Late Bronze Age Troy

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Troy in the Late Bronze Age was a thriving coastal city consisting of a steep fortified citadel and a sprawling lower town below it. It had a considerable population and extensive foreign contacts, including with Mycenaean Greece. Geographic and linguistic evidence suggests that it corresponds to the city of Wilusa known from Hittite texts. Its archaeological sublayers Troy VIh and Troy VIIa are among the candidates for a potential historical setting for the myths of the Trojan War, since aspects of their architecture are consistent with the Iliad's description of mythic Troy and they show potential signs of violent destruction.[1]


Late Bronze Age Troy includes parts of the archaeological layers known as Troy VI and Troy VII. Troy VI was built around 1750 BC. Its final sublayer, Troy VIh, was destroyed around 1300 BC. The early sublayers of Troy VII were contemporary with the late period of Mycenaean culture and the Hittite Empire. The later layers were contemporary with the Greek Dark Ages and the Neo-Hittite states.

  • Troy VI: 1750 BC – 1300 BC
  • Troy VIIa: ca. 13th century BC
  • Troy VIIb1: 12th century BC
  • Troy VIIb2: 11th century BC
  • Troy VIIb3: until c. 950 BC

Troy VI and VII were given separate labels by early excavators, but scholarly consensus holds that the first several sublayers of Troy VII were in fact continuations of the earlier city. As a result, some researchers have suggested relabeling Troy VIIa as Troy VIi and Troy VIIb1 as Troy VIj, with Troy VII beginning at the sublayer standardly known as VIIb2. Although the substance of this proposal is widely accepted, the original nomenclature is still generally used to avoid confusion.[2][3][4]

Troy VI[edit]

Troy VI existed from around 1750 BC to 1300 BC. Its citadel was divided into a series of rising terraces, of which only the outermost is reasonably well-preserved. On this terrace, archaeologists have found the remains of freestanding multistory houses where Trojan elites would have lived. These houses lacked ground-floor windows, and their stone exterior walls mirrored the architecture of the citadel fortifications. However, they otherwise display an eclectic mix of architectural styles, some following the classic megaron design, others even having irregular floorplans. Some of these houses show potential Aegean influence, one in particular resembling the megaron at Midea in the Argolid. Archaeologists believe there may have been a royal palace on the highest terrace, but most Bronze Age remains from the top of the hill were cleared away by classical era building projects.[5][3]

Artist's representation of House VI M, part of the palatial complex

The citadel was enclosed by massive walls. Present-day visitors can see the limestone base of these walls, which are five metres (16 ft) thick and eight metres (26 ft) tall. However, during the Bronze Age they would have been overlaid with wood and mudbrick superstructures, reaching a height over nine metres (30 ft). The walls were built in a "sawtooth" style commonly found at Mycenaean citadels, divided into seven metres (23 ft)-ten metres (33 ft) segments which joined with one another at an angle. The walls also have a notable slope, similar to those at other sites including Hattusa. These walls were watched over by several rectangular watchtowers, which would also have provided a clear view of Trojan plain and the sea beyond it. The citadel was accessed by five gates, which led into paved and drained cobblestone streets. Some of these gates featured enormous pillars which serve no structural purpose and have been interpreted as religious symbols.[5][3][6]

The lower town was built to the south of the citadel, covering an area of roughly 30 hectares. Remains of a dense neighborhood have been found just outside the citadel walls, and traces of other buildings and Late Bronze Age pottery have been found further away. Little of it has been excavated, and few remains are likely to exist; buildings in the lower city are likely to have been made of wood and other perishable materials, and much of the area was built over in the classical and Roman era. The extent of the lower town is evidenced by a defensive ditch cut down to the bedrock and postholes which attest to wooden ramparts or walls which would have once been the outer defense of the city.[3][7]

The lower city was only discovered in the late 1980s, earlier excavators having assumed that Troy VI occupied only the hill of Hisarlik. Its discovery led to a dramatic reassessment of Troy VI, showing that it was over 16 times larger than had been assumed and thus a major city with a large population rather than a mere aristocratic residence.[3][7][8]

The material culture of Troy VI appears to belong to a distinct Northwest Anatolian cultural group, with influences from Anatolia, the Aegean, and the Balkans. The primary local pottery styles were wheel-made West Anatolian Gray Ware and Tan ware, local offshoots of an earlier Middle Helladic tradition. Foreign pottery found at the site includes Minoan, Mycenaean, Cypriot, and Levantine items.

Depas Amphikypellon drinking cups were very common in Troy during this period. They had a wide distribution in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Local potters also made their own imitations of foreign styles, including Gray Ware and Tan Ware pots made in Mycenaean-style shapes. Although the city appears to have been within the Hittite sphere of influence, no Hittite artifacts have been found in Troy VI. Also notably absent are sculptures and wall paintings, otherwise common features of Bronze Age cities. Troy VI is also notable for its architectural innovations as well as its cultural developments, which included the first evidence of horses at the site.[3][7] The language spoken in Troy VI is unknown. The main candidate is Luwian, an Anatolian language which was spoken in many nearby states and which appears in the only piece of writing found at Troy. However, available evidence is not sufficient to establish that Luwian was the primary language of the city's population, and a number of alternatives have been proposed.[9][10][11]

Troy VI was destroyed around 1250 BC, corresponding with the sublayer known as Troy VIh. Evidence of Troy VIh's destruction includes collapsed masonry, and subsidence in the southeast of the citadel, which led its initial excavators to conclude that it was destroyed by an earthquake. However, alternative hypotheses include an internal uprising as well as a foreign attack.[3][12]

Troy VIIa[edit]

Anatolian Grey Ware

Troy VIIa was the final layer of the Late Bronze Age city, built soon after the destruction of Troy VIh. The builders reused many of the earlier city's surviving structures, notably its citadel wall, which they renovated with additional stone towers and mudbrick breastworks. Numerous small houses were added inside the citadel, filling in formerly open areas. New houses were also built in the lower city, whose area appears to have been greater in Troy VIIa than in Troy VI.

