Saturday, 14 August 2021

‘Archaeologists claim they’ve discovered the Trojan Horse’

It’s been reported in a handful of news sources that ‘archaeologists claim to have found a Trojan horse in Turkey’. The story appeared first in Greek Reporter, and it’s been repeated in The Jerusalem Post, Illinois News Today, and IBTimes India in the last four days.

This is just a quick note to repeat what others have already pointed out, especially Spencer McDaniel in his blog Tales of Times Forgotten, plus an update here (just in case anyone is reading this who doesn’t already follow him!):

Every bit of the story is complete fiction.

Addendum, 15 August: It now turns out that the story originated on a satirical website. See Spencer McDaniel’s response below. The real Christine Morris found out the story’s actual origin (archived link provided by Twitter user AlCabbage045). It first appeared there on 29 September 2014. It popped up again on a couple of Greek-language blogs on 5 November that year (here and here), then Greek Reporter picked it up from one of those blogs the following day.
The wooden horse as it appears in A Total War saga: Troy (2020). This week, news sites are competing for historical realism against ... video games.

The real news here is that Greek Reporter is fine with publishing fictional stories, and that The Jerusalem Post, Illinois News Today, and IBTimes India urgently need to upgrade their fact-checking processes.

Even History.com, infamous for passing fiction off as history, didn’t fall for this nonsense. If you’re a news site editor and History.com has better fact-checking than you do, you’ve got a big problem.

(By the way don’t worry, the links in the first paragraph above are to snapshots on The Internet Archive, not to the news sites themselves. They don’t deserve the benefits of Google’s ranking algorithm.)

A few corrective points, as briefly as possible:

The ‘journalist’ repeated the story from an equally fraudulent piece that he made up in 2014. Here’s the original. The 2021 version has alterations in the first four paragraphs. At first Spencer McDaniel thought the two stories were identical: he was misled because the URL of the 2014 article redirects to the 2021 version of the article. But the November 2014 version is still available through the Internet Archive.

By the way, no one paid any attention to the 2014 story either. Because it was just as fake then as it is now.

Turkish or American? The headline claims that the ‘discovery’ was made by Turkish archaeologists; the article refers to archaeologists at Boston University.

Boston University has never been involved in excavation at Troy. All excavations since 1988 have been under the auspices of the universities of Tübingen, Cincinnati, and Çanakkale.

The archaeologists don’t exist. Here are lists of the faculty at Boston University’s archaeology department and classics department: they’re great people, but there’s no one there called Christine Morris or Chris Wilson. The names are completely made up.

There is a real classical archaeologist named Christine Morris at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland, as Spencer McDaniel found. But he got in touch with her, and over the last day she’s been kind enough to confirm to him that

she has never been affiliated with Boston University in any way, that she has never excavated at Troy or worked there in any capacity, that she has never claimed to have found the Trojan horse, and that the story that has been published by Greek Reporter and all these other news outlets is completely fabricated.

The source is fake too. The 2014 article claimed that the story came from Newsit.gr, a Greek-language news outlet. This sourcing was removed in the 2021 version of the article. Newsit.gr has never published anything on the subject. (The only appearance of the phrase Δούρειος Ίππος on Newsit.gr before the 2014 Greek Reporter article is a metaphorical use, in a piece about the racist group Golden Dawn.)

The ancient documentation is fake. Both the 2014 and 2021 versions of the article cite

a damaged bronze plate with the inscription “For their return home, the Greeks dedicate this offering to Athena.” Quintus Smyrnaeus refers to the particular plate in his epic poem “Posthomerica” ...

There was no writing in Greece between around 1150 and 800 BCE: the classical-modern Greek alphabet didn’t develop until the 700s. All Late Bronze Age documents in Greek would have to be written in the Linear B script, and classical-era Greeks weren’t even aware of the existence of that writing system. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that actual mycenologists — scholars who study documents written in the Linear B script — know perfectly well that this story is false. And Quintus of Smyrna, a poet who lived more than a thousand years later than Homer, has nothing at all to contribute to any conversation about these myths.

The lead image from the 2014 version of the Greek Reporter article. Annoyingly, I haven’t been able to track down where they swiped it from: it’s uncredited, and they stripped EXIF and other metadata.

Real archaeologists, real Homer scholars, and real mycenologists have been rolling their eyes at this story. It isn’t a big deal: as I mentioned, the vast majority of news sources have ignored it because it’s so obvious that it’s fake.

But it’s always worthwhile to have another voice pointing out that Greek Reporter and the ‘journalist’ Philip Chrysopoulos apparently feel free to spread misinformation and deceive their readers.

There’s very little reason to see anything historical about the wooden horse itself, or the Trojan War. But that’s a story for another day. I talked about it a bit back in 2016 here, here, and here. I’m planning to revisit the topic a bit more directly soon.

3 comments:

  1. I thought I would leave a note here mentioning that there have actually been further developments in the case since my last update.

    Christine Morris told me in her email that the story actually originated not with Greek Reporter, but rather with the fake news website World News Daily Report. The original article from World News Daily Report seems to have been deleted, since I could not find it using Google, but the user on Twitter known as "El Cabbage" has managed to track down an archived version of the article on the Internet Archive.

    It appears that both of the articles published by Greek Reporter, are extensively plagiarized from the World News Daily Report article. The 2014 version of the Greek Reporter article follows the wording of the first five paragraphs of the World News Daily Report article extremely closely, with the information arranged in the exact same order, with only a few minor wording changes and omissions.

    Additionally, the lead image of the 2014 version of the Greek Reporter article that you were unable to trace appears to have been taken directly from the now-deleted World News Daily Report article.

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    1. Oh well done to you and @AlCabbage045, that's great research, thank you! The fact that it's a satirical site is just icing on the cake.

      I see the story pops up in a handful of Greek sites on 5 November 2014, the day before the Greek Reporter piece: here on iefimerida.gr on 5 November, and here and here on two blogs. The blogs use the image of the planks that appears as the lead on the Greek Reporter piece, iefimerida.gr doesn't. So I take it Chrysopoulos was getting his news from one of those blogs.

      This at least explains why the image of the planks used as the header of the Greek Reporter piece is so blurry: it's enlarged from a tiny 300x156 image! Still no metadata, so I'll have to keep on wondering where the images really come from.

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    2. And, how could I leave her out, thanks to Christine Morris too!

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