Lesson 23: Narrative

Troy VI

  1. Stratification
  2. Architecture
  3. Funerary Practices
  4. Pottery
  5. Miscellaneous Findings
  6. The Destruction
  7. Conclusions


Eight sub-phases (a-h) have been identified in deposits between five and six meters deep around the edge of the citadel within the area enclosed by the fortifications.




At least three major phases of wall construction are represented which are hypothetically correlated with the Early, Middle, and Late phases identified within the culture of Troy VI as a whole. Three major gateways (VI Z, VI Y, and VI T) correspond to these three principal phases of fortification architecture. Gates VI Y and VI Z lie inside of VI T, just to the east of the so-called Pillar House. Little has survived of the first and second phases of wall construction, but enough is preserved to show that the walls of Troy VI were always characterized by vertical offsets breaking the wall up into sections, a novel feature of Trojan fortification architecture which appears to be decorative rather than functional. The fortification wall of Middle Troy VI probably ran along the line of the south wall of the Pillar House and the east wall of House VI F.

The fortification wall of Late Troy VI was built in sections to replace the preceding fortifications of Middle Troy VI. These later sections were constructed in several slightly different masonry styles and their building clearly extended over a long period of time. The circuit wall of Late Troy VI, preserved in a great horseshoe swinging from the northeast around to the west, is pierced by five unevenly spaced gates of different types. The wall is built of cut limestone blocks, the faces of which are rectangular (= ashlar). Although the courses of limestone blocks are not all of equal height (that is, the masonry is not {isodomic}), the joints between the blocks in successive courses are carefully alternated so as to maximize the strength of the construction. The wall is over four meters thick, and the stone portion of it, some nine meters high in places, was originally surmounted by a superstructure in mudbrick. The exterior face of the stone portion of the wall is strongly battered, and towers projecting from this face at a number of points illustrate the architects’ concern for the capability of defenders to direct enfilading fire on attackers, particularly in the vicinity of major gates. Where towers are not placed beside such gates, the walls at the gates themselves overlap in such a way as to force an enemy to expose himself to attack from two sides at once. A water supply in the form of a large cistern was constructed within Tower VI g, the northeasternmost portion of the circuit wall also known as Section 1.

The order of construction of the walls of Late Troy VI is as follows: Section 5 in the west; Sections 2 and 3 in the east, dated to Troy VIf, ca. 1400 B.C.; Sections 1, 4, and 6 at the northeast, south, and northwest respectively, the last being securely dated to Troy VIg; and finally, the addition of Towers VI h and VI i, both dated to Troy VIh. These walls were bedded on foundations extending a meter or more below the contemporary ground level outside of the citadel, but the foundations rest neither on bedrock nor on virgin soil, in contrast with standard Mycenaean practice. Perhaps the leaving of a cushion of earth between the foundations and bedrock was a conscious anti-seismic precaution, although it does not seem to have served its purpose since the walls were destroyed at the end of Troy VIh in what most authorities feel confident in identifying as a massive earthquake. While the exterior face of the wall was battered in its lower portion, the interior face rose vertically. There is some evidence, best preserved in Section 3, to suggest that in the late phases of Troy VI the original mudbrick superstructure of the wall, which presumably rose vertically on both faces and was some four meters thick, was replaced in all sections of the wall except in Tower VI g at the northeast, where mudbrick was found still in situ, by a thinner stone wall some two meters thick, preserved in places up to two meters in height but originally higher. Behind this strictly vertical, uppermost portion of the curtain wall was a parapet two to three meters wide which served as a fighting platform for the defenders and which itself lay some two meters above the contemporary ground level within the citadel. Whether this parapet was roofed or not is unknown.

The method of construction of the walls of Troy VI, especially clear in cross-section in Section 6 at the west, is entirely different from that characteristic of the Cyclopean building tradition of Mycenaean foritification architecture or that typical of Minoan construction employing ashlar blocks. The roughly rectangular blocks of Troy VI’s walls make contact not only at their exterior faces (as in Minoan and derivative Mycenaean ashlar masonry) but for the entire width of the block. Moreover, the wall as a whole is not built as two megalithic “skins” with a fill of smaller rubble, as is typical of Cyclopean masonry, but rather consists of a solid mass of carefully fitted ashlar blocks. As was true during the Early Bronze Age at Troy, the construction of fortifications around the royal citadel appears to have been a more or less continuous activity throughout the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. That is, as was true of the pharoahs’ use of pyramids during the Egyptian Old Kingdom, the rulers of Troy appear to have used the construction of fortifications surrounding their citadel as a massive, never-ending public works project.

