Harvard-Cornell Archaelogists Unearth Initials, Tomb of 700 B.C. King Gyges

The burial tomb of a king, erected in the seventh century before Christ by the Lydians, has been uncovered by the Harvard-Cornell expedition in its continuing studies of the ancient capital of Sardis,' in Turrkey.

Evidence of a Lydian alphabet at that date appears in a repeated monogram, translated a "Gugu," along a wall. This was the name given the notorious Lydian king, Gyges, in Assyrian annals, according to George M.A. Hanfmann, professor of Fine Arts and field director of the expedition. The structure was the burial mound of Gyges, founder of the great Lydian Kingdom.

Gyges owed his accession to a strange whim of his predecessor, Kind Kandaules, who forced Gyges to gaze secretly at the queen in the in the nude. The queen noticed Gyges, however, and told him he must either kill her husband and become king, or himself be killed. He killed the busband and became king.

His burial mound was found in the center of the vast Royal Cemetary, 10 miles from Sardis. It is a small artificial mountain of clay, earth, and limestone, some 700 feet in diameter and 120 feet high. Hidden within the great mound was found an earlier mound 300 feet in diameter. Circling the base of the inner mound is a six-foot-high wall of beautiful masonry crowned by a large circular bolster.

The archaeologists dug another tunnel for some 160 feet to trace the wall. Inscribed on it were various letters. One monogram, repeated ten times, is deciphered by the excavators as "Gugu," the names under which King Gyges is mentioned in the Assyrian annals. Gyges had sent an embassy to Assyria, which ceated a sensation since the Lydian horsemen had come so far and spoke a language strange to the Assyrians.

In Search of Treasure

Gyges, Professor Hanfmann explains, "probably started building his own burial mound during his lifetime, as other Lydian kings are known to have done. Gyges died at Sardis while fighting the Kimmerians, Crimean horsemen who invaded Asia Minor. After the invaders were driven out, Gyges' successor decided to magnify the memory of the late king by enlarging his burial mound to its present colossal dimensions."

One puzzling feature of the mound is the network of ancient tunnels encountered. The excavators believe the tunnels were dug several centuries later by Romans in search of the Lydian royal treasure buried with the king. In the southern half of the mound these ancient tunnels stopped without reaching their goal. But there may be others in the northern, as yet unexplored, part. Next summen the expedition hopes to reach the final resting place of King Gyges.

The Sardis Excavations are sponsored by the American Schools of Oriental Research, Cornell University, and the Fogg Museum, and were supported in 1964 by the Bollingen Foundation, the Corning Museum of Glass, and the U.S. State Department.

Harvard and Radcliffe participants this summer were Polly T. Bart '65, Jonathan S. Friedlaender 2L, Nancy L. Hirschland, Mrs. Sherry M. Lattimore, Peter B. Machinist '66 and John G. Pedley.