Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Commentary: Letters from Troy Volume 55 Number 1, January/February 2002
by David A. Traill and Paul C. Appleton

A surgeon's correspondence offers new insights into the character of Heinrich Schliemann

In the fall of 1878, a British fleet monitored traffic through the Dardanelles in the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish war. The fleet was based at Beshika Bay, not far from Hisarl1k, the site of ancient Troy, which Heinrich Schliemann was then excavating. Among the British officers who periodically visited the site to chat with the famous archaeologist and view the excavations was Edward L. Moss, staff surgeon on HMS Research. Two letters Moss wrote home during this period--to his wife, Thomasina, and sister-in-law, Maria--have recently been discovered in the possession of Mary Moss of Meonstoke, United Kingdom. (She is the widow of Moss's grandson Robert.)

Edward Moss's skill in observing, recording, and analyzing the world around him was a product of his scientific training and was put to good use by the British Navy. His letters show that he was also a careful observer of human nature. The two letters published here for the first time, besides giving us useful information about Schliemann's 1878 excavations, help us to view Schliemann from the perspective of a discriminating contemporary and throw interesting sidelights on his enigmatic character.

The light they throw on Schliemann and his excavations is particularly welcome because of the loss of both the excavation notebook and the copies of his outgoing letters for that year.

David A. Traill, a professor of classics at the University of California, Davis, has written extensively on Schliemann's life and work. Paul C. Appleton, a retired history teacher living in Victoria, British Columbia, is writing a biography of Moss. The authors would like to thank Mary Moss for kindly allowing them to publish the Edward L. Moss letters here.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America