©The Archaeological Settlements of Turkey - TAY Project

Yazilikaya - Midas Sehri

For site maps and drawings please click on the picture...


For photographs please click on the photo...

Yazılıkaya - Midas Şehri
Central Anatolia
Investigation Method:
Early Phrygian Middle Phrygian Late Phrygian


Location: It lies to the immediate west of the Yazilikaya Village in the valley of Yazilikaya, 70 km south of Eskisehir.
Geography and Environment: It was founded on the Yazilikaya Plateau (altitude:1315m) formed by high and steep tuff rocks on the southern end of the Yazilikaya Valley in the Highlands of Phyrigia. It is a settlement protected by the Akpara Fortress, Pismis Fortress, Gökgöz Fortress, and Kocabas Fortress, which are at higher altitudes and command the roads from west and north. The site measures 650 m long, and 320 m wide. It is approximately 60-70 m high above the valley floor.
Research and Excavation: It was first W.M. Ramsay who named the site as Midas in the late 19th century and indicated that it was surrounded by a defence wall [Ramsay 1888:374]. The reason why it is called the Midas City is that the inscription on the Yazilikaya Monument bears the name Midas as carved onto the rock. The monument after which the settlement was named was first documented in 1800. Colonel W.M. Leake and his company who traveled for a military mission from Istanbul to Egypt under the command of the British general G. Koehler examined this monument and made a sketch of it. Right after the book of Leake was published in 1824 including his travel and a sketch of the monument, the archaeological remains in the region became the center of interest for many European travelers and researchers until mid-20th century, and the excavations at Yazilikaya-Midas started in 1936 [Tüfekçi-Sivas 1999a:11-19]. After a brief initial sounding, first systematic archaeological excavations at Yazilikaya-Midas started in 1937. The leader of the excavation was A. Gabriel, the director of the French Archaeological Institute in Istanbul. After the first year, C.H.E. Haspels from the French Archaeological Institute in Athens was invited to Istanbul, and Haspels took over the direction of the excavations until 1939. The environs of magnificent rock monuments, the cisterns and the stairs descending to the plain were cleaned during these excavations, and the structures on the northeastern section of the plateau were unearthed. After the WWII broke out in 1939, the first campaign at Yazilikaya-Midas came to an end. The second campaign at Yazilikaya-Midas started in 1948 by the French Archaeological Institute in Istanbul. H. Çambel was the leader of the excavations which lasted until 1951. The underground stairs on the plateau were cleaned, and a necropolis was discovered on the eastern section of the plateau. In early Ô70s, a team from the Ankara Archaeological Museum under the direction of G. Toklu, started cleaning works on behalf of the Restorations Department at the General Directorate of Ancient Artifacts and Museums. During these works, the environs of the rock grave which was exposed as a result of land subsidence were cleaned out, and the deposits inside the rock tunnels were cleared out. Between 1990-93 the Eskisehir Museum of Archaeology performed cleaning works at Yazilikaya-Midas. The cistern and monument's surroundings were cleaned during these works, and the klinai of the rock graves found in 1970 were restored. T. Tüfekçi Sivas and H. Sivas conducted surveys on the plateau and the skirts in 1996, 2001 and 2002. Further Phyrygian monuments consisting of votives, niches and idols carved onto the rocks were found, and documented during these surveys.
Stratigraphy: The excavations on the rocky plateau were performed at sections P, R and U. All of the building remains of the 0.2-1.25 m deep deposit belong to a single settlement phase which directly rests on the foundation supports seated on the bedrock. Based on these finds, the building was dated to the 5th-4th BC when Anatolia was under the hegemony of Persian Empire (Late Phrygian Period). All data indicate that the site had been abandoned all of a sudden around the late 4th century BC. On the other hand, the most authentic and monumental specimens of the Phrygian architecture, which built a reputation of the city, consisting of the rock monuments with a façade, altar with stairs, and grave chambers, were dated to the 8th-6th century BC based on their architectural, technical and decorative characteristcs (Middle-Phrygian Period). In addition to some sherds found during excavations, the terracotta building plaques, and re-used building elements reveal important data about the earlier periods of the city. These finds show that Midas was a rich settlement during the Middle Phrygian Period. The excavated prehistoric cemetery outside the city on the eastern skirt indicate presence of an EBA settlement. However, available data does not allow to conclude that there was an uninterrupted inhabitation from the EBA until the Phrygian Period. No data is available about the time the settlement was abandoned. In the mean time, the inscriptions, grave rocks, and other rock structures from the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Period show that the site had been also inhabited in later periods.