Perhaps the most important discovery of the renewed excavations at Troy in the 1990’s under M. Korfmann is the exposure of an outer ring of defensive architecture consisting of a wide ditch located ca. 450 meters SSW of Section 4 of the previously known walls of Troy VI. This ditch has so far been traced for ca. 200 meters in a shallow E-W arc at what must have been its southernmost end. Periodically interrupted by unexcavated “bridges” that presumably mark the locations of major entryways through this defensive circuit, the ditch is likely to have been the foundation trench for an exterior city wall which has been entirely robbed out by later builders in historical times. A short length of what is likely to be a portion of the same wall system, but here consisting of blocks still in situ, has been found just to the east of Section 1 at the original citadel’s northeast corner. This newly discovered circuit defines what is to be identified as a fortified lower city, a standard feature of Near Eastern urban centers of the third and second millennia B.C. The original fortress of Troy VI thus becomes an inner royal citadel, the site of the king’s palace, the city’s chief temples, and perhaps also the residences of the king’s principal officials.

At the southwestern tip of the ridge on whose west end Troy is situated, portions of a second ditch have been exposed whose relationship to the first is not yet clear. In some places the first ditch is also accompanied on the interior by a relatively thin cutting in the subsoil for what might best be termed a stockade; its chronological and functional relationship to the much wider ditch just beyond it to the south likewise remains to be established.

Domestic Architecture

No palatial structure survives within the fortress, presumably because it stood at the apex and center of the citadel, an area shaved off in Hellenistic and Roman times down to levels well below those of Troy VI. There is, however, good surviving evidence for urban planning inside the fortifications in the form of rings of concentric terraces. Although only the lowest of these is well preserved, the side walls of the buildings constructed on it, which in most cases are the short sides of the buildings in question, are not parallel to each other but are instead aligned along the paths of hypothetical radii within the preserved semicircle of the citadel as a whole. In other words, the space within the fortress appears to have been subdivided according to a radiating plan of concentric terraces.

House 630 of Early Troy VI, located just north of the Pilllar House’s east end, shows that the houses of Troy VI were from the beginning large, rectangular structures with relatively simple plans, quite unlike the multiroomed structures sharing party walls which were typical of Troy V. The houses of Late Troy VI exemplify no standard plan, although they are uniformly large. Houses VI A, VI B, and VI C are megara. House VI G, rectangular in plan but only partially preserved, has an eccentrically located door in its long southeast wall. The Pillar House, rectangular in overall plan and subdivided into three major sections at its basement level, has two large pillars in its main room which taper markedly toward the top and which presumably supported columns at the level of the second storey. Entrance was from the north through the long wall on this side. House VI F is also rectangular and preserves good evidence for half-timbering in the form of beam-slots in its walls. This building too was probably two-storeyed, and at least two stages in its history are represented by two sets of interior supports which rested on stone bases set into the floor. House VI F was entered by two different non-axial doorways in its west and south sides during its two principal phases of construction, the first dating from Troy VIe and the second from Troy VIg. As in the Pillar House, there are traces of an interior stairway in House VI F leading up to the second storey. House VI M, dated to Troy VIh, has an unusual L-shaped plan with an open court occupying the space between its two wings.

The broad spans of the ground-floor spaces of these Troy VI mansions suggest that the second-storey superstructures above them were constructed of relatively light materials, that is, of wood rather than of mudbrick. The extensvie provisions for storage on the ground floor make clear that the actual residential quarters of these structures were all located on the second floor, in much the same way as was true in the vernacular architecture of much of western Turkey in the recent past.

