Until the museum is established, where have the artefacts unearthed in Troia been kept?
NB: Right now [the artefacts are] distributed around the world around almost 40 museums. They arouse great curiosity in the countries where they are located towards us and Troia, from Russia to Germany, from France to the United Kingdom.
Will these artefacts be returned to Turkey?
NB: That looks like a difficult undertaking right now. The treasures of Troia are a big source of curiosity. This grand treasure that Schliemann brought [from Turkey] to Greece, from Greece to Germany, from Germany to Russia, and has a fascinating tale, is still a source of mystery. Because it consists of very interesting pieces, made of gold, lapis lazuli, and crystals specially worked on and very unique.