Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


31 May 2020

Figures of modernity: Heinrich Schiemann, Kate Field and a Smithsonian collection

Georgia Flouda Clara Chronicle 4.2 (2019): 1-27

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This paper intends to document how an assemblage of 177 archaeological objects excavated in Troy in the nineteenth century became entangled within the historical circumstances of the era and Heinrich Schliemann’s continuous social movement. The circumstances that led to the donation of this Trojan collection of antiquities by Sophia Schliemann to the Smithsonian Institution in 1893 and the earlier background of the story shed light to the protagonists of this historical event, namely Heinrich Schliemann, the U.S. journalist Kate Field and the U.S. diplomat Truxtun Beale. The story of the movement of the artifacts from the Troas, to Greece and, ultimately, to Washington DC is mostly based on archival research. The paper also explores how facets of Schliemann’s archaeological conduct were enhanced by universal social aspects of modernity, such as the connection with capital and the use of the public sphere profile. It also discusses how the donation of the Trojan collection attracted media attention by making an appeal to the late nineteenth˗century American antiquarianism and, eventually, made the archaeology of the distant Troas — at that point a part of the Ottoman Empire — a subject of public interest for the Americans. Ultimately, the Smithsonian ‘Schliemann Collection’ acquired some form of agency fostering future research and providing the foundations for American involvement in the exploration of Aegean prehistory in the twentieth century, mainly through Carl Blegen’s excavations.


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