Religious Architecture

A poorly understood form of religious architecture has been identified in the row of four (of a possible original six?) monolithic pillars which stood in front of Tower VI i just to the west side of the principal gate leading into the citadel. Within Tower VI i just to the north, traces of two possible columns standing on a raised platform, itself surrounded by a circular paved area, suggest the possibility that a shrine was located inside the tower at ground floor level. It is tempting to connect a possible Trojan cult involving pillars and columns with the piers and columns (or baetyls) frequently represented in Minoan cult scenes, despite the fact that the connections between Troy and Minoan Crete never seem to have been particularly strong.


Funerary Practices

In an area ca. 50 meters long by 15-20 meters wide on the southern edge of the Trojan plateau, just outside the line of the newly discovered ditch defining the outline of Troy VI’s lower city, was found a cemetery of cremation burials in jars dating exclusively to Troy VIh, the final phase of that settlement. Although the cemetery consisted of a minimum of 182 burial urns, only nineteen were found in situ, due to the considerable disturbance which this area of the plateau had suffered in later times. No evidence for an enclosure wall of any kind around the cemetery was found. The burial urns, buried in relatively shallow pits extending for the most part down to bedrock, were packed around with small stones at their bases to keep them upright and were originally closed by lids in the form of flat stones or ceramic plates or kylikes. Most urns contained the cremated remains of more than one individual, and some contained the cremated remains of both adults and children. A good number of the urns were broken or damaged even before they were used as burial receptacles. The gravegoods left with the dead are generally poor (a vase or two, with only a few instances of small fragments of precious materials). Blegen views the poverty of these tombs as indicative of the humble societal status of the individuals buried.

Traces of other small cremation plots were found at various other points around the plateau, as well as a fragmentary mudbrick structure that may have been an actual crematorium, all of which are dated to Troy VI but no more precisely within that period. No cemetery of any Trojan prehistoric period other than Troy VI has been found at the site, although extensive searches have been made for the Early Bronze Age cemeteries which are thought to have existed somewhere outside the walls. Is it a peculiar accident of discovery that has preserved for us a cemetery of Troy VIh but one of no other certainly distinct period? Or are the cremation burials of a large number of adults and children the remains of a massive burial program connected with the final disaster which befell Troy VI, an earthquake which demolished the impressive walls of the citadel and which presumably caused considerable loss of life among the inhabitants? Should we consider cremation burial in urns the normal mode of burial for the Late Bronze Age inhabitants of Troy or was it a special mode of burial designed to accommodate the large numbers of dead who perished in the earthquake and whose bodies, if not soon buried, might become the source of a disease which would have attacked the survivors?

Answers to these questions may be facilitated by Korfmann’s disovery int he 1980’s of a cemetery of similar jar burials at Besik Tepe, located about 8 kilometers southwest of Troy in a shallow embayment that provides the first natural harbor south of the entrance to the Dardanelles on the western Anatolian coast. Often identified in the past as the most likely anchorage of any naval force attacking Troy from the south, Besik Tepe would also be the logical stopping point for ships seeking to pass through the Dardanelles enroute to the Sea of Marmara or the Black Sea beyond but forced to wait for the necessary favorable winds from the south. Like the burials on the ridge at Hisarlik, those on the beach at Besik Tepe include men, women, and children. One of the male graves is that of a warrior who was not only buried with his “killed” sword wrapped around his ash urn but who also had a very large krater set up over his grave as a permanent above ground burial marker, in much the same fashion as much later masterpieces of Geometric pottery were set up over the graves of Athenian nobles in the 9th and 8th centuries B.C.



Of the ninety-eight different shapes current during one or another phase of Troy VI, no less than ninety are new in that period. There is thus a sharp break in the ceramic tradition between Troy V and Troy VI, made even more emphatic by the strong ceramic continuity detectable throughout the Trojan Early Bronze Age (i.e. Troy I-V).

