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 systematically recorded until 1996, during the Gordion Regional Survey conducted by Lisa Kealhofer.

During a study season in 1999, directed by Brendan Burke, the material collected during the field survey was catalogued and analyzed.

Upon entering Dümrek the visitor sees a well-preserved rock-cut stepped monument along the western approach. This feature has six steps leading to a seat with armrests and a crescent shaped back support. Comparable stepped monuments in the Phrygian highlands can be found at Kalehisar and Midas City. The common feature in all of these sanctuaries is the set of steps leading up to a platform with a vertical backing.

Although these monuments were called ‘altars’ by Ramsay in the 19th century, Haspels and others agree that the term should be abandoned, for there is no evidence of burning, pouring, or making offerings to a divinity, all of which one would expect if these were altars. As Körte suggested in 1898, these monuments should actually be considered as ‘thrones,’ probably for some representation of the deity. The flat surfaces would have provided Phrygian scribes with space for religious inscriptions and room for aniconic representations, although neither of these features has yet been found at Dümrek.

At least ten thrones have been recorded at Dümrek in addition to a large quantity of Phrygian pottery on the surface. The collected ceramics range in date from the Early Bronze Age (one painted sherd) to the Late Achaemenid/Early Hellenistic period, with no discernible Roman, Byzantine, or Ottoman wares. The majority of the diagnostic sherds date to the Early and Middle Phrygian periods, from the ninth through the sixth centuries BCE.

The ceramics were examined using a fabric analysis system, focused on color and composition, developed by Peter Grave and the Gordion Regional Survey. The samples were then compared to a reference collection of fabrics from the Gordion Regional Survey and from sherds excavated in well-dated levels on the Gordion Citadel Mound.

Based on the material described above, we can safely assume that Dümrek was a Phrygian sanctuary, although we do not know the divinity or divinities worshipped here. From ancient sources and Phrygian inscriptions at Midas City and Gordion, we know that the main deity of the Phrygians was Matar, or ‘Mother’, and many have assumed that Dümrek served her cult.

The precise nature of this deity is highly controversial. She has been traced as far back as Neolithic figurines from Çatalhöyük and Hacimusular, as a symbol of fertility and as mistress of animals and controller of natural elements. One of the Phrygian epithets of Matar was ‘Kubileya’—a Phrygian word that means ‘of the mountains,' and many sanctuaries linked to Matar are located in mountainous areas, just as we find at Dümrek. 'Matar Kubileya' has also been associated with the Neo-Hittite deity Kubaba, whose cult was centered at Carchemish. The Greek goddess Kybele, subsequently worshipped by the Roman as the Magna Mater, has also frequently been viewed as a version of the Phrygian Matar.

Further reading