Site Conservation 2017

The first monument that one sees when approaching the Citadel Mound is the monumental Early Phrygian Citadel Gate, whose stone walls still rise to a height of 10 m (figs. 1-4). This appears to have been the principal entrance into the citadel from its initial construction in the 9th century through at least the fourth century B.C., when it probably went out of use. Despite the ravages of armed conflict and earthquakes, it still remains the best-preserved Iron Age citadel gate in Asia Minor.

When the gate was seriously damaged by the earthquake of 1999, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism asked us to develop a program for emergency intervention in order to ensure that the building would not deteriorate any further.

This project, expertly supervised by Elisa Del Bono and Angelo Lanza, has required us to remove the upper twelve courses of stones that sustained the greatest damage, row by row, and to reinsert them once they had been conserved. This erection of a 10 m high scaffold topped by an aluminum gantry crane made it possible for us to safely remove the damaged stones from the south bastion and conserve them next to their original position.

The damaged blocks were consolidated with epoxy injections and the insertion of stainless-steel bars, while stainless-steel straps were installed in blocks along the 8th, 10th, and 12th courses in order to anchor these blocks to the core of the wall (fig. 3). Since the beginning of the project, we have conserved 112 damaged blocks, and thirty conserved blocks have been placed back in their original position on the gate with the aid of a crane (fig. 4).

There was additional intervention along the east wall of the South Bastion, where the stones had also become unstable over the course of centuries. These stones were essentially rectangular and laid in discernible courses, but the height of the stones in a single row could vary considerably. Consequently, the ancient architects inserted smaller “chinking” stones into the resulting interstices to create a smooth face, all of which would have been camouflaged in antiquity by a layer of mud plaster. Many of these smaller stones had fallen during a succession of earthquakes, and the larger stones had cracked as a consequence. The latter were stabilized this year with micro-injections of epoxy, and new chinking stones were inserted in the open joints around them.

The 2018 season will witness the completion of this project, with all of the conserved stones set back in place and covered by a “green cap” of shallow rooted grass over a layer of geo-textile. This will prevent water from entering the masonry and further damaging it, in that the roots will absorb the water during the rainy season, but will not grow deep enough to penetrate the masonry. None of this elaborate conservation would have been possible without the generous support supplied by the J. M. Kaplan Fund, the Merops Foundation, the C.K. Williams II Foundation, and the Selz Foundation, and it is difficult to find the words to thank them adequately.

Terrace Building Complex

The Early Phrygian citadel’s industrial quarter, or “Terrace Building Complex”, served as a center for food preparation and weaving activities on the Citadel Mound (fig. 1). The complex in question consists of two parallel structures, each of which would have been approximately 100 m long and positioned on either side of a 16 m wide court. An accident at or near one of the building’s hearths probably caused a major fire ca. 800 B.C., judging by the pattern of the destruction, and the carbonized seeds discovered within the building suggest that the event occurred during the summer, when the winds would have quickly fanned the flames.

The Terrace Building has been one of our primary projects in conservation since 1999 because the walls had been so badly damaged in the conflagration. The fire caused the walls to splay, and the stones are badly cracked in most cases. This summer we produced rectified elevations of the walls in the northern part of the complex to document the extent of the damage, which is severe. Field documentation also included the identification of stone types and a complete survey of the masonry, as a prelude to future conservation. The walls of six of the eight rooms in the complex have now been conserved, and we will start on the remainder next year.

Our third conservation area was conducted in tandem with the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara and involved the tumulus of Bel Kavak, nearly 25 km to the north of Gordion. The tumulus had been attacked by looters who damaged what had been a well-preserved corbeled limestone roof of the main chamber. Subsequent rescue excavations by the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations yielded a two-chambered stone tomb of Early Hellenistic date, built of both granite and sandstone, which you can see in an axonometric view by Penn graduate student Sam Holzman (fig. 5). As Sam has observed, one of the most striking aspects of the tomb is its polychrome scheme, with bluish-white limestone for the floor slabs and wall stretchers, and a yellowish-orange granite for the binders, corbels, and door lintels.

Since the tomb chamber lay in a remote location, it was dismantled by Ankara Museum archaeologists and transported to the Gordion Museum for eventual reconstruction, although a number of the blocks had already been broken. The blocks that we conserved measured up to 2.40 m in length, and the conservation treatment involved the insertion of stainless-steel bars across the breaks, as well as the injection of liquid epoxy mixed with calcium carbonate inside the fracture (fig. 6). All of the principal blocks of the chamber are now stable, and the reconstruction can proceed. It is worth noting that Phrygian tomb chambers were built of wood between the 9th and 6th centuries; there is then a hiatus in monumental tomb construction for nearly two centuries, and when they begin again ca. 300 B.C. the chambers have changed to stone.