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Richard Liebhart contributes to recently published book on Iron Age Gordion

Liebhart working at the juniper logs from the wooden tomb chamber of Tumulus MM at Gordion, the largest and best preserved of the many burial mounds in the area.

Richard F. Liebhart, an adjunct assistant professor of art history, has contributed to the recently published The New Chronology of Iron Age Gordion, edited by C. Brian Rose and Gareth Darbyshire (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 2011).

The site of Gordion, southwest of Ankara, Turkey, is most famous in the western world as the home of the famous Midas, king of the Phrygians, as well as being the site where Alexander the Great purportedly claimed kingship over Asia by cutting the Gordion Knot. Excavations sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania since 1950 revealed a destruction level on the Citadel Mound that was for decades dated to the period around 700 BCE. Questions about this dating based on seriation of artifacts have recently been supported by Carbon 14 analysis of materials from new excavations and by dendrochronological studies (i.e., dating by means of analyzing patterns of annual growth rings in trees). The new date for the destruction level is ca. 800 BCE, and since Gordion is the most important “type site” for the Early Iron Age in Anatolia, this change of date has far-reaching ramifications for other excavated material in the whole of central Turkey.

View of Tumulus MM at Gordion, the largest and best preserved of the many burial mounds in the area.

For the chapter on dendrochronology, Liebhart provided a description of the wooden tomb chamber of Tumulus MM at Gordion, the largest and best preserved of the many burial mounds in the area. The numerous grave goods found in the tomb during its excavation in 1957 provides large body of comparative material, and dendrochronology has provided a date of ca. 740 BCE for the cutting of the juniper logs used in the construction of the chamber (also used were pine and cedar squared beams, but these cannot be used for dating purposes). Part of Liebhart’s contribution was to solidify the case that the juniper logs were cut specifically for this tomb, and that their cutting date provides a secure date for the deposition of the artifacts found inside. While the tomb dates some 60 years later than the destruction level, it provides a critical linchpin in the relative chronology assigned to the artifacts found at Gordion.

Tumulus MM most likely marks the tomb of the father of the famous King Midas (more than one Phrygian king used that name), and it has the distinction of being the oldest standing wooden building in the world. Liebhart’s work since 1990 has included architectural analysis, structural and environmental monitoring, cleaning and conservation, investigation of inscriptions discovered in 2007, and the installation in 2002 of a newly engineered support system for the walls of juniper logs that surround the tomb chamber proper.

Evan Gatti,
Faculty
1/2/2012 8:32 AM