A hallmark of the pottery of Troy VI is a gray ware, termed “Gray Minyan” by the excavators, which closely resembles in its wheelmade manufacture and lustrous, soapy-feeling surface the Gray Minyan pottery of Middle Helladic Greece. French, however, has argued convincingly that the gray-burnished pottery of Troy VI should not be termed “Minyan” since it is a local West Anatolian Middle Bronze Age ware in all probability derived from the so-called “Inegöl Gray ware” of the Early Bronze 3 period found in the region southeast of the Sea of Marmara. Indeed, there is even some gray ware in Troy V, so that the gray ware of Troy VI could be said to have had some local antecedents at Troy itself. Middle Helladic Gray Minyan is similar to the gray ware of Troy VI in conception and even to some extent in technique, but the shape ranges of these two ceramic classes are different with the single exception of the ring-stemmed (or Lianokladhi) goblet. The presence of this shape in Trojan gray ware, along with the presence of Middle Helladic (and probably Cycladic) Matt-painted wares, are evidence for contacts between Troy VI and the Greek Mainland during the Middle Bronze Age. French argues that the idea of a gray-burnished ware was very probably exported to Greece during the latest Early Bronze 2 period when Anatolian influence is to be detected in the Kastri Group and Lefkandi I assemblages. The first Gray Minyan (or Fine Gray-burnished) ware appears at Lerna in Early Helladic III (Lerna IV) when the pottery of Mainland Greece had become “anatolianized” as a result of the fusion of the “Lefkandi I” and Early Helladic IIA (or Korakou culture) traditions. It should be noted that the Bass bowl of Lerna IV is totally absent from the Trojan shape repertoire. Middle Helladic Gray Minyan is the result of an internal development on the Greek Mainland unrelated to developments in Western Anatolia. The Greek Bass bowl is modified into the ring-stemmed goblet during the early MH period and then is adopted by the Trojans in Early Troy VI. This fact indicates that Troy VI begins only after the Middle Helladic period has started in Greece. Thus Troy V is probably at least partially contemporary with early Middle Helladic. Matt-painted pottery, always rare at Troy and probably always imported from the southern Aegean, begins to appear in Troy VIb. Mycenaean pottery begins in Troy VId as LH I and continues in Troy VIe as LH II, in Troy VIf-g as LH II-IIIA, and in VIh as mostly LH IIIA but with a little LH IIIB. The destruction of Troy VI thus took place in Mycenaean terms during the LH IIIB period. In the last phases of Troy VI, Mycenaean pottery is locally imitated in the form of painted vessels made in the local Tan Ware.


Miscellaneous Findings

Five sword pommels of white marble or alabaster from both the Early and the Late phases of Troy VI are presumably local imitations of Mycenaean forms or conceivably even actual imports. Also new are three pyramidal steatite weights, a distinctive type of whetstone, and beads of glass paste, the last apparently another sign of Mycenaean influence. Ivory first appears in any quantity in Troy VI, very possibly imported from Mycenaean spheres of influence. Terracotta spindle whorls are no longer decorated as they had been in the Early Bronze Age. The first horse bones on the site appear at the beginning of Troy VI. By contrast, on the Greek Mainland such bones have been found at Tiryns, and possibly also at Lerna, in EH III contexts. Thus, somewhat paradoxically, the domesticated horse is attested a bit earlier in southern Greece than in northwestern Anatolia.


The Destruction

The excavators have argued from the massive amounts of collapsed stonework in the fortifications and elsewhere around the site that a violent earthquake destroyed Troy VIh. There are no convincing signs of a general conflagration all over the site. Some authorities have seen in the myth of the Trojan Horse a metaphor for this earthquake, in that the horse was sacred to Poseidon, the Greek divinity responsible for earthquakes.



There is a major cultural break at Troy between Troy V of the Early Bronze Age and Troy VI of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. This break is discernible in fortification and domestic architecture, in pottery, in the faunal assemblage (with the appearance of the horse), in various categories of miscellaneous finds, and, some would say, in burial customs. Trojan contacts with Mainland Greece are apparent from Early Troy VI onwards, and become increasingly stronger up until the time of Troy VI’s destruction. Minoan contacts, on the other hand, are minimal. As in the Early Bronze Age, Troy was in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages arguably a royal citadel, but one of a noticeably different type in a number of details from those characteristic of the later Mycenaean Mainland. Even in the absence of a palace in Troy VI, we may note the differences between Troy and a Mycenaean fortress in terms both of urban planning, fortification architecture (including gate systems, tower construction, and provision for a water supply), and domestic architecture within the citadel itself.


Comments are closed.