| Fifty years
ago, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
began excavations at the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordion
in central Turkey.
Within six years, the expedition had made one of the most spectacular archaeological
discoveries of the 20th century.
In the largest
burial mound at the site, they located what has since been identified as
the tomb of Gordion's most famous son, King Midas.
Midas Mound looms over the modern village of Yassihöyük
and the village cemetery in the foreground.
rig was used to bore deeply into the mound. Some 40 meters below the upper
surface, the team was rewardedthe discovery of a chamber, 5 by 6
meters in area. The excavators dug a horizontal trench into the side of
the mound, then tunneled through a double wall of tree logs and timbers
to reach the inner chamber, the earliest known intact wooden structure
in the world.
timber wall, the excavators were met with an amazing sightat their
feet was a body, laid out in state on a thick pile of dyed textiles inside
a unique log coffin. An
examination of the bones determined that the body was that of a male, aged
laid out in state on a multi-layered pile of purple- and blue-dyed
textiles inside his coffin.
facts into considerationthe dating of the tomb (ca. 700 BC), its rich
contents, a palace complex of the same period at the site, and Assyrian
records describing an upstart ruler named Mita who controlled the people
of Mushki (known as Phrygia by the Greeks) in eastern Anatoliascholars
are generally agreed that this is indeed the tomb of King Midas.
are generally agreed that this is indeed the tomb of King Midas...
of the tomb's ancient organic materials, which generally degrade and rapidly
disappear, was remarkable. 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. (Indigo blue was confirmed as one of the dyes
by Dr. Patrick McGovern and his laboratory in the Penn Museum.)