The city appears to have been built by its previous inhabitants, as evidenced by continuity in material culture. However, the character of the city appears to have changed, the citadel growing crowded and foreign imports declining. Residents of the citadel buried pithoi in the floors of their homes, seemingly worried about impending shortages.[13] Trevor Bryce suggests that Troy VII was "a city which, though still occupied by its previous inhabitants, had suffered a severe setback of one kind or another from which it never recovered".[13][3][12]

The city was destroyed around 1180 BC, roughly contemporary with the Late Bronze Age collapse but subsequent to the destructions of the Mycenaean palaces. The destruction layer shows evidence of enemy attack, including scorch marks.[3][14][12]

Troy VIIb[edit]

Seal found in the Troy VIIb layer, featuring Luwian hieroglyphs.

After the destruction of Troy VIIa around 1180 BC, the city was rebuilt as Troy VIIb. Older structures were again reused, including Troy VI's citadel walls. Its first phase, Troy VIIb1, is largely a continuation of Troy VIIa. Residents continued using wheel-made Grey Ware pottery alongside a new handmade style sometimes known as "barbarian ware". Imported Mycenaean-style pottery attests to some continuing foreign trade.[3][14][15]

One of the most striking finds from Troy VIIb1 is a hieroglyphic Luwian seal giving the names of a woman and a man who worked as a scribe. The seal is important since it is the only example of preclassical writing found at the site, and provides potential evidence that Troy VIIb1 had a Luwian-speaking population. However, the find is puzzling since palace bureaucracies had largely disappeared by this era. Proposed explanations include the possibility that it belonged to an itinerant freelance scribe and alternatively that it dates from an earlier era than its find context would suggest.[3][14][16]

Troy VIIb2 is marked by cultural changes including walls made of upright stones and a handmade knobbed pottery style known as Buckelkeramik. These practices, which existed alongside older local traditions, have been argued to reflect immigrant populations arriving from southwest Europe. Pottery finds from this layer also include imported Protogeometric pottery, showing that Troy was occupied continuously well into the Iron Age, contra later myths.[3][14][15]

Troy VIIb was destroyed by fire around 950 BC. However, some houses in the citadel were left intact and the site continued to be occupied, if only sparsely.[3][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bryce, Trevor (2005). The Trojans and their Neighbours. Taylor & Francis. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-415-34959-8.
  2. ^ Korfmann, Manfred (2013). Troia/Wilusa Guidebook. Çanakkale-Tübingen Troia Vakh (Foundation) Publication Series 1 (Enlarged and revised ed.). Istanbul: Biltur Basim Yayin ve Hizmet A.Ș. p. 60.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Jablonka, Peter (2011). "Troy in regional and international context". In Steadman, Sharon; McMahon, Gregory (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Anatolia. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195376142.013.0032.
  4. ^ Bryce, Trevor (2005). The Trojans and their Neighbours. Taylor & Francis. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-415-34959-8.
  5. ^ a b Bryce, Trevor (2005). The Trojans and their Neighbours. Taylor & Francis. pp. 58–59. ISBN 978-0-415-34959-8.
  6. ^ Knight, W. F. J. (1934). "The Pillars at the South Gate of Troy VI". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 54 (2): 210. doi:10.2307/626868. ISSN 0075-4269. JSTOR 626868.
  7. ^ a b c Korfmann, Manfred (2003). Troia in Light of New Research (PDF). Reden an Der Universität Trier, Dies academicus 2003 (English ed.). Tübingen: Institute for Pre- and Protohistory and Archaeology of the Middle Ages, Tübingen University. pp. 29–30.
  8. ^ Bryce, Trevor (2005). The Trojans and their Neighbours. Taylor & Francis. pp. 61–64. ISBN 978-0-415-34959-8.
  9. ^ Bryce, Trevor (2005). The Trojans and their Neighbours. Taylor & Francis. pp. 117–122. ISBN 978-0-415-34959-8.
  10. ^ Watkins, Calvert (1986). "The language of the Trojans". In Mellink, Machteld (ed.). Troy and the Trojan War: a Symposium Held at Bryn Mawr College. Bryn Mawr Commentaries.
  11. ^ Yakubovich, Ilya (2008). "3.6" (PDF). Sociolinguistics of the Luvian language (PhD Thesis). University of Chicago.
  12. ^ a b c Bryce, Trevor (2005). The Trojans and their Neighbours. Taylor & Francis. pp. 64–66. ISBN 978-0-415-34959-8.
  13. ^ a b Bryce, Trevor (2006). The Trojans and their Neighbors. Routledge. p. 66. ISBN 0-415-34955-9.
  14. ^ a b c d e Jablonka, Peter (2012). "Troy". In Cline, Eric (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199873609.013.0063.
  15. ^ a b Bryce, Trevor (2005). The Trojans and their Neighbours. Taylor & Francis. pp. 66–67. ISBN 978-0-415-34959-8.
  16. ^ Bryce, Trevor (2005). The Trojans and their Neighbours. Taylor & Francis. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-415-34959-8.