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The Phrygian King Midas monument named Yazilikaya at Eskişehir, Turkey. (Selcuk/Adobe Stock)

Lost Kingdom that Crushed King Midas Identified in Turkey

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Archaeologists have made an amazing discovery in the south of Turkey. While investigating an area rich in archaeological remains they believe that they have found a formerly lost city and kingdom. This was once the capital of a powerful state that is believed to have the defeated the semi-legendary King Midas .

The dramatic discovery was made by the Oriental Institute (OI) from Chicago as part of the Konya Regional Archaeological Project (KRASP). This is an interdisciplinary research program that was investigating the Konya Plain and had collected many pottery shards from over three millennia. A great many important archaeological sites have been found in the area in the last century. According to the KRASP website, the aim was “to survey the neglected eastern region of the Plain (within the Çumra and Karatay districts), defined mostly by “marginal” steppe and highland landscapes.”

Full view of the archaeological mound at Türkmen-Karahöyük. It appears the unknown city at its height covered about 300 acres. (James Osborne)

Full view of the archaeological mound at Türkmen-Karahöyük. It appears the unknown city at its height covered about 300 acres. ( James Osborne )

Luwian Inscription

Scholars and students from the OI were working with colleagues from Britain and Turkey in an area known as Türkmen-Karahöyük. Then a local farmer informed them that he had come across a big rock that was inscribed with some mysterious symbols. He had found it while maintaining an irrigation channel.

The team straight away followed the farmer to the enigmatic stone and some of the team examined the stone in the water. Phys.org quotes Asst. Prof. James Osborne of the OI as stating that “Right away it was clear it was ancient, and we recognized the script it was written in Luwian, the language used in the Bronze and Iron Ages in the area.”  The Luwian people are often associated with the Sea Peoples who are often blamed for the Late Bronze Age Collapse in the Levant.

Example of the Luwian language, uncovered from a nearby dig. (Oriental Institute)

Example of the Luwian language, uncovered from a nearby dig. ( Oriental Institute )

Prof. Osborne immediately recognized one of the hieroglyphs as the sign for king/monarch. The farmer helped to pull the massive stone out of the water in the irrigation channel with his tractor. Then it was transported to a local museum, where it was cleaned and documented. The Luwian language was an Indo-European language and its hieroglyphs were widely used in ancient Anatolia. The script ‘is read alternating between right to left and left to right,’ according to Heritage Daily .

Signs of a Lost Kingdom

Prof. Osborne and his colleagues are not experts on the extinct Luwian language, but fortunately they could contact two of the foremost experts in the language, who both work at the University of Chicago. The translated the symbols and the stele read that it was erected by King Hartapu and named a city called Türkmen-Karahöyük, which was assumed to be his capital city.

A linguistic analysis of the symbols indicates that it dates from the 8th century BC. The hieroglyphs revealed that the king had conquered a neighboring Muska kingdom. They read that ‘The storm gods delivered the [opposing] kings to his majesty,’ reports Heritage Daily . Based on ancient sources, Muska has been identified with the kingdom of Phrygia, famous for its semi-mythical king, Midas.

King Midas

According to Greek myths, Midas had the gift to turn anything he touched into gold. This made him rich, but he could not eat anything as all his food became the precious metal. Another legend has it that Apollo gave Midas ass ears when the king had the temerity to say that he did not like the god’s music.

‘Apollo and King Midas’ (c. 1634) by Simon Floquet. (Public Domain)

‘Apollo and King Midas’ (c. 1634) by Simon Floquet. ( Public Domain )

There are known to have been three kings of Phrygia with that name. This kingdom was once very powerful and waged war against the Assyrians and others. It is believed that it was overthrown by invaders in the 8th century BC. There are several Phrygian monuments in Yazılıkaya, Turkey that are associated with Midas.

Osborne and his colleagues continued to investigate the site and they found the remains of a city that was once 300 acres in area. This urban center was probably the capital of a kingdom whose name is not yet known. Osborne told the Heritage Daily “In a flash, we had profound new information on the Bronze Age Middle East.”

A half-submerged stone with inscriptions that are thought to come from a lost kingdom dating to the 8th century BC. Source: Oriental Institute – University of Chicago

A half-submerged stone with inscriptions that are thought to come from a lost kingdom dating to the 8th century BC. Source: Oriental Institute – University of Chicago

A Long-Standing Mystery

The discovery of the stele and the lost city are helping researchers to solve a long-standing mystery. About 7 miles (10 km) away a hieroglyph was uncovered near a dormant volcano. It refers to King Hartapu and a mysterious kingdom.

This is self-evidently connected to the stele found in the irrigation canal . It also provides strong evidence for the existence of a kingdom in the area in the Bronze Age. However, nothing else is known about the king and his state.

The OI plans to investigate the area further. They are going to investigate a mound that appears to be very promising. Osborne told Heritage Daily that “Inside this mound are going to be palaces, monuments, houses. This stele was a marvellous, incredibly lucky find—but it’s just the beginning.” The OI and other institutions hope to piece together the history of the lost Luwian kingdom and to find out more about its role in the destruction of Midas and Phrygia.

Top image: The Phrygian King Midas monument named Yazilikaya at Eskişehir, Turkey. ( Selcuk/Adobe Stock)

By Ed Whelan

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