University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Sunset over Gordion – Braden Cordivari


July 26, 2016

My favorite time of day at Gordion is from the late afternoon into the early evening, between 5:30 and 8 pm or so, when the sun is just starting to set and the whole valley begins to cool down. Everything is lit with a soft raking light, and if you’re lucky enough to be out on the mound, or determined enough to walk out, you can look back at the village and dig house illuminated on the ridge, just in line with the tumuli, the elite monumental burials of the former capital city of Phrygia.

Looking east at the dig house and the largest tumulus, MM, at Gordion in the early evening. Photo: Braden Cordivari
Looking east at the dig house and the largest tumulus, MM, at Gordion in the early evening. Photo: Braden Cordivari

It’s 6:00 pm, and we’ve come out to look for some walls. This particular trench was dug several times, first in 1900 by the German brothers Alfred and Gustav Koerte—who rediscovered the site and identified it as Gordion (Koerte and Koerte 1904)—then continued in the 1950s by the Penn Museum’s Rodney Young and dug most recently in the mid-1990s by Mary Voigt of the College of William and Mary. It is due west of the two areas being excavated by the project’s current director, C. Brian Rose. The trench is a large area, 30 meters long at least, and at one time it displayed a deep diachronic picture of the mound’s occupation, showcasing levels from the 10th century BC through the 2nd century AD. Now it is mostly backfilled, the walls covered by the sieved dirt of more recent excavations. Each excavator has left behind plans and drawings that we can reference, yet the turn of time, and the dumping of wheelbarrows, has buried most of what was uncovered and our search is almost entirely in vain.

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A view over the trench now mostly obscured by backfilled dirt from more recent excavations. Photo: Braden Cordivari

It’s not that disappointing, however, as we didn’t really expect anything else. Personally, I just wanted an excuse to go out to the mound in the evening and ride in the back of the truck, enjoying the view back towards the tumuli without the oppressive heat that comes during the rest of the day. We’ll stay out longer than we need to, exchanging showers in favor of the view and a cold drink, until we catch sight of a stork flying low overhead. They say storks are good luck for travelers, so we take what luck we can and make the drive back to the house.

A late afternoon storm over the mound to the southwest. Photo: Braden Cordivari
A late afternoon storm over the mound to the southwest. Photo: Braden Cordivari

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