Moorehead's background as biographer (most notably of Bertrand Russell and Freya Stark) and journalist (she's columnist for London's The Independent) may have encouraged her to reach too far in this deeply divided story of Schliemann's treasure, now on display for the first time in more than 50 years at Moscow's Pushkin Museum. The bulk of the book is a biography of Schliemann, his rise from grocer's apprentice in Germany to wealthy indigo merchant in St. Petersburg to his final re-creation as an archeologist. The clearly told story doesn't fall into easy denunciations of Schliemann's archeological methoda criticism favored more by classicists than archeologists. Still, the tale is awfully familiar and unnecessarily clotted with redundancies (how many times does one need to be told that Schliemann was generally oblivious to politics?) and extraneous details ("On 18 January 1866 came a further fitting for shirts, six of which were to be in flannel, and then a visit to a furrier in Cheapside, where he bought five sealskins."). Most interesting are the three chapters on the post-WWII period when the Nazi curator of Berlin's Pre- and Early History Museum, anxious to protect the Schliemann bequest from casual looters, turned it over to Soviet officials. Increasingly an embarrassment to the Soviets, the treasure remained "buried" until 1993, when it was officially acknowledged. With some discussion of the levels of Troy, the fate of art during and after WWII and art repatriation, this book will be helpful mostly to amateurs who plan to go to Moscow. But that's a small group. (July)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Moorehead, a biographer and journalist, focuses on the convoluted history of the finds German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann made upon his discovery of Troy, from the time of their excavation to the present decade. Based on interviews and archival research, her work is devoted mainly to a well-written and -researched life of Schliemann, drawing on original documents also used by David Traill in his biography (Schliemann of Troy, LJ 2/1/96), while taking a more generous view of Schliemann's flaws. The remainder of the book deals with the objects taken from Berlin during World War II and shipped to the Soviet Union, where they remained hidden in the Pushkin Museum until two Russian art historians were able to document their whereabouts (see Konstantin Akinsha and others' Beautiful Loot: The Soviet Plunder of Europe's Art Treasures, LJ 8/95). Moorehead has done readers a service by bringing together information on so many aspects of the tale of "Priam's Treasure." Presented like a good detective story, her book is hard to put down. For the general reader.Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Adept at portraying complex, controversial, and influential figures, Moorehead already has an outstanding biography of Bertrand Russell to her credit and now tells the incredible story of Heinrich Schliemann, the man who discovered the ruins of the fabled city of Troy and the golden treasure of King Priam. This adventurer, bold businessman, keeper of exhaustive diaries, and fanatic traveler, with a gift for language and amassing wealth, became so enamored with the history of Troy he went to Turkey in 1871 and transformed himself into an archaeologist. Although he outraged scholars with his boastfulness, penchant for obfuscation, and brutal methods of excavation, he amazed the world by discovering one of the most important and glorious sites in the history of mankind. Moorehead's vibrant narrative moves beyond the parameters of Schliemann's story to track the fate of Priam's gold. It was stolen by Schliemann, later hidden by the Nazis, and then stolen and hidden by the Russians. Thanks to two courageous Russian art historians, Konstantin Akinsha and Grigorii Kozlov (authors of "Beautiful Loot" ), its whereabouts are now known, but its future has yet to be decided.
British writer Moorehead (Bertrand Russell, 1993, etc.) rounds out her sympathetic treatment of Heinrich Schliemann with the events leading to the recent rediscovery in Moscow of the Trojan treasures he unearthed.
Both Schliemann's scholarly reputation as an archaeologist of the Mycenaean period and his legendary status as the discoverer of Homer's Troy have come under recent attack, just as his initial claims caused both furor and admiration. Although David Traill's iconoclastic biography, Schliemann of Troy (1996), meticulously sifted through his life to lay bare his misrepresentations and outright frauds, Moorehead is a steadfast, enthusiastic partisan. She grudgingly adds a few warts but does not dwell on them. Her loyalty is still to the legend of the grocer's-apprentice-turned- millionaire and self-made archaeologist who went in search of Troy. Although she notes his workaholic egomania, squabbles with colleagues, self-promoting reports, doctored journals, smuggling, and overimaginative and untrustworthy accounts of some of his findings, she glosses over them as venal sins in light of his groundbreaking work, not to mention the gold and silver artifacts he romantically attributed to Homeric heroes. Although by modern standards his methodology was mendacious and his digging technique more like strip-mining, there is no denying what his second wife and on-site helpmeet called his "truffle-dog instincts." In a sensational and historically ironic pendant, Moorehead's investigation into the whereabouts of these treasures picks up with WW II, when the Berlin collection was looted by Soviet troops in retribution for the Nazis' cultural vandalism, and closes with the treasures' rediscovery by two Soviet art historians in 1990, to the embarrassment of the Minstry of Culture. (The treasures are currently on exhibit in Moscow.)
In a fair trade-off for a good read, Moorehead bypasses recent unearthings of Schliemann's flaws in favor of a celebration of his inspiring achievements and a retracing of the convoluted trail of his legacy to the present day.