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Hellenistic Gordion

The Hellenistic Period at Gordion begins with a visit by Alexander during the first year of his campaign against the Persians, in 333 BCE, when he allegedly cut the Gordian Knot. His visit can be taken as an indication of the strategic location of the site for trade, transport, and military movement from western Asia Minor to Central Asia. Many aspects of Phrygian culture subsequently began to disappear: Greek gods were worshiped or at least recognized, while Greek inscriptions now became the

Bronze Age Gordion

Relatively little is known about the Bronze Age at Gordion, primarily because of overlying monumental buildings of the Phrygian Iron Age period. The site was certainly occupied early in the Bronze Age (from ca. 2500 BCE) and there is no clear change in habitation until the Early Iron Age (ca. 1100 BCE). Most of the Bronze Age material has been excavated in three deep soundings on the Citadel Mound and in an extramural cemetery on the natural ridge to the northeast of the mound.


Historical Overview

Gordion is one of the most important sites of the ancient world. It is known primarily as the political and cultural capital of the Phrygians, a people who dominated much of central Anatolia during the early first millennium BCE. With its monumental Phrygian architecture, an extensive destruction level dating to around 800 BCE, and a series of wealthy tombs belonging to Phrygian royalty and other elites, Gordion is the premier archaeological type-site for Phrygian civilization. As such, it is

Roman Gordion

In the decades following Galatia’s annexation by the emperor Augustus in 25 BCE, a new settlement was founded atop the Gordion Citadel Mound during the late Julio-Claudian period (ca. 50 CE). Although the geographer Strabo, in the only surviving literary reference to Roman Gordion, describes the site during the Augustan period as a village only slightly larger than those that surrounded it (Geography 12.5.3), current evidence for the resettlement of the Citadel Mound places that event roughly

Modern Gordion

The Modern period at Gordion begins in 1923 with the creation of the Republic of Turkey, following the Turkish War of Independence.

Situated about 100 km west of Ankara in the rolling steppe land of Anatolia’s central plateau, Gordion lies within the capital city’s own administrative province, and in the sub-district of Polatlı, the large and important town 18 km to the southeast of the site. Even though there is no longer a major settlement at Gordion—lying as it does off the main

Medieval Gordion

The Medieval period at Gordion technically extends from the Early Byzantine period (6th century CE) into the Turkish Selcuk and Early Ottoman periods.


At its height, the Byzantine empire—the medieval eastern continuation of the Roman state—controlled not only its core territory of Asia Minor and the southern Balkans but also the Mediterranean littoral, Italy, and the northern Balkans. Between the seventh and tenth centuries CE the empire was divided into milita

Achaemenid Gordion

In 546 BCE the forces of the Lydian king Croesus were decisively defeated by the Persian army commanded by Cyrus II “The Great.” As a result of this campaign and subsequent “mopping up” operations, the Lydian state, which included Gordion, was integrated into the Persian empire along with the rest of Anatolia. Called “Achaemenid” after the name of the ruling dynasty, this empire was the largest political entity the world had yet seen, extending at its height from the Balkans to India, and sur

Iron Age Gordion

Gordion is best known as the principal center of the Phrygians and their civilization, and as the ruling seat of the most famous Phrygian king, Midas. After a relatively modest Early Iron Age phase that may mark the beginning of Phrygian settlement on the Citadel Mound at Gordion (ca. 1200–950 BCE), the site took on a truly monumental character during the Early Phrygian period (ca. 950-800 BCE), indicating the emergence of a Phrygian state. We can trace the growth of Phrygian political power


The phases of Gordion have been referred to in several different ways, all of which are collated below to facilitate comparison between old and new data. Young’s basic stratigraphic units were architectural (buildings and building phases) such as Early Phrygian or Hellenistic. The excavations conducted by Voigt, however, focused on changes in human activities and/or natural processes. Ten major chronological units were defined, each characterized by distinctive aspects of architecture, artifa

