Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Royal tomb discovered in Daskyleion, Turkey?


The current round of excavations at the ancient town of Daskyleion (or Dascylium) are in their 22nd season, and this persistence has been amply rewarded by the recent amazing discovery of a stone built tomb under a tumulus. Dr. K ─░ren, of Mugla University and director of the excavation, has announced that two tumuli have been excavated and one appears to have the hallmarks of a ‘royal burial’.
The ancient city of Daskyleion, situated to the southeast of Lake Dascylitis on the bank of a river, was rediscovered in 1952. Preliminary excavations took place from1954-1960 and have continued since 1988. Excavations have shown that the town was settled by the Bronze Age, a good fit with the history of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who mentions the settlement at the time of the Trojan War. Strabo, on the other hand, says that it was settled by Aeolian colonists after that war (13.1.3).

According to legend the town is named after Dascylus, father of King Gyges, famous from Herodotus’ history. When the Persians took over the Lydian Empire Daskyleion became the seat of the Persian satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia and the residence of the Pharnacid dynasty. Although sections of the terrace walls of the acropolis have been found, the most important archaeological finds to date have been several fifth-century reliefs, showing Magi performing sacrifices and stele, one with an Aramaic inscription. Persian suzerainty came to an end with the capture of the town by Parmenion, general of Alexander the Great, after the battle of the River Granicus in 334.

So the discovery of a ‘royal tomb’, thought to date from around 2,500 years ago is of great interest, since we know that the site was the seat of the famous Pharnacid dynasty. The entrance to the tomb was found in the side of the tumulus which faced the town. The tomb consists of an antechamber in front of a burial chamber containing two skeletons. Speculation of the ‘royal’ nature of the occupants lies not only in the grandiose nature of the tomb (the marble door to the tomb was approximately 9.5 meters into the tumulus) but also in the fact that the bodies were wrapped in purple. The marble ‘couch’ on which the skeletons lie is stained purple – the colour traditionally worn by Persian and other royalty.

Other finds include the remains of carved wooden furniture, ceramic perfume bottles, glass and silver jewellery and gold coins. The archaeologists intend to carry out DNA analysis of the skeletons and there is the possibility that they will be subjects for facial reconstruction.

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