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Destruction of Troy

The city of the archaeological layer known as Troy VIIa, which has been dated on the basis of pottery styles to the mid- to late-13th century BC, lasted for about a century, with a destruction layer at c. 1180 BC.

It is the most often-cited candidate for the Troy of Homer and is believed to correspond to Wilusa, known from Hittite sources dating to the period of roughly 1300-1250 BC.

These dates correspond closely to the mythical chronology of Greece as calculated by classical authors, placing the construction of the walls of Troy by Poseidon, Apollo and Aeacus at 1282 BC and the sack of Troy by the Greeks at 1183 BC.

Troy VIIa appears to have been destroyed by a war, perhaps the source of the legendary Trojan War, and there are traces of a fire. Partial human remains were found in houses and in the streets, and near the north-western ramparts a human skeleton with skull injuries and a broken jawbone. Three bronze arrowheads were found, two in the fort and one in the city. However, only small portions of the city have been excavated, and the finds are too scarce to clearly favour destruction by war over a natural disaster.

Until excavations in 1988, one of the problems with this identification was that Troy VII seemed to be a hill-top fort, and not a city of the size described by Homer. The 1988 discovery of a small section of a possible city circuit wall, which was found after excavation to be a ditch, enclosed a much larger area suggesting a city "at least ten times larger than earlier excavators - and thus the broader public - had supposed"

The site remained inhabited following the destruction of Troy VIIa. Troy VIIb dates to a time when Greek influence began to extend to the area (the "Greek Dark Ages"). Troy VIIb1 (ca. 1120 BC) and Troy VIIb2 (ca. 1020 BC) appear to have been destroyed by fires. Troy VIIb3 was deserted in the mid-10th century BC, and the site remained uninhabited for more than 200 years before a new settlement, Troy VIII, was established around 700 BC. The site was again uninhabited throughout Classical Antiquity, until the foundation of Roman Ilium at the site (Troy IX) in the 20s BC.