Digging for Troy: From Homer to Hisarlik by Jill Rubalcaba, Eric H. Cline, and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen is an overview of the search for the city of Troy that is the centerpiece of Homer’s The Iliad. Was there really a city named Troy that was kept under siege by the Greeks? Was there really a Trojan Horse with Greek soldiers inside? The answers may surprise you.
Rubalcaba and Cline start their “Introduction” with a quick summary of the search for Troy at a place called Hisarlik, an ancient ruin in what today is Turkey. Started by egotistical amateur Heinrich Schliemann in 1870, the excavation was taken over by trained archaeologists and has continued sporadically until the present.
The first chapter, titled “The Legend”, is a retelling of the story of Troy based on a compilation of ancient texts. It is arguably the best chapter in the book. Students of history looking for a clear, succinct and sometimes humorous summary will find this chapter helpful.
The rest of the book gives an inside look into the field of archaeology and how it has evolved since the 1800’s. Schliemann, the rich amateur archaeologist, started digging destructively with a pickaxe because he was in search of fame and fortune. In contrast, the modern archaeologist Manfred Korfmann used magnetic imaging techniques to discover walls that were still buried underground. Did you know that archaeologists “dig” cultures that were messy because it gives them a lot of trash to explore for clues to ancient civilizations? Middle school is a time to start exploring potential career interests, and the text reveals not only the process, but also the pitfalls archaeologists may encounter when trying to reconstruct the past, including disagreements with colleagues.
Digging for Troy is a good source of background information for students studying Ancient Greece as well as a revealing look into the field of archaeology. It was nominated for Cybils awards in the MG/YA nonfiction category.
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
School & Library Binding: 74 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Pub Inc (February 2011)
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