Troy at the British Museum

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Troy: Myth and Reality © David Gill

The Troy: Myth and Reality exhibition at the British Museum has just opened in Gallery 30. The beautifully designed exhibition takes the visitor from the Skaian Gate at Troy through to the installation of the Shield of Achilles.

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‘The Death of Hector, King Priam and the Skaian Gate’, Anthony Caro, 1993–94. Photo: David Gill

The narrative of the Trojan War was supported by a range of objects, underpinned with figure-decorated pottery from the museum’s extensive collection. One of the first pieces on display is the Geometric ‘Nestor’s cup’ from Pithekoussai (‘I am the cup of Nestor, good to drink from’).

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Skyphos from Pithekoussai © David Gill

There is a section on the excavations at Troy, and another one on the documentary evidence. The final section is on the reception of Troy, and includes a poem written by a British officer at Gallipoli in his copy of The Shropshire Lad. 

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Troy: Myth and Reality © David Gill

The exhibition contained two late 15th century Italian panels by Biagio d’Antonio (on loan from the Fitzwilliam Museum) showing the Death of Hector and the Wooden Horse entering the city.

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The Siege of Troy, Biagio d’Antonio. Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum. Photo: David Gill

Schliemann’s part in the uncovering of Troy was explored a space that displayed some of the finds from the excavations against a backdrop of the great trench.

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Troy: Myth and Reality © David Gill

What were the personal highlights in the exhibition? The Roman silver kantharoi from Hoby in Denmark were stunning pieces of luxury art. The representation of Priam seeking the return of Hektor’s body before Achilles on one of them was moving.

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Kantharos from Hoby. Denmark, Nationalmuseet. Photo: David Gill

The real surprise was the Roman sarcophagus from Ephesus that now forms part of the collection at Woburn Abbey. This scene shows the weighing of Hektor’s body.

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Sarcophagus from Ephesus. Woburn Abbey. Photo: David Gill

This is one of the best temporary exhibitions to be mounted in Room 30. The design and installation of the exhibition was inspired, especially the graphics explaining the iconography on Attic figure-decorated pottery.

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Shield of Achilles. Spencer Finch, 2013. Photo: David Gill

Author: David Gill

David Gill is Honorary Research Fellow at UEA; Professor of Archaeological Heritage.

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