Ottoman Gordion

From its beginnings as an emirate in the Medieval period, the Ottoman empire had emerged as the most powerful state in Anatolia and the Balkans by the mid-15th century CE, reaching the height of its power in the 16th and 17th centuries when it controlled a vast territory in eastern Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. In decline by the late 19th century, the empire was on the losing side in World War I. Threatened with partition of Turkish territory by the victorious allies under the term


Considering that it lies in the temperate zone, Turkey has a very diverse flora and a large number of endemic species. In the Gordion region, precipitation and tree cover decline with elevation. People have occupied the area for millennia, engaging in both farming and herding, so the vegetation cover is not pristine. Nevertheless, both vegetation and land use follow those rainfall clines. The flora has been forced to adapt to a very erratic climate, as well.

Naomi F. Miller joined t


In 1995 Dr. Ayşe Gürsan-Salzmann initiated the Gordion Ethnoarchaeology Project as a component of the Gordion Excavations, with the aim of explaining/interpreting the distant past by drawing analogies/comparisons with living communities. She selected as her primary focus the contemporary village of Yassıhöyük, which sits on the ancient settlement of Gordion. Between 1998 and 2005, she expanded the field study to include the larger region in the Sakarya-Porsuk river valleys, encompassing 14 vi

Archaeological Investigations at Gordion

The site of Gordion was “discovered” in November, 1893, when the German Classicist Alfred Körte visited a location on the Sangarios (modern Sakarya) river where engineers working on the Berlin–Baghdad Railroad had come across the remains of an ancient settlement. Körte identified the site as Gordion primarily on the basis of what ancient Greek and Latin writers had to say about the old Phrygian capital. Seven years later, in 1900, he returned to Gordion with his brother Gustav to carry out a

Digital Gordion Mapping Project

As a result of over 30 seasons of excavation Gordion has yielded one of the richest archaeological datasets in the ancient Near East. The lack of accurate spatial representations of the site, however, has consistently hindered the analysis and publication of the excavated material. A complete site-plan does not exist, and little of the ancient architecture can be precisely located in a site-wide coordinate system. The seriousness of this situation is difficult to overestimate. Most of the rec


Geographical research at Gordion has shown that the Sakarya River buried much of the Iron Age city in 3–5 m of silt, beginning during its occupation, and then later eroded away major parts of it. The earliest major sedimentation at the city is dated to the late Bronze Age, when a widespread thin silt layer was laid out, upon which the Iron Age city was built. Subsequent river movements eroded away substantial portions of the city—including 2 km of the Lower Town wall. Buried and eroded parts

Gordion Regional Survey

The Gordion Regional Survey (GRS), conducted between 1999 and 2002, studied the relationship between long-term settlement patterns and land use from the Late Bronze Age through the Achaemenid period. The goals of GRS included defining the range of settlement types, their geographical characteristics, the change in settlement type and distribution over time, and the reciprocal relationships between environmental and cultural change.

An arbitrary 20 km x 20 km block, centered on the s

Object Conservation

The Objects Conservation Program was started in 1988 to provide professional conservation care for objects found, studied, and stored at the Gordion Excavations. Since its inception, the Program has been committed to advocating preservation so that the collections will continue to be accessible for research in the future.

Conservators play an integral role in the project by collaborating with archaeologists and researchers at every stage of fieldwork. During excavation they assist a

Digital Gordion

Beginning in 2007 the Gordion Archaeological Project at the Penn Museum began the process of digitizing the content of the Gordion Archive. Our goal is to produce not only a digital version of the archive, but also a tool to facilitate research and publication of the materials.

Recently available digital technologies can powerfully organize, process, and rapidly de

The Gordion ‘Doodles’

The “doodles” are a series of drawings found on the walls of one of the buildings from the Gordion Destruction Level, Megaron 2 (Early Phrygian/YHSS 6A period). This building, located in the outer courtyard area of the citadel complex, was constructed primarily of stone and has several unusual features, including an elaborate pebble mosaic on its interior floor decorated with a series of irregular geometric patterns.