Small Finds: Architecture: A large part of the Late Phrygian settlement was unearthed at the northeastern excavation area [Gabriel 1965:12-14, drw. 5, pl. IV; Haspels 1971: figs. 495, P sector and 41, 43-44, 46]. It consists of buildings of domestic structures without any regular plan. They were built on stone foundations using a rough masonry into the bedrock. The superstructure of the stone foundation are of mudbrick. In some buildings, the walls were found extant up to a height of 1 m. It is likely that the roofs were covered with reed and straws, then plastered with mud. And, the settlement was probably surrounded by a wall during the Middle Phrygian Period [Gabriel 1965:3-10, drw.1-4]. Not even a single stone of the fortification wall is available in situ at present. However, the foundation holes cut in the form of stairs can be traced at certain sections of the rocks enclosing the city as a natural fortification. These holes suggest that there were more than one fortification at some locations. The main entrance to the city was through a ramping road carved into the bedrock from the east [Haspels 1971: drw. 18, 495:1]. Along the ramp, there are figurative reliefs on the surface of the rocks. The monumental rock altars carved into the bedrock on the plateau, two vaulted tunnels with one end at the plateau and descended by stairs, and three tunnels which are interconnected at the lower terrace in southeast direction with monumental entrances and stairs are among the important buildings of the city [Gabriel 1965: 34-38, pl. 6-11, drw. 19-20]. There are many cult buildings and grave chambers consisting of monumental façades, stepped altars with idols, and niches on the high, volcanic tuff rocks that surround the settlement. These structures represent the most popular monumental and specific specimens of the Phrygian rock architecture. Pottery: Abundant number of intact pottery and sherds were recovered from the domestic buildings in the excavated areas. They are classified in two main groups; monochrome ware and painted ware. The first group are of well burnished grey metallic-like vessels. Some of them bear geometric motifs in incision or impression techniques. Some others have trumped lugs imitating metallic vessels. Large craters, storage jugs, single handled trefoil rimmed jugs, and flat bowls are among the most common forms [Haspels 1951:43-85, pl. 14-35]. The number of painted sherds are respectively less. They bear concentric circles and wavy lines in dark colors on a buff background [Haspels 1951:25-28, pl. 7 b-e, 8]. In addition to the Phrygian pottery, the excavations yielded sherds of West Anatolian pottery decorated with black on red paint, and sherds of Lydian, Corinthian and Attic black figure vessels [Haspels 1951:29-43]. Bone/Antler: Rod handles, drillers, shaft-holed axes, spatula and cutters made of antlers were found [Haspels 1951:100-101, pl. 43]. Clay: Incision decorated and undecorated spindl-whorls, pyramidal and conical loom weights and fragments of building plaques were unearthed [Haspels 1951:90-93, pl. 38-40]. Metal: Bronze fibulae, pins, bracelets, belt buckles and various kinds of arrowheads were recovered [Haspels 1951: 93-98, pl. 41-42]. Sculpture/Relief: The reliefs that were carved along the ramping road have been severely eroded [Gabriel 1965:43, pl. 15-17; Haspels 1971: drw. 20-24]. Yet, the figures can be interpreted as a cortege heading for the entrance based on their posture. The difference in sculpting technique and the heights of figures led into arguments about whether they were made by the same person and their dating. Torsos of two female sculptures were found. The first one belongs to a woman standing on a pedestal with a long dress. The upper half of the body is missing. The second one is the lower half of a sculpture with a plied long dress. The rear side was not shaped. The lower section contains a bracket to fasten it [Haspels 1951:111-115, pl. 47]. Grave: Grave chambers were carved into the steep façades of the rocks surrounding the plateau [Haspels 1971:112-113, 127-128; Tüfekçi-Sivas 2005:218, drw. 3]. The Pyramide Tomb, the Triclinium Tomb and the West Slope Tomb represent the most beautiful examples of these grave chambers. Some being re-used after some additions and modifications during the Roman Period, they reflect the interior architecture of the Phrygian houses as carved into the rocks. The graves are accessed via small square or rectangular doors. The ridge beams, rafters, triangular frontons and wall posts were carved in relief into the bedrock on the celiling of some of the rectangular and vaulted chambers. There are benches or klinai, varying from 1 to 3 in number, carved into the rock in front of the walls where the burials were laid. Rock façades: The façades render