Phrygian Necropolis

As is commonly acknowledged, tumulus type burials, with a timber burial chamber into which the body of socially significant individuals were neatly placed with valuable burial gifts and later covered first with stone rubble and then with soil to form a small hill, are typical of the Phrygian culture. This type of burials mark the presence of a Phrygian necropolis in the area between Atatürk Orman Çiftliği-Anıttepe-Bahçelievler districts at the southwest of Citadel and Ulus part of the present centre of the city of Ankara during the Phrygian settlement phase of the city which is dated to 8th-6th centuries BC.


In his 'Mission en Cappadoce 1893-1894', E. Chantre remarks the presence of eleven artificial hills at the north of old Ankara on the basis of his research at the end of the last century. Although one of these, referred to as the 'grave of the chief', was also excavated during the campaign, the publication fails to provide any information on the subject. During his survey in Ankara and its vicinity in the year 1910, R.C. Thomson remarked sixteen tumuli at the immediate west of the centre of the city of Ankara. The publication on these tumuli by Thompson, which was supplemented by a topographical sketch map, later became a major reference for future researchers.


Two of these tumuli were later excavated by T. Macridy in the year 1925. Excavations in a third tumulus, which was the largest of the group, were however abandoned due to the collapse of a tunnel trenched to find the burial chamber.


At the Atatürk Orman Çiftliği, scientific excavations were started after the discovery of a group of archaeological findings during the construction of a pool in the garden of the Directorate of Nurseries, at southwest of the Directorate building. In the year 1932, excavations carried out in this region under the supervision of Dr. H.Z. Koşay revealed a grave with rich findings. Located on the present Çiftlik Avenue right across 4th Avenue in Bahçelievler, this tumulus later remained under the pool constructed after the excavations. This tumulus was not indicated in the sketch map by Thompson. Following the decision for the construction of a mausoleum for Atatürk, Rasattepe, one of the high hills at the west of the city of Ankara, was selected as the most appropriate site. As the construction of the mausoleum on the ridge of Rasattepe -or 'Beştepeler' (Five Hills) as named by old local inhabitants- required a grand scale topographical arrangement and the region was known to have remained inside the Phrygian necropolis, scientific excavations were started in the region by Prof.Dr. Tahsin Özgüç and archaeologist-architect Mahmut Akok on behalf of the Turkish History Society. In the year 1945, Özgüç and Akok trenched into only two of the tumuli indicated by Thompson on his sketch map. The following publication by Özgüç and Akok informs us on three tumuli to include the above mentioned one which was missing in Thompson's sketch map.


Within the scope of the Salvage Project, started in 1967 at the Phrygian Necropolis in Ankara by the METU Museum and Archaeological Research Centre under the supervision of Ord.Prof.Dr. Ekrem Akurgal, the tumuli numbered 1,2,3,4 and 16 in Thompson's sketch map were discovered to have been destroyed entirely while the existence of four previously unknown tumuli was brought to light. As mentioned above, the tumuli numbered 1-4 had remained under the mausoleum construction after the completion of partial scientific excavations while the tumulus numbered 16, which must have been located between 17th and 20th Streets in Bahçelievler, was presumably destroyed due to urban development.


As to the four tumuli added to those discovered by Thompson by the METU Phrygian Necropolis Project, these include the twin hills north of the way from the Eskişehir highway to the Çiftlik centre and the one, north of the İstanbul highway at the junction of the road leading to the Zoo inside the Çiftlik. Among these, the tumulus numbered 18 (METU Tumulus I) was excavated by METU in 1967.


There exists another location within the Phrygian Necropolis which was named also as 'Beştepeler' by old local inhabitants. Four of these hills where the Beştepeler District is located have been totally destroyed. Within the scope of the METU Project, the tumulus numbered 13, the only extant one of the hills, was excavated in the year 1967.


The tumulus numbered 9 -also named as the 'Great Tumulus'-, the excavation of which had been abandoned by T. Macridy, was also re-excavated within the scope of the METU Project in 1967. As to the other tumuli excavated by T. Macridy, the tumulus numbered 7 had been totally destroyed back in the 1960s; salvage excavations were carried out at the cremation area at the foot of the tumulus numbered 6, which was discovered during the construction of the Gençlerbirliği Sports Establishment, jointly by METU and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in 1986-88. A pool had been constructed over the adjoining tumulus numbered 5 by cutting off its top part.


In addition to research projects and excavations, several Phrygian remains discovered in the region provide us with clues that widen our knowledge as to the spread and number of the tumuli. Rich burial findings discovered during the construction of the main railway station building in Ankara prove the existence of a tumulus at the location. Several findings discovered at the Atatürk Orman Çiftliği Nursery lead to the conclusion that many tumuli had been destroyed unintentionally during the arrangement of the nursery. The skirt of the only example among the Phrygian tumuli in Ankara which have survived in magnificence and unsurveyed was recently devastated during an extension work on the Konya highway for the construction of a station building within the scope of the Ankara Underground Project.


Chronology for the Phrygian Tumuli in Ankara


A chronology may be proposed for the four tumuli excavated by METU and for those previously excavated in Ankara on the basis of a comparative study of findings with those recovered from the Gordion tumuli. The chronology for the Gordion tumuli has been developed on the basis of a comparative study of the tumuli material with those revealed from the destruction layer of the settlement and below. Accordingly, the tumuli have been listed as W, P, III, IV and the Royal Tomb (MM) respectively. The typology demonstrating the development of bowls with omphalos and fibulae has acted as a main criterion in dating the tumuli.


The chronology for the Ankara tumuli cover a period from the last quarter of 8th century BC up to the beginning of 6th century BC. Being contemporary with the tumuli W, P, III and IV in Gordion, METU Great Tumulus and Anıttepe II stand as the oldest dating ones. The second phase in the chronology cover the tumuli METU I, Nursery, Anıttepe I and METU II respectively. These tumuli must have been contemporary with the Royal Tomb in Gordion. The latest phase in the chronology for the Ankara tumuli cover Macridy I, which has been dated to the beginning of 6th century BC on the basis of the typology of fibulae, and Macridy II, dated to the middle of 6th century BC in reference to a bowl sherd with a bird motive which was revealed in the burial chamber.

METU Tumulus I-II

The Great Tumulus

Finds from these tumuli are currently being exhibited at METU Archaeological Museum.