Frank Calvert

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This article is about the archaeologist and British expatriate. For the Seattle cartoonist, see Frank Calvert (cartoonist).
Frank Calvert

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). Calvert was raised in Malta, at that time a British naval base. He was overshadowed by his elder siblings and became involved with the careers of his elder, more flamboyant brothers. He remained unmarried, and 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.[1] In 1847, his 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.

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 in French and English. On occasion in 1856 and 1858, Frank stood in for Frederick as acting British consul. After standing in for his brother James, Frank eventually 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 twist of fate, descendants of the Calvert brothers are now pursuing claims to the treasure recovered from Hisarlik.[2]


In the field of archaeology, Calvert has been a mere shadow compared to his partner Heinrich Schliemann, who was later accused of manipulating and taking advantage of Calvert. 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. In his teens he visited sites such as Corfu, Athens, Egypt, Brindisi and others, but he mostly stayed in the Troad, the region of Asia Minor believed to have been under Trojan rule.

At the time Schliemann began excavating in Turkey, the site commonly believed to be Troy was at Pınarbaşı, a hilltop at the south end of the Trojan Plain.[3] Schliemann performed soundings at Pınarbaşı, but was disappointed by his findings.[3] Schliemann did not know where to look for Troy and was about to give up his exploration altogether. It was not until Calvert suggested excavating the mound of Hissarlik 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; still, he was determined Troy was buried somewhere within the mound.[4]

Schliemann and Calvert found not only the possible site of Troy but thousands of artefacts 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.[5][6]

It was not until recently that American and British heirs to Calvert sought ownership of a portion of a treasure supposedly found by Schliemann. Calvert's great-grandson claims they will only seek out the treasure that was found on non-Turkish land (Calvert only owned half the mound). British archaeologist 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 artefacts from "Priam's Treasure" reappeared in 1994, at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, but the rightful owners of the artefacts remains in legal limbo.[2]


Calvert's work on Troy is mentioned in the 1985 BBC TV series In Search of the Trojan War, written and presented by Michael Wood.


  1. ^ Hisarlık – Britannica Online Encyclopedia at
  2. ^ a b Allen, Susan Heuck (1996). "Calvert's Heirs Claim Schliemann Treasure". Archaeology 49 (1). 
  3. ^ a b Easton, D.F. (May–June 1998). "Heinrich Schliemann: Hero or Fraud?". The Classical World 91 (5): 339. doi:10.2307/4352102. 
  4. ^ Sture Linnér, "Europas Ungtid" (Wahlström och Widstrand), 2002
  5. ^ Lemonick, Michael D. (29 September 2011). "Troy's Lost Treasure". Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Easton, D. F. (1984). Anatolian Studies. British Institute at Ankara. p. 141. JSTOR 3642862. 

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