From Troy to London to Berlin to Moscow - to the world

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The treasure that Heinrich Schliemann unearthed in Troy is being shown to the outside world for the first time in half a century. It was taken as war booty from Berlin by the Russians in 1945, and its whereabouts remained a mystery until 1990, when a young curator at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow came across documents that revealed its presence there. When his collaborator made the discovery public in an American art magazine, he was sacked for his pains.

It took until last year for the Russian minister of culture to confirm that the hoard was indeed there.

The treasure is about 4,400 years old and predates King Priam, whose son, Paris, captured Helen, by more than 1,000 years. This week, international experts will view it for the first time. The Germans will see it first, then a Turk, because Troy was situated in what is now Turkey. Early next month, a British expert will have his turn. What they will see is virtually all the gold, including two head-dresses 20in long and made up of 4,066 gold leaves, 12,171 golden links and a necklace of 8,700 gold beads.

The treasure's travels since its discovery in 1873 have been tortuous, to say the least. Schliemann, a master of subterfuge, magicked his haul away from under the eyes of Turkish authorities who were trying to prevent its export. He stored the collection in a house he owned in Athens. The Turks started proceedings to claim half the treasure. Eventually an out-of-court settlement was reached.

Schliemann hoped his discovery would be displayed at the British Museum, but was turned down. William Gladstone, the prime minister, suggested the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A). The treasure was duly installed and a catalogue prepared, though, sadly, no copies survive.

Britain lost its chance of keeping the hoard when Schliemann altered his will in 1879 and left it to Germany. There it remained until 1945. As the Red Army approached Berlin, the plan was to hide it in a salt mine, but the German museum authorities prevaricated and it was taken to Moscow.

Russia is the legal owner, but Germany and Turkey both lay claim to it.

An exhibition at the Pushkin Museum is planned for next year, but what will happen beyond that is anybody's guess.

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