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Tevfikiye, Turkey
Lat: 39.9575° N Lon: 26.2389° E
You’ve seen the movie; you’ve read the book. Now it’s…me, Don Wildman, climbing into a tunnel, grunting, groaning, and bumping my head again.

In every way, the ancient city of Troy is the stuff of legend. From Homer’s The Iliad to Brad Pitt in a leather tunic, no story has garnered as much historical and cultural attention short of God creating the Heaven and Earth in seven days. The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships. The Trojan Horse. The USC Trojans. Heck, Troy has even come down to us in a certain rubberized form that…well, you know. So when we tooled down that road in southern Turkey to go and shoot a segment about the ruins of Troy I wondered what we could possibly bring to light that hadn’t already been onscreen or buried deep in your high school book-bag.

Turns out there was plenty. While each great tale of history eventually becomes an oversimplified version of itself, that story exists in the first place because it is so rich, complicated, and nuanced. Fabled history can never be told in full. Certainly, this is true of the history of Troy. First of all, there were NINE Troys through history, all built on top of each other over a period of some 4000 years, give or take several centuries. For much of this massive chronology, it wasn’t even called Troy. It was called Wilusa and bumped up against the Hittite Empire’s reign in the lands of Anatolia (“Turkey” comes much later and btw has nothing to do with poultry).

This being a blog and not a Masters thesis, I’ll skip the giant learning curve that took several days of exploring those magnificent ruins with none other than the head archaeologist and one of the cutest dogs in the known world. It is a fascinating excavation that reveals the committed work of generations of genius. Men who have delicately (and not so delicately) reconstructed whole civilizations reaching back millennia. At any given spot you can discuss eras ancient or modern; indeed the history of archaeology itself in some ways begins here (see Schliemann’s Trench). But we wanted to know about the famous war.

Well, it was actually the water—or, rather, a water tunnel—we needed to explore. This tunnel is a relatively recent discovery located beneath the farthest reach of the excavations, outside the ancient city walls. It was likely the main reason Troy/Wilusa could survive the kind of sieges that were mercilessly waged against her. I got to climb into this dark tunnel, wandering a quarter-mile through knee-high water in the company of Trojan frogs—which was pretty thrilling for me. Not so much for the frogs.

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