Another unusual feature is the presence of a considerable number o

Architectural Terracottas

Roof tiles—often referred to by archaeologists as architectural terracottas—were invented in Greece in the seventh century BCE. Consisting of interlocking and overlapping plates of baked clay, tiled roofs were both water- and fire-proof, and thus offered significant advantages over traditional mud and thatch methods. Initial designs were simple and utilitarian, but as the technology spread around the Mediterranean littoral, manufacturers took increasing advantage of the tiles’ visible surface

Glass at Gordion

The glass vessels recovered from fifty years of archaeological investigation at Gordion make up one of the most extensive bodies of early luxury glassware from datable contexts. The corpus currently comprises over 1,700 diagnostic fragments ranging in date from the Iron Age to the Roman Empire, and representing every major glass forming technology of the ancient world, from molding to core-forming to inflation.

The glass vessels from Gordion rival the glass finds from Nimrud in the

Seals at Gordion

Gordion has so far produced 114 artifacts that have been classified as seals or seal impressions. The numbers by time period are as follows: seven seals and seven impressions of Bronze Age date; one seal of Early Iron Age date; one seal, one possible seal, and one impression from the Early Phrygian Iron Age; 12 seals, one possible seal, and one impression from the Middle Phrygian Iron Age; 22 seals and seven impressions, plus one object probably incorrectly catalogued as a seal, of Achaemenid

Gordion Furniture Project

The excavations of Rodney Young uncovered an exceptional collection of Phrygian furniture and wooden objects from the City Mound and three royal tombs at Gordion. Excavated between 1956 and 1959, Tumulus W, Tumulus P, and Tumulus MM (mid-ninth to later eighth century BCE) produced an unparalleled group of wood finds, including at least 50 pieces of fine furniture and more than 70 small objects. These included tables, serving stands, stools, a bed, and a log coffin, as well as plates, bowls, s

Textile Production at Gordion

The site of Gordion provides an almost ideal opportunity to study the organization of a well-developed textile industry from the Iron Age, and to see how this craft functioned in the political economy of first millennium BCE Anatolia. The scale of production is indicated by the large quantity of textile tools found in standardized workshop units in the Terrace Building and the “Clay Cut Structure.” These buildings were constructed on an extensive terrace approximately one meter high behind th

The Funeral in Tumulus MM

Within the wooden chamber in Tumulus MM, a body of a man aged 60 – 65 had been placed on a thick pile of dyed textiles inside a unique log coffin. Although the body of the king had disintegrated, patterns of purple and brown dyes were seen on the textile bedding when the tomb was first opened. The king’s coffin, which had probably been used in a public viewing ceremony before being carried into the tomb, was accompanied by 14 pieces of wood furniture. These are best interpreted as serving and

Midas City

One of the major Phrygian sites lies in the eastern outskirts of the Phrygian Highlands, in the area between Afyon and Eskişehir. The ancient name of the site is unknown, but since the late 19th century it has been referred to by its nickname, “Midas City.” W. M. Ramsay coined this label because the name of Midas was inscribed above a huge rock-cut façade at the site.

Midas City is located on a comparatively low but very large outcropping formed of volcanic tuff. The site was excava

The Phrygian Sanctuary at Dümrek

The sanctuary of Dümrek is located on a bend of the Sakarya River approximately 33 km north of the Phrygian capital of Gordion, between Ankara and Eskişehir. The site preserves one of the most remarkable ancient sanctuaries in central Anatolia, with rock-cut monuments of varying size and shape. Dümrek was always a popular destination for daytrips by members of the Gordion Excavation Project since the early years of Rodney Young’s campaign, but the archaeological remains were not systematicall

Early Phrygian Inscriptions from Gordion

Until the beginning of the 1950s, Gordion had only produced three Early Phrygian (YHSS 6 period) inscriptions (G-101 to G-103), found during the German excavations of the Körte brothers (1900), and one of these had been misidentified as Greek. Beginning in 1950, however, the American excavations directed by Rodney S. Young demonstrated the exceptional epigraphic richness of the site. After several preliminary notes on inscriptions in the excavation reports (notably in American Journal of Arch

