Ancient Treasures from the Republic of Turkey are Featured in The Golden Age of King Midas

Saturday, February 13, 2016 - 1:30pm - Sunday, November 27, 2016 - 6:03pm
Penn Museum, 3260 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Exclusive World Premiere Exhibition Explores Famous Ruler and his Times, Opens February 13, 2016 at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia.


PHILADELPHIA, PA Fall 2015— What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch?

That is the question that will be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of specially-loaned ancient artifacts from the Republic of Turkey, keys to telling the true story of a very real, very powerful ruler of the Phrygian kingdom in what is now central Turkey. The Golden Age of King Midas, an exclusive, world premiere exhibition developed by the Penn Museum, 3260 South Street in Philadelphia, in partnership with the Republic of Turkey, runs February 13 through November 27, 2016.

King Midas lived in the prosperous city of Gordion circa 750–700 BCE, ruling Phrygia and influencing neighboring kingdoms, from Assyria and Urartu, to the city-states of North Syria, Lydia, Greece, and beyond. He likely reigned during the time in which Homer’s Iliad was first written down. It was indeed a golden age.

Archaeologists from the Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) have been excavating at the important ancient site of Gordion—and making international headlines with their discoveries—since 1950. This rich site, a crossroads of many cultures over time, offers insight into thousands of years of history, but it is best known as the political and cultural capital of the Phrygians, a people who dominated much of what is now Turkey nearly 3,000 years ago. With its monumental architecture and a series of wealthy tombs belonging to Phrygian royalty and elites, Gordion is the premiere archaeological site for discovering the unique material achievements of the once-great Phrygian civilization.

A Rare Opportunity

In 1957, the Penn Museum excavated a spectacular tomb, the Tumulus MM (Midas Mound), the largest of about 120 man-made mounds of earth, clay, and stone used to mark important burials at Gordion. Dated to about 740 BCE, it is believed to be the final resting place of King Midas’ father Gordias. The archaeologists entered the tomb, the oldest standing wooden building in the world, and beheld an extraordinary sight: the skeleton of a king in what was left of a cedar coffin, surrounded by all the bronze bowls, serving vessels, wooden tables, and food remains from an extensive funeral banquet.

Now housed in Turkish Museums in Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya, and Gordion, most of these extraordinary artifacts have never before traveled to the United States. For the first time, about 120 objects from Turkey, primarily from Tumulus MM and hand-selected by exhibition curator Dr. C. Brian Rose, Penn Museum’s Gordion Archaeological ProjectDirector, come to Philadelphia for this exclusive, limited-time engagement. One additional highlight of the exhibit will be an ivory lion tamer figurine on loan from the Delphi Archaeological Museum; it probably formed part of a throne dedicated by Midas to Apollo in the late eighth century BCE. Artifacts from nearby kingdoms, drawn from the Penn Museum’s own international collection, supplement the exhibition and tell the broader story of a golden age presided over by a legendary king.

Event Type: 
Arts & Culture
Historical Preservation / Archaeology
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