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Iron Age Gordion - Middle Phrygian Gordion

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Middle Phrygian Gordion (ca. 800–550 BCE)
The cause of the fiery destruction of the Early Phrygian Citadel ca. 800 BCE is unknown; whatever the source, the Phrygians had sufficient resilience to begin construction of a new citadel soon after the disaster. The project was a massive, well-planned undertaking, and one that involved not just the construction of new monumental buildings. The Phrygians decided to erect their new citadel at a considerably higher level than that of the old, as much as four to five meters higher in the area of the former megaron courts, and higher still around the entry gate at the southeast. To achieve the desired level, they brought in enormous amounts of clay and stone rubble. As the clay was being laid, so too were the deep rubble foundations of the intended new buildings. Thus, unlike the Early Phrygian citadel, which developed gradually over several generations, the New Citadel was conceived as a single plan. The effort was so great that it probably consumed several decades of the eighth century. Midas, active as ruler of Phrygia in the later eighth century, may have witnessed the completion of an ambitious project begun under his predecessors.
Comparison of the plans of the New and Old Citadels shows that the former largely duplicated the latter in terms of layout. At the southeast, a monumental gate complex in part overlay its Early Phrygian predecessor yet extended further toward the southeast. The massive rubble underpinning of the new gate was kept in place by a stepped retaining wall of multi-colored worked blocks that may have risen as high as 20 meters above the outside ground level. Creating a dramatic and impressive vista, the retaining wall no doubt also figured prominently in the defense of the New Citadel. Sections of the fortification wall for the New Citadel have been excavated at the northeast and northwest, where they lie just outside the line of the older citadel walls and, again, at a higher level.
Within the fortifications, the principal districts are virtually the same as in the old citadel: at the east, two large courts flanked by megarons, and, at the west, two rows of buildings facing each other across a wide street. The latter structures were now free-standing, whereas in the old citadel the so-called Terrace and CC Buildings had each been a multi-unit, single structure. Such an arrangement was probably intended to hinder the rapid spread of fire. A major addition to the layout of the New Citadel was Building A, a large, multi-unit row structure extending to the southwest of the gate complex. Building A would have risen atop the continuation of the stepped retaining wall in front of the gate complex; the row structure apparently presented a solid wall to the exterior, and thus could have served as part of the fortifications along this stretch of the New Citadel. In the sixth century BCE, and probably before the Persian conquest, a number of buildings must have been retro-fitted to receive terracotta tiled roofs and decorative revetment or frieze courses. Exactly which buildings underwent such remodeling is uncertain, since the terracottas were found scattered across the site, with no concentration large enough to suggest a connection to a particular building.
The large number of finds from the Destruction Level of the Old Citadel provided important information regarding the activities that took place within those earlier structures. For the New Citadel, however, no such destruction level exists to shed light on the use of the buildings. We can only surmise that the careful duplication of the old layout implies also a continuation of function, e.g., that the two rows of buildings at the west were centers for food and textile production, as we know to have been the case for the earlier buildings they overlie.
The New Citadel would have been the last line of defense within an extensive outer fortification system defending the Lower Town zone, spanning about one kilometer north–south and incorporating the mounds known today as Kuştepe (“Bird Mound”) and the Küçük Höyük (“Small Settlement-Mound”), sited respectively northwest and southeast of the Citadel Mound. Excavations at the Küçük Höyük revealed a high mud-brick platform 12 m in height, at least 50 m long and with a width of 10.25 m, on which stood a four-story mud-brick fortress/barracks complex of mud-brick reinforced with timber. A series of rooms was inter-connected by narrow doors and lit by large windows. Wooden stairways or ladders would have provided access to the upper stories, although no traces of such were found during the archaeological investigations.
Excavation of the mudbrick fortification walls on either side of the Küçük Höyük revealed they had a thickness of 3.50 m and an original height of 14 m or more, with square towers projecting from the outer face at intervals of ca. 16 m. Elsewhere on the circuit, whole sections of wall have been removed by erosion or buried by alluvial deposition in the flood plain of the river. However, recent magnetic prospection at key points has demonstrated that these walls reached as far as Kuştepe, which remains unexcavated, and continued past the west side of the Citadel Mound. The total area of the Lower Town protected by Gordion's Middle Phrygian fortifications would therefore have been 25.44 hectares (254,400 square meters), which is considerably larger than formerly suspected. Magnetometry has also confirmed that the mound of Kuştepe covers a bastion that is probably of the same format and date as the one excavated at Küçük Höyük.
The Lower Town’s residential area was built on fill or an earth terrace adjacent to the massive fortification walls. Here were large stone buildings to the east and small mud-brick houses to the west.
To the northeast of the fortified Lower Town, on the same low ridge as the modern village of Yassıhöyük, and adjacent to the royal/elite tumuli there, excavations have revealed not only a Bronze Age cemetery but also the remains of an extramural Middle Phrygian settlement complex and—of later date but still within the Middle Phrygian period—a cemetery of lower social status than the tumulus burials of the elites.
