cover image Lost and Found: 8heinrich Schliemann and the Gold That Got Away

Lost and Found: 8heinrich Schliemann and the Gold That Got Away

Caroline Moorehead. Viking Books, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85679-4

Moorehead's background as biographer (most notably of Bertrand Russell and Freya Stark) and journalist (she's columnist for London's The Independent) may have encouraged her to reach too far in this deeply divided story of Schliemann's treasure, now on display for the first time in more than 50 years at Moscow's Pushkin Museum. The bulk of the book is a biography of Schliemann, his rise from grocer's apprentice in Germany to wealthy indigo merchant in St. Petersburg to his final re-creation as an archeologist. The clearly told story doesn't fall into easy denunciations of Schliemann's archeological method--a criticism favored more by classicists than archeologists. Still, the tale is awfully familiar and unnecessarily clotted with redundancies (how many times does one need to be told that Schliemann was generally oblivious to politics?) and extraneous details (""On 18 January 1866 came a further fitting for shirts, six of which were to be in flannel, and then a visit to a furrier in Cheapside, where he bought five sealskins.""). Most interesting are the three chapters on the post-WWII period when the Nazi curator of Berlin's Pre- and Early History Museum, anxious to protect the Schliemann bequest from casual looters, turned it over to Soviet officials. Increasingly an embarrassment to the Soviets, the treasure remained ""buried"" until 1993, when it was officially acknowledged. With some discussion of the levels of Troy, the fate of art during and after WWII and art repatriation, this book will be helpful mostly to amateurs who plan to go to Moscow. But that's a small group. (July)