Height: 9.300 cm
Width: 28.000 cm
Diameter: 14.600 cm
Gift of Sir Charles Hercules Read
Two-handed black burnished cup
Trojan, around 1200
From Troy, modern Turkey
This cup comes from the mound of Hisarlik in western Turkey, which has been identified as the site of ancient Troy. It was probably found by A.W.F. Calvert before the beginning of excavations by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann (1822-90). Two-handles cups were common in Early Bronze Age Level II at Troy (around 2300 BC), but this is a later type with a broader shape and is paralleled by cups since excavated in Level VIIa and dating to the twelfth century BC.
Though the identity of the site of Hisarlik as ancient Troy is widely accepted, there has been controversy around attempts to identify destruction levels within the mound with the Trojan War of Homer's epic. Schliemann identified Level II of the site, with its hoards of gold and silver luxury items, as the Troy of Priam, Paris and Hector. Other scholars, however, realized that Homer's Troy should have flourished at the same time as the Mycenaean culture of the Greek mainland (about 1600-1200 BC) and so the later Level VI, with its mighty ramparts, public buildings and clear destruction level was preferred. Subsequent excavations then suggested that Level VI had been destroyed not by invaders but by an earthquake and that Level VIIa, destroyed by fire, might be a better candidate.
Continuing excavations at Hisarlik are shedding more light on the city's long history, but it is very unlikely that it will ever be possible to relate Homer's epic poem directly to the archaeological record. The thirteenth to twelfth centuries BC provide the most likely background for any historical event that underlay the story of the Trojan War and for the date of this cup.
E.J. Forsdyke, Catalogue of Greek and Etrusca (London, British Museum)