Midas in History & Legend

The most reliable information about the famous Phrygian king Midas comes from the contemporary records of the Assyrian king Sargon between 717 and 709 BCE. For most of that time, Midas posed a threat to Sargon by intriguing with restive western satellite kingdoms of the Assyrian empire. After an Assyrian governor launched an invasion of Phrygia, Midas ceased his subversive activities and himself sent tribute. An undated Assyrian text commending Midas’ help in nipping an anti-Assyrian diplomat

Phrygian Cult Practice

In a society where there were no sacred texts or established doctrines that we can use to understand religious practice, our knowledge of Phrygian religion comes almost entirely from the physical remains of cult rituals: the representations of deities, votive offerings to them, and the sanctuaries and sacred spaces of the Phrygians. Our limited knowledge of the Phrygian language means that we do not know what the Phrygians thought about the divine, nor can we be certain about the nature of th

The Gordian Knot

The tale of the Gordian Knot is one of the best known stories told about Gordion, and one of the few that features Gordion in a popular figure of speech. The story recounts an episode that took place in 333 BCE during the campaigns of Alexander of Macedon against the Persian Empire. Alexander was advancing with his army across Anatolia and came to Gordion, probably because this was a natural stopping point on the road that led inland from the Aegean Coast towards Ankara (ancient Ancyra) and f

Season Report 2014

The 2014 season at Gordion marked the second year of a renewed campaign of excavation focused primarily on the settlement’s fortification systems of Early and Middle Phrygian date (9th–6th c. B.C.), even though the majority of our activities continued to be devoted to architectural conservation and restoration. This newsletter provides us with the opportunity to share with you our most recent discoveries and accomplishments in gratitude for your support, and we look forward to the prospect of

Season Report 2012

As in past years, we devoted more attention to the study of previously excavated material than to new excavations, although fieldwork in and around the citadel continued to occur, as did geophysical prospection. In the course of the summer we worked in more than ten different sectors of the site, and there were over 30 scholars and scientists who were members of the team during our two month season in June and July.


Much of our fieldwork focused on architec

Season Report 2011

As in past years, we devoted more attention to the study of previously excavated material than to new excavations, although fieldwork in and around the citadel continued to occur, as did geophysical prospection (fig. 1). In the course of the summer we worked in over 10 different sectors of the site, and altogether there were over 30 scholars and scientists who were members of the team.

Remote sensing

The 2011 season witnessed a continuation of the intensified remote sen

Season Report 2013

In the course of our two–month season we were able to undertake an unusually wide range of activities, with a focus on architectural conservation and renewed excavation. As in past years, we also devoted a considerable amount of attention to the study of previously excavated material, which was easier than ever before due to the new and spacious pottery depot that we constructed during the 2012 season. In the course of the summer we worked in more than 10 different sectors of the site, and th

Site Conservation

Large sections of Gordion are registered as a first degree protection zone according to Turkish Antiquities Law, a status that attests to the site’s five–millennia–long settlement history. In addition Gordion is being considered by Turkish authorities for nomination to UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Despite the monumental remains revealed by extensive archaeological excavations, its location in a unique and irreplaceable landscape, and its remarkably rich history, Gordion has failed to cap

Site Conservation Report 2014


Site Conservation has always been a high priority at Gordion, and it will continue to be one of the most important activities during the coming field seasons. A new Conservation and Management Plan for the Gordion Citadel began in 2007, under the supervision of Prof. Frank Matero and the Architectural Conservation Laboratory of Penn’s School of Design (ACL). The current project is based on an integrated and phased program of academic research, site conservation, and t

Site Conservation Reports 2005-2013

Gordion Site Conservation Reports for 2005–2013 are archived at the Architectural Conservation Laboratory of the Historic Preservation Department, University of Pennsylvania School of Design, and can be accessed at: