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Enormous Burial Mound in Turkey May Contain Long-Lost Graves of Attalid Rulers

Enormous Burial Mound in Turkey May Contain Long-Lost Graves of Attalid Rulers

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The burials of the Attalid Dynasty, which ruled the city of Pergamon after the death of Lysimachus, General of Alexander the Great, have been known about for the last 200 years. However, archeologists believe they have now discovered that a great Attalid burial mound also housed remains of kingly importance.

According to Haaretz, a team of researchers led by Professor Felix Pirson discovered that the vast mound, which was excavated almost 200 years ago in western Turkey, contains precious burials. The sheer scale of the monumental burial site at Yiğma Tepe, atop a hill by Pergamon (today Bergama), suggested it had to have been created to commemorate one or more people of vast importance. The burials date back to the 2 nd century BC. The existence of the constructions discovered nearby the tomb, like the Great Altar and the Temple of Athena, support the theory that the tomb belonged to the great Attalid rulers.

Yiğma Tepe, which is 158 meters in diameter and 31 meters high, dominates the Kaikos plain to the south of Pergamon. The site seems to be well excavated, but the burial place of the Attalid kings remained unknown. The burial mound was investigated by the early archaeologist Alexander Conze in 1878. He discovered that the mound was contained by a peripheral wall (krepis) built from large andesite blocks, but no entrance way to the interior was found and the researchers weren't able to unearth the burial chambers.

The peripheral wall built from large andesite blocks.

The peripheral wall built from large andesite blocks. Credit: German Archaeological Insitute

Near the site is an impressive burial dating back to the second half of the 3 rd century BC, to the reign of King Attalos (241 – 197 BC). It was looted, but the skeletal remains of a man aged 60-75 had been found in the sarcophagus. It is believed that he was a member of the renowned Attalos family or a General in the army. Two other burials discovered in the same area had been left undisturbed by looters. One of them was dated to the times of Eumenes I (263 – 241 BC). The tomb contained a ''Charon's obol'', a golden oak-leaf wreath with Herakles knot (that rested on the deceased's head), a Nike pendant, two heads of Molosser dogs made of gold, iron weapons, and a coin bearing the image of Alexander the Great. The burial displays link with Macedonian traditions.

Professor Pirson doesn't plan any excavations yet. He wants to employ the use of geophysical surveys and seismic prospecting in order to glean any information about any inner structures present within the massive monument.

The  Attalid Dynasty ruled the city between 282 and 133 BC. Moreover, they controlled most of Asia Minor during the 2 nd century BC. Their Kingdom was wealthy and powerful. During the reign of King Eumenes II (197 – 159 BC), the great royal library of Pergamon was created. It was the greatest library of the ancient world, after the famous library of Alexandria.

The city was settled during the Byzantine era. Spearheads, coins and ceramics from that time were found during the early excavations. Apart from the great Attalid architecture, the city is famous for a mysterious healing center of Asklepion. As April Holloway from Ancient Origins reported in September 16, 2013:

''Asklepion is an ancient healing complex located at the base of the Pergamon acropolis in Turkey built in honour of Asklepios, god of healing. The Asklepion was a term used in ancient Greece to define a type of temple, devoted to the god Asklepios, which acted as a healing center.

The site in Pergamon was founded in the 4th Century BC around a sacred spring that still flows. Over the next centuries, it became one of the best-known healing centers of the ancient world, second in importance only to Epidaurus in Greece and was also the world's first psychiatric hospital. The influential physician Galen was born in Pergamon and practiced here in the 2nd Century AD, having first made his medical reputation treating warriors in the gladiatorial games of the city.

The remains of the Asklepion in Pergamon

The remains of the Asklepion in Pergamon (public domain)

Many of the treatments employed at Pergamon, which were in complement with a sacred source of water that was later discovered as having radioactive properties, have been used for centuries and are still believed to cure all illnesses. Its sacred springs were once visited by such luminaries as the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, as well as countless ordinary people seeking cures for their physical and mental ailments.''

Top image: Yiğma Tepe may contain the remains of Attalid rulers. Credit: German Archaeological Institute

By Natalia Klimzcak



Natalia Klimczak is an historian, journalist and writer and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Languages, University of Gdansk. Natalia does research in Narratology, Historiography, History of Galicia (Spain) and Ancient History of Egypt, Rome and Celts. She... Read More

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