Site Conservation 2019

For the sixth consecutive season, the South Bastion of the East Citadel Gate was the focus of architectural conservation, and we’re delighted to report that the project was successfully completed this summer (figs. 1-6). The gate serves as the primary attraction for visitors who come to the site, and it is also the first monument that one sees upon approaching the citadel. This conservation project has been one of the longest and most important of those we’ve undertaken, and we could never have accomplished it without the dedication and expertise supplied by project directors Elisa Del Bono and Angelo Lanza, working in tandem with Giuseppe Bomba and Renzo Durante.

It is remarkable that the gate still survives to a height of 10 m (nearly 33 ft), given that it was constructed ca. 850 B.C. and was used as the foundation for an even larger citadel gate in the 8th century B.C. After the gate’s South Bastion was damaged by an earthquake in 1999, we made plans to remove the 112 stones that were most severely cracked, and reinsert them in their original positions once they had been consolidated. New stainless-steel straps 2.5 m in length anchored the conserved facing stones to the core of the wall, and by the end of the 2018 season, all of the stones had been set back in place.

The 2019 season marked the final phase of the gate’s conservation. On the northeast and northwest sides of the South Bastion there had been additional damage, in that water draining from the top of the monument had caused the highest stones to shift and disintegrate. This required partial dismantling of the unstable veneer blocks from the upper rows, and the repair of fractured blocks with micro-injections or epoxy (fig. 5). We consolidated unstable sections of the core with lime mortar and stone rubble, filling voids with gravity-injected grout, and reconstructed the face with the original blocks once they had been stabilized.

At the top of the gate, the pre-existing concrete conservation capping was removed and a lime-based hard-cap was installed on top of the reconstructed area along the northeast wall. We also created a system of terraces and “French drains” along the northwest wall. A mudbrick frame was placed on the north and east borders of the bastion’s upper surface, above those areas of the rampart that had been conserved, and within the frame we placed a protective soft-cap system of geofabric, clayey soil, and shallow- rooted plants (poa) (figs. 1, 4). The same techniques have been used for the wall tops of several of the units in Gordion’s Terrace Building Complex, and the majority of the work was carried out by a group of women from Yassıhöyük village, who were trained in this soft-capping technique by Naomi Miller.

The final component of the gate conservation program involved stabilizing the fractured blocks on the north side of the bastion with micro-grout injections, and filling the open joints with small chinking stones to replicate the Early Phrygian construction technique (figs. 4, 5). All of this work was completed in early August, after which we removed the metal scaffolding and its wooden railroad-tie foundations. The techniques that we employed to conserve the East Citadel Gate have required six seasons of work, but they should ensure its stability into the next century, even if earthquakes should occur.

A second conservation project focused on the Mosaic Building, a large multi-room structure on the southern edge of the citadel, where two months of excavation took place this season as described below (figs. 2, 7). Most of the rooms had 6th century B.C. pebble mosaic floors, which had been unearthed by Rodney Young in the early 1950s (fig. 8) but subsequently left vulnerable to erosion and occasional damage by wandering flocks of sheep and goats.

We therefore formulated a three-year plan to ensure long-term stabilization of the Mosaic Building, beginning with the placement of geotextile over the entire area, with seedless soil from the recent excavations placed above and below it. Small stone retaining walls were erected to hold the earth and geotextile in place, especially along the eroding slopes. Mosaic pebbles that had been loosened by erosion were also collected for future reconstruction. All of the work in this area was carefully executed by Ben Abbott and Julia Commander, with the assistance of Elisa Del Bono and Angelo Lanza.

Tumulus MM (Midas Mound)

Each year we systematically search for new tools and techniques to safeguard the stability of the tomb chamber in Tumulus MM, built ca. 740 B.C. and excavated in 1957. This was probably the tomb of King Midas’s father, and it remains the oldest standing wooden building in the world, as far as we know. Although the tomb chamber has been carefully documented with photos and drawings since its excavation, we are now in a position to increase the power and precision of our documentation by using digital recording techniques and 3D digital reconstructions. This will provide us with the capability to analyze and present the monument in a way that builds on the earlier photographs and videos, while creating a heightened visual experience for visitors, who currently have only restricted access to the chamber. The goals for this new imaging project include recording the entire interior (ceiling, floor and four sides) and exterior (juniper logs and limestone barrier wall) of the tomb chamber complex.

As a first step in the 3D recording project, we arranged for a brief site- visit at the end of June by E. Keats Webb, Digital Imaging Specialist at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (fig. 9). Imaging tests were conducted on three distinct areas of the tomb (juniper logs, limestone wall, and tomb interior) to see if any challenges would arise in the data acquisition and processing, and we look forward to the project continuing next year. Such an approach has the potential to highlight areas of structural instability, and to clarify many critically important research issues, such as carpentry techniques, architectural details, and the original layout of the grave gifts that once hung on the walls, the evidence for which now survives only as metal corrosion stains on the wooden beams.