The perimeter settlement complex was either contiguous with the extramural part of the city or was a discrete settlement zone beyond it. Several phases are indicated by a series of rebuilt structures. The buildings were of megaron design, similar to those on the Citadel Mound but smaller, with stone socles and mud-brick walls strengthened by wooden posts. The rooms were sometimes plastered, with stone pavements both inside and out. Internal installations included horseshoe-shaped hearths, ovens, and benches for grinding foodstuffs, bins of plastered mud brick, flat baking troughs, and small recessed storage areas. These and other finds indicate that food processing and textile production were primary activities, as in the citadel. A number of small cultic idols were also found in this area but had been re-deposited in later tumulus mantles that overlay some of the buildings; they presumably belonged to shrines within the settlement complex. Settlement activity here finally ended in destruction by fire around 700 BCE, in a military attack. Signs of crisis include the large amounts of material equipment hurriedly abandoned—pottery, metalwork and bone tools, spindle whorls and loomweights—and an unburied body in one of the burned buildings, shot with an arrow.
After the destruction of this settlement complex, the area was given over to the so-called “Common Cemetery” and to a number of small but elite tumulus burials, extending down to the sixth century BCE. The poorer burials of the Common Cemetery—furnishing rarely-found information on the more populous lower orders of Phrygian society— included single interments in cists, pits, jars, and earth graves (with or without stone covers), and finally, cremations. Grave gifts were sparse: of 112 cataloged graves, less than a third, 34, had even modest offerings. The full extent of this cemetery is unknown, but several hundred burials probably remain to be discovered. This part of the ridge again saw use as a cemetery in the Roman period.
It is during the life of the Middle Phrygian New Citadel that we have at Gordion our most plentiful evidence for Phrygian writing and religion. Numerous inscriptions, mostly incised on pottery after firing, attest to a degree of literacy in an alphabet closely related to that of the ancient Greeks. Statuettes in stone of a figure usually holding a cup and sometimes a bird no doubt represent the Phrygian mother goddess Matar. A stone relief shows her in a doorway, presumably that of her temple. Numerous statuettes of birds in stone and terracotta are probably connected with her cult.
In the late eighth century BCE, Phrygia was at the the height of its political and military power, under Midas, who challenged the Assyrians’ control over the westernmost parts of their empire. He is to be identified with Mita of the Mushki, who appears in Assyrian records at first as a dangerous adversary who organized anti-Assyrian resistance among the Neo-Hittite states of southeast Anatolia and later as a valuable ally of the Assyrian king, Sargon II.
If later accounts can be trusted, Midas had close personal ties with Greeks and their culture; according to Herodotos, he dedicated a throne to Apollo at Delphi, an object which was still extant in Herodotos' day; and Aristotle claimed that he married a woman from the East Greek city of Kyme. Contact with the Greeks during the Middle Phrygian period is archaeologically documented by the import of Greek pottery, perfume, and wine to the site, and by the presence of a number of Phrygian bronze objects in both Mainland and East Greece. The Greeks themselves borrowed freely from the Phrygians, adopting both the cult and the iconography of the goddess Matar. Cultural and commercial interchange between the Greeks and Phrygians was no doubt facilitated by Greek colonization, which by the seventh century BCE made the two peoples neighbors along the Propontis (the Sea of Marmara).
Very late Classical chronological sources give dates of 696 or 675–674 BCE for Midas’ death, but those dates are demonstrably untrustworthy. Also dubious is an account by the early Roman-era writer Strabo that there was an invasion of Phrygia by the nomadic Kimmerians during the time of Midas, an invasion that provoked his suicide. The report is contradicted by other Classical accounts, which mention very different circumstances for his death. The latest reliable information concerning Midas is the indication in the Assyrian records that he was still in power in 709. There is no excavated tumulus at Gordion that can be plausibly identified as Midas' burial place, but particular contexts, including minor tumuli, can be dated to his time, in part through the help of associated Greek pottery.
Textual evidence from the Greek writer Herodotus suggests that Gordion had passed from being the capital of an independent Phrygian state (at least through the reign of Midas) to becoming dominated by the west Anatolian kingdom of Lydia, with its capital at Sardis, in the first half of the sixth century BCE if not earlier. By 585, the smaller Phrygian area east of the Kızılırmak River (the ancient Halys) had passed under Median control.
Excavations at Gordion dramatically revealed that the Lower Town's defensive installation, now called the Küçük Höyük, was destroyed by fire following a siege, an event that can be linked to the successful Persian conquest of Lydia by king Cyrus II "The Great" in the 540s BCE. The assault ramp built by the Persians to gain access to the city is still preserved on the southeast side of the Küçük Höyük, and numerous traces of the attack were recovered during the excavation: hundreds of arrowheads (predominantly two-flanged), many of which were buried in the faces of the walls. At the time of its destruction, the fortress occupants were using primarily Lydian instead of Phrygian pottery, suggesting that the site was indeed a Lydian garrison.

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