the front of Phrygian megarons with gable roof which skillfully and abundantly employed massive wood in the constructions of walls and roofs, well known from the Phrygian citadels. Yazilikaya - Midas Monument: It is the most magnificient example of the Phrygian rock façades [Haspels 1971: 73-76, figs.8-13, 510, 495:A; Tüfekçi-Sivas1999a: 52-65, pl.9-23]. It stands on a massive rock outcrop on the northeastern skirt of the plateau of the Midas city. It was first investigated and drawn by W.M. Leake and his colleagues in 1800. This drawing by G. Koehler is important because it is the first drawing which gives an idea about the overall view of the Phrygian façades despite many errors and flaws [Tüfekçi-Sivas 1999: pl.10/a]. In 1834, Ch. Texier examined the monument and produced an engraving of it. This is the first and only engraving which is faithful to the monument, displaying its magnificance [Tüfekçi-Sivas1999: pl. 10/b]. The monument was given this name because of the word "Midai" in the Paleo-Phrygian inscription on the left side of the roof on the smoothed bedrock. The locals call it "Yazilikaya" (inscribed rock) because of the inscriptions it bears. At present, both names are being used. Facing the east, the monument is 17 m high, and 16.5 m wide. It is 1.2-1.8 m high above the ground level. The top acroterium consists of two mutual semi-circles. The pediment casings of the gable roof were decorated with a series of lozenge motifs. The main beam is thick. It bears a series of decorations with a lozenge pattern on each four corners of the small square at the center. These motives were separated by vertical bands from each other, and all were carved onto the rock surface. The wall façade measures 12.5x16.5 m in dimensions. It is enclosed by a thick frame, which represents the lateral walls, and is integrated with the main beam as almost twice as thick as the beam. It is also decorated with the same series of motifs on the main beam. The motifs which were carved by removing the vertical bands in between were placed in groups of two from bottom to top in a symmetrical order. The surface of the wall was designed in two sections. The first section starts with the main beam, and ends on the upper level of the niche. The second section is separated from the first section by a horizontal relief band extending between the lateral walls. There is a large niche, which represents the door at the center. The first section consists of a combination of concentric rectangles and squares, intersecting with geometrical motifs at the corners worked in rapport technique. A band system in relief composing this pattern fully covers the entire surface. The empty spaces were filled by large cross motifs in relief. In the second section, a main motif was placed on each space flanking the frame of the niche, which is delimited by vertical relief bands. The only difference is that these have a square shape because of the dimensions of the surface to be decorated. The central niche measures 2.32x2.41-2.51x1.02 m in dimensions. It was surrounded by a two-stage frame. Both frames have rectangular projections representing the ends of wooden beams on the upper corners. A square (0.22x0.22x0.14 m) hole was carved at the center into the ceiling of the niche near the rear wall. This hole probably was made to hang a goddess sculpture from the ceiling as seen in reliefs at the Aslankaya, Büyük Kapi Kaya, Küçük Kapi Kaya and Kumcabogaz monuments. The traces on the lateral walls indicate that the original contour of the floor of the niche was 0.35 m higher than the present floor level. The archaeological excavations conducted in front of the monument between 1936-37 yielded a courtyard (17x19 m) on the bedrock declining northwards under the deposit, sometimes reaching up to a thickness of 3 m, a smooth floor of a colonnaded gallery carved into the bedrock to the immediate south (17x2.5 m) and four column pedestals (1x1x0.25 m), a large niche (3.1x2.95x2.48x1.45 m) 2.5 m to the south of the façade, and a rock chamber lying 1.5 m to the north [Gabriel 1965:63-70, pl. 32-34; Haspels 1971:75-77, drw. 10-13]. The gallery which extends in east-west direction is delimited by a large niche to the west. The floor of the niche is one step above the floor of the gallery, and the ceiling declines towards right. Although the excavators, Haspels and Gabriel have different opinions about the function and dating of the gallery, they agree upon the presence of a large open-air cult complex dedicated to the Mother Goddess Matar, consisting of a monumental façade, an open courtyard and a colonnaded gallery [Gabriel 1965:69-70; Haspels 1971:76, 235-236]. T. Tüfekçi-Sivas compared the dimensions of both sides of the monument independent of the northward declination of the floor in front of