Frank Calvert (1828–1908) was an English expatriate who was a consular official in the eastern Mediterranean region and an amateur archaeologist. He began exploratory excavations on the mound at Hisarlik (the site of the ancient city of Troy), seven years before the arrival of Heinrich Schliemann.
Frank was the youngest of seven children born to James Calvert (1778–1852), of Malta, and Louisa Ann Lander (1792–1867).
As the youngest child, Frank was overshadowed by his elder siblings and became involved with the careers of his elder, more flamboyant brothers. Frank remained unmarried; quiet and unassuming, he nevertheless had an enduring passion for the Homeric epics and a firm belief that the myths were history, not fiction.
As early as 1822, Hisarlik was identified by Charles Maclaren as a possible site of Homeric Troy. In 1847, Frank's brother Frederick bought a farm of over 2,000 acres (8 km²) at Akca Koy which included part of Mount Hisarlik. This was to be a momentous acquisition. By 1852, Frank was helping his brothers Frederick and James in their consular duties, writing 50% of the letters in French and English generated for his brothers, which they would sign as officers.
Frank continued to support his brothers' careers. In 1855, while Frederick was completely engrossed in affairs related to the Crimean War, Frank continued to produce the bulk of official consular correspondence. On occasion in 1856 and 1858, Frank stood in for Frederick as acting British consul. After standing in for his brother James, eventually Frank succeeded him as United States consular agent in 1874, an unpaid position that he held for the rest of his life. Occasionally, he served on local mixed European and Turkish tribunals, assuming from time to time the title of acting British consul.
Apart from performing his consular duties, Calvert carried on careful, exploratory excavations on the family-owned land which incorporated the mound of Hisarlik. He was convinced that this was the site of the ancient city of Troy, but in 1908 he died and was never officially associated with the discovery of Troy. In an interesting twist of fate, descendants of the Calvert brothers are now pursuing claims to the treasure recovered from Hisarlik.
In the field of archeology, Calvert has been a mere shadow compared to his partner Heinrich Schliemann. Throughout their relationship, Schliemann constantly manipulated and took advantage of Calvert. He was later found to be a war profiteer, involved in the black market and a smuggler. Schliemann had a significantly larger budget than Calvert, and frequently used it to his advantage. Calvert was also shy about his education experience, mainly because he was self-taught. At an early age he began visiting ancient sites, understanding different cultures and learning how they lived. His observations were never hidden. He enjoyed sharing his findings with anyone interested. In his teens he visited sites such as Corfu, Athens, Egypt, Brindisi and others, but he mostly stayed in the Troad (The Troad is a region of Asia Minor believed to have been under Trojan rule).
Like the modern day “Indiana Jones,” Calvert was also worried about the well-being of ancient artifacts, but that was not the opinion of the Turks. Occasionally, he would avoid or break the law in order to see that a threatened artifact was safe. Some scholars believe he kept his discoveries quiet because he wanted to keep a low profile. He feared that if he drew attention to himself the Turks would discover and take his artifacts. Calvert behaved the same way with Schliemann. At the beginning of their partnership Calvert grew conscious of Heinrich’s bullying and manipulative behavior, but consequently Schliemann saw Calvert’s distant and reserved personality as a weakness and therefore treated him poorly.
Before the discovery of Troy, Schliemann did not know where to look for the Trojan city, and he was about to give up his exploration for Troy all together. It wasn’t until Calvert suggested excavating The Mound of Hasarlik, that Schliemann made any moves to dig at the site. Calvert had already searched in the mound, but he never made it down to the Bronze Age layers, however he was determined Troy was buried somewhere within the mound.
Located in Turkey, The Mound of Hasarlik was owned by Calvert and the other half was owned by the Turkish government. Since half of the mound was partially owned by Calvert, Schliemann knew he had a lot of knowledge surrounding the area. Therefore, trusting Calvert’s judgment, Schliemann began the excavation and the discovery of Troy in 1873. Now, most Schliemann scholars claim that if it was not for Calvert, Schliemann’s discovery and rise to fame would never have been possible. The excavation lasted from 1873 to 1890.
Schliemann and Calvert discovered more than just the city of Troy. They also recovered thousands of artifacts such as diadems of woven gold, rings, bracelets, intricate earrings and necklaces, buttons, belts and brooches as well as anthropomorphic figures, bowls and vessels for perfumed oils.[EBSCO 1] Later, during the excavation, Schliemann claimed to have found “Priam’s Treasure.”
The treasure consisted of daggers, axes, and jewelry. However, there has been a lot of speculation that this treasure never even existed. David Traill has studied texts on Schliemann and Schliemann’s own journals. In his twenty years of study Traill identifies Schliemann as a “pathological liar.” For example, before the excavation of Troy, Schliemann had to get approval from the Turkish government to dig on their soil. The Turkish government responded by asking for half of Schliemann’s findings. However, Schliemann had already started smuggling artifacts out of the country. When Turkey found out about Schliemann’s dealings they sued him, but later Schliemann just bought Turkey’s share for a fraction of its worth and donated it to Germany, his homeland. Schliemann also gave no credit to Calvert for the discovery in Troy, and kept most of the findings for himself.[EBSCO 1]
It wasn’t until recently that American and British heirs to Calvert sought ownership of a portion of the treasure. Calvert’s great-grandson claims they will only seek out the treasure that was found on non-Turkish land. British archeologist, Donald F. Easton, mapped out where each treasure was discovered, and found that “Treasure L” was located on Calvert’s land. This treasure consisted mostly of ceremonial axes, but Schliemann smuggled the axes out of the country immediately after excavation and never reported the findings. Later however, scholars found his report on the treasure written in classified letters. The letters described how this treasure was the most important find he had excavated in Mycenae. The axes along with other artifacts from “Priam’s Treasure” reappeared in 1994, at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, but the rightful owners of the artifacts remains in legal limbo.
- HisarlÄ±k -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia at www.britannica.com
- Susan Heuck Allen, "Calvert's Heirs Claim Schliemann Treasure" Archaeology 49.1, January/February 1996 (abstract)
- Robinson, Marcelle (2010). Schliemann's Silent Partner: Frank Calvert (1828-1908) Pioneer, Scholar and Survivor. pp. 42–51.
- Sture Linnér, "Europas Ungtid" (Wahlström och Widstrand), 2002
- Easton, D. F. (1984). Anatolian Studies. British Institute at Ankara. p. 141. JSTOR 3642862.
- , "Calvert's Heirs Claim Schliemann Treasure" Susan Heuck AllenArchaeology 49.1, January/February 1996 (abstract)
- Lemonick, Michael D. (29 September 2011). "Troy's Lost Treasure". Retrieved 26 September 2011.
- Susan Heuck Allen, Finding the Walls of Troy: Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik, University of California Press, 1999
- Archaeological Institute of America — Lecturer Information about Susan Heuck Allen
- The Consular Calverts