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Overlooking the Dardanelles, a stark but stunning new museum opens a new chapter in the enduring story of Troy, next to Homer’s embattled city. With Troy, truth is ever elusive, but, as Barnaby Rogerson discovers, the experience is epic. Photographs by Don McCullin and Monica Fritz
The new museum of Troy is a surprising wonder, a giant cube of rusting iron. I was fortunate that on my first visit I knew absolutely nothing about it, which gave it a mysterious impact. We had drifted down an interesting-looking driveway (dotted with sarcophagi in an invitingly come-hither way) below the village of Hisarlık. I was trying to look authoritative, as I was showing my elder brother around Troy, and thought that this must be the new entrance to the site. We were invited to park in the shade of a freshly planted grove of trees and then directed down a long ramp towards a basement entrance patrolled by security guards. The iron cube looked very forbidding, but a !ine of classical architraves and capitals beckoned us to descend.
The museum interior is a four-storey tower of enchantment. There are innumerable problems about trying to present the story of Troy, as there are just too many storylines, too many layers of history and they are ali rich with controversy and detail. But I take my hat off to the designers. They have created a physical form that subdivides the story of Troy into digestible and quite separate chunks of history which can ali be individually accessed by an exterior ramp, which slowly winds its way up to the view from the flat roof.
The ground floor functions as the museum depot for the whole province of the Troad – which is rich with fascinating sites, such as Alexandria Troas, Assos and Apollo Smintheus, in addition to Troy. If you knew the dusty old museum in Çanakkale, this is where ali the treasures are now displayed. What you will not have seen is the "Sarcophagus of the Persian Knight" from the fourth century BC, depicted with his closed war-helmet on one face and engaged in a ferociously vivid hunting scene on the other, where the wild boar has retained its original red pigment.
The second floor is dedicated to the Bronze Age city of Ilion (Troy), explained through state-of-the-art maps and diagrams that flesh out the comparatively modest found objects. 1 found the shifting shape of Troy's natura! harbour (now ali farmland), and the research into seasonal winds, totally fascinating. For the direction and the force of wind had to be exactly right before an ancient merchant ship could force itself up the Dardanelles, against the prevailing current. This (and a freshwater spring) gives us ali the information we need to explain why Troy was rebuilt over and over again…
To celebrate our 60th issue we take a grand tour of Istanbul’s treasures – firm favourites and well-kept secrets, the tried and tested and the weird and wonderful, venerable institutions and cutting-edge arts spaces.
An exhibition at the British Museum draws on the wealth of art and literature inspired over centuries by the romance and mystery of Trojan history and mythology, Barnaby Rogerson is beguilded
Once ubiquitous and widely valued for its medicinal powers, the medlar has been neglected for more than a century as it calls for patience and cannot be mass-marketed. So take advantage of this ambrosial amber-coloured fruit wherever you find it – in street markets, in country gardens or in the wild. Text and photographs: Berrin Torolsan
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