the monument, and determined that the steps of the monument on the northern lateral surface and the large niche on the southern end are placed almost at the same row and distance from the monument. According to Tüfekçi-Sivas, it should be more than a mere coincidence in an architectural discernment, placing emphasis on symmetry such as the Phrygian architecture. Considering Phrygians' successful and common use of terracing system in architecture, it is likely that there was a large sanctuary consisting of a covered gallery on both sides, an open courtyard at the center, and a monumental façade in the back [Tüfekçi-Sivas1999a:56-57]. The second gallery should have been constructed on the terrace across the south gallery after filling and leveling the naturally declined bedrock that constituted the floor of the courtyard. Unfinished Monument: This monument is located on the western skirts of the Midas city. It lies approximately 200 m southwest of the Midas monument [Haspels 1971:77-79, drw. 14-15, 495:D, 513:2-3; Tüfekçi-Sivas 1999a:66-70, pl. 24-29]. The researchers emphasize the disproportionality of the sizes of building elements that constituted the façade and believe that the monument was left unfinished. Therefore, it was called the Unfinished Monument. It is locally called Küçük Yazilikaya. Facing the west, the monument measures 7.1 m in height, and 9.9 m in width, and it is 5.5 m high above the ground level. The pediment is higher (4.1x10.1 m) compared to the dimensions of the façade wall (3x9.9 m). The lower part was left unworked. The top acroterium consists of two mutual and intersecting concentric circles. The lower part bears a six petal rosette motif within a circle. The pediment casings of the gable roof are decorated with a series of lozenge patterns in relief. The central post of the roof is thick. It is flanked by two symmetrical windows. The details on the interior part of the window frames have been badly eroded. However, two square dowel-holes at the center of both windows that face each other, and a bolt between them indicate presence of a double-wing window opening system as in the Areyastis Aniti. The main beam is narrow and not decorated. There is a thick friese lying below it. It is decorated with palmetto and bud motifs. The façade wall is rectangular. The width is larger compared to the length (3x9.9 m). It is enclosed by a thick frame. The upper frame is decorated with a series of square panels placed adjacent to each other at equal intervals. Within the panels are two lozenge motifs on each, a total of four lozenge patterns, as it was in the Areyastis Monument. There is a small façade to the left of the monument 2 m below, and an altar 5.5 m from the monument on the right side. Hyacinth (Sümbüllü) Monument: This monument is situated on the eastern skirt of the Midas city plateau, 50 m south of the ancient road which leads to the plateau [Haspels 1971:80-81, drw. 34, 515; Tüfekçi-Sivas 1999a:127-131, pl. 91-93]. The façade was called so because of similarity of the monument's acroterium to the hyacinth flowers. Facing the northeast, it measures 3.9 m in height, and 3.23 m in width, and it is 1.6 m high above the ground level. During the 1938 campaign the deposit in front of the monument was removed, and a plan was obtained. According to this plan, it was a sanctuary, where the ritual ceremonies were held, consisting of a façade, a platform, a bench and pits probably for blood of the votives. The façade has been heavily destroyed. A large part of the pediment and the lateral frames were broken. The ornaments which decorated the walls of the niche become more and more eroded and disappear every day. It has a gable roof. The hyacinth-like acroterium is unique among the Phrygian façades. The pediment was surrounded by three casings step by step one under the other. There are two symmetrical windows on both sides of the central post of the roof similar to the ones at the Areyastis and Unfinished monuments. The front wall measures 2.25x3.23 m in dimensions. It was enclosed by a thick frame representing the lateral walls. The frames were decorated with square panels known from the Areyastis and Unfinished monuments. The rectangular niche (2x1.35x1 m) covers the entire façade between the lateral walls. It is enclosed by a thin frame. Unlike other niches, the interior part was decorated with reliefs and engraved squares resembling a checker board. The niche ceiling has a round hole at the center adjacent to the rear wall. And, there is a rectangular hole at the center of the floor right before the rear wall. It is likely that statue of a goddess and pedestal similar to the one recovered from the Midas city may have been placed here. It was reported that there were two more smaller façades besides these [Tüfekçi-Sivas 1999a:132-135]. Niche: Western Niche of Midas City: It lies 80 m south of the Unfinished Monument on the southern slope of the plateau. It is 1.55 m high, 1.45 m wide and 0.2 m deep. It is 0.6 m high above the ground level. It is a large niche with a curved top. There is a rectangular hole of 0.35x0.2x0.1 m at the center on the rear wall, 0.8 m high from the floor of the niche. It was probably placing a goddess statuette or an idol. There are four square holes at certain intervals on the upper part, which are also overlaid by two more holes. Probably some elements of the cult inventory were hanged here. Rock niches: These are oval or rectangular shallow cavities, easily accessible, on the steep faces of the rocks. On their rear walls, there are holes for placing a goddess statuette or an idol. Some have platforms formed by leveling rocks in front of them. Altar: Rock-cut altars: They are the second most original elements of the Phrygian architecture following the façades. Being first investigated by W.M. Ramsay during the late 19th century, and identified as altar, they are widely recognized as rock thrones or stepped altars in the archaeological literatur [Ramsay 1882:12]. They are three dimensional monuments carved onto low rock masses, and typologically they share the same basic architectural design from the largest to the smallest: The idols with a circular head and rectangular body representing the Mother Goddess are accessed by the front row steps. The idols which were carved single, in twins, by pair or in multiple groups in low reliefs were stylized at some altars and shown as a curve only [Tüfekçi-Sivas 1999:154-155, fig. 27]. In Midas city there are numerous similar stepped altars. Some of them are pretty small with a dimension of 0.15-0.25 m while others are 1-2 m wide [Haspels 1971:93-94; Tüfekçi-Sivas 1999:158-167]. Grand Altar of Midas City: It is situated on the highest section of the Midas city plateau, approximately 30 m west of the road which climbs to the plateau from the east. It is the most beautiful and, based on its dimensions, the most monumental of the Phrygian altars [Haspels 1971:93, drw. 28; Tüfekçi-Sivas 1999a:164, pl.125-126]. It has twin idols and three steps. The first step which is 0.6 m high forms the base of the altar. The second and third steps were raised by terracing on the right side at the projection of the twin idols. The twin idols are located behind this high and narrow platform on the third step. The idols with round heads share the same body. The relief band with double lines enclosing the contour of the heads form the outward curls of hair on both sides. The left sides of the idols were extended in the form of a panel, engraved with a two-line Paleo-Phrygian inscription on it. The first line is 1.57 m long, and the second line is 1.55 m long. Rock inscriptions/signs: Paleo-Phrygian inscriptions were engraved onto the Yazilikaya - Midas monument. The first inscription is on the upper left corner of the smoothed bedrock. It was engraved starting from the left corner level of the pediment towards the acroterium towards the right in a curved manner. It is 11 m long. King Midas' name is referred in this inscription. The second inscription is located on the right edge of the frame. It was written left to right sidewards on the empty space between the decoration and the frame. It is 4.75 m long. Although legible, the exact meaning of the inscriptions could not be decyphered. The first one is related with the entire monument based on its location. The second one is more specific. Additionally, there are faint graffitos on both sides of the frame that encloses the niche and on the lower side of the decoration on the right side of the niche. They were engraved pretty roughly and superficially, and there are no clues about the date they were engraved. But the name of Goddess Matar is critical in the text. The inscription inside the niche to the left of the monument starts from the left wall of the niche and continues on the rear wall and the right wall. It is 4.45 m long.
Interpretation and Dating: Presence and abundant number of the monumental structures at Midas city indicate that it was a religious metropolis of its time. The topographic analysis showed that it had no strategical importance compared to the citadel type of settlements in the region, and the city was rather promoted by constructing many religious buildings giving her a distinctive position. The excavations revealed that the earliest Phrygian settlement at Midas city was dated back to the 8th century BC. It appears that during the reign of King Midas when the Phrygia had its most prosperous days, Gordion was a political center while Midas city was the most important religious center since the foundation of the kingdom.

To List