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Phrygians are one of the Trak tribes migrated from Thrace to Anatolia. According to the general consent, Trak migration started from 1200 B.C. and lasted almost 400 years centered mostly in the period following the decadence of Hittite Empire. Having invaded Troia and surrounding, Phrygians spread over the shores of Askania Lake (Iznik Lake) and Sangarius River Valley (Sakarya River Valley) and continued to disperse into Anatolia. They established a powerful state in the Central Anatolia between the 9th and 6th c. B.C.
Phrygia was divided into two regions in the ancient times. “Phrygia Megale” covering the area between Red River in the east, Lidia region in the west, Lakonya in the south and Köroğlu Mountains in the north; “Phrygia Micra” or “Phrygia Epiktetus” the region covering the provinces of Eskişehir, Afyonkarahisar and Kütahya today. The latter is also called Mountainous Phrygia as it is an upland mountainous area which is constituted by deep valleys and volcanic tuff rocks. Phrygians settled their sacred places and cult centers in such highland areas as they believed Goddess Kybele appears in bare cliffs, valleys and mountains near to freshwater bodies. As a result, it is the Mountainous Phrygia region, which encompasses nearly 52 ha. area, where the Phrygians had their most powerful political and cultural dominance throughout their history.
The Phrygian State collapsed in the early 7th century BC following the attacks of nomadic Cimmerians who sacked the whole Anatolia. However, they were not completely erased from the world history. The members of the royal family, who were able to survive the Cimmerian attacks, continued their existence in various parts of Anatolia, conserving their culture and traditions. The Phrygian principalities lived in the Mountainous Phrygian Region independently until the Kızılırmak (Halys River) expedition of the Lydian King Alyattes to the Medes in 590 BC. Then, until the Persian occupation in 547 BC, they survived as principalities subsumed to the Lydian Empire. In 547 BC, the Lydian Empire collapsed when the Persian King Cyrus II conquered Sardis (today known as Sart/Salihli), the capital of the Lydian King Croesus. Following this event, Phrygia was a part of the Persian Empire for over two centuries.
Along the deep valleys in the region, castles, mounds, tumulus, necropolises, rock-cut worshiping places, inscriptions and reliefs, altars, cisterns, monumental rock-cut tombs and nisches have been found as testimonies of Phrygian culture. Further, in the mounds on fertile plains, layers of Phrygian settlement were discovered.
Phrygia is a civilization which lived and disappeared only in this region in the world. Phrygia developed as a “world state” in the 8th century B.C. and dominated Central Anatolia from Mediterranean at south to Black Sea at north, from Aegean coast at west till the cities of Yozgat and Sivas at east, while the capital was Gordion, which is near to Polatli District of Ankara. Phrygian cultural tradition is adopted and sustained by many follower traditions like Helen, Roman and Byzantium and even Turkish; such as construction technology of rock-cut architecture in various functions, geometrical shaped patterns and stylized animal designs.
Unearthed findings also reveal the militant personality of Phrygians as well as their development in textile, carpentry, furniture and mining industry. Tumulus, the tomb structures built mainly between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C., is firstly seen in Anatolia in the Phrygian period. It’s probably due to that they retained their burial tradition after migration to Anatolia. The Midas Tumulus in Gordion is the most remarkable example of this type of architecture, while other 80 dating from the 10th B.C. and 1st B.C. are scattered around.
Phrygians were also the inventors of the ornament pavement technology, some examples of which can be followed in pebble granolithic floor inside the palace and rectangular shaped structures -megaron- within the Gordion Castle, the other significant architectural and engineering structure of the period. They also invented musical instruments like flute and cymbal. Today many Western musical works are composed via the “Phrygian Scale”.
Mountainous Phrygia, where many unique monumental remains of Phrygians enlightening the religious belief of the society and testifying social life of the period, is a natural structure constituted by geological formations like fairy chimneys and rocky blocks. The area reserves 34 different types of mine. This structure of the site formed by easily carved volcanic tuffs made it possible to build rock-cut architectures which brought characteristic usages of the rocks in Mountainous Phrygia. The most spectacular examples of Phrygian rock-cutn monuments are observed in Mountainous Phrygia.
The importance of rock monuments within religious and social life of Phrygian society is an undeniable certainty. They come into prominence among Anatolian sacred buildings as they were the cult centers designed for Mother Goddess belief. Common features of these monuments are richness in adornments and ornaments on them, pointed roofs, triangular pediments, and rock niches with Goddess sculpture inside.
Criterion (ii): Phrygians provided the integration of rock with the architecture and contributed to interchange of human values by introduction of roof and roof tile technology into the flat roof architecture. It is considered by some writers (Berndt-Ersöz; 1998;87) that rock monuments of Phrygians are the frontiers of Hellen temples. Overhanging architectural elements on the façade of the Maltas Monument, for example, resemble Helen column capitals. These elements do not end in volute shape as generally seen in other Phrygian monuments, rather they take form of concentric circles. Introduction of tumulus into burial tradition in Anatolia is also the Phrygians’ contribution to monumental architecture.
Criterion (iii): The Mountainous Phrygia was a religious center of attraction revealing the clues about the religious culture and traditions in Phrygia. Phrygian rock-cut tombs and monuments have, in this respect, a significant place among sacred buildings in Anatolia receiving attention as a cult complex designed for Mother Goddess belief. The goddess namely “Matar Areyastin” or “Matar Kubileyya/Kubelaya” in Phrygian inscriptions is the only Goddess which is depicted as icon. There can also be seen numerous cult monuments dedicated to Matar Kubileyya throughout the region.
Criterion (iv): Although Yazilikaya Midas Monument -a structure constructed by carved volcanic tuff- is the most spectacular one among the Phrygian rock monuments, Arezastis Monument, Bahsayiş Monument, Maltaş Monument, Burmeç Monument and Aslankaya Monuments are crucial architectural and religious elements of Phrygian rock monuments. Yazilikaya Midas Monument measuring 16m high shows a magnificent image of the typical organization of these monuments with its geometrical decoration, elaborate gable and corroded acroterion. Construction technology of Phrygian rock monuments can be followed in so called “Incomplete Monument” so easily that depictions are added onto the monuments after tops of rocks are flattened. Balkayası Monument is of great importance as it is the first and the only example of painted adornments in Phrygian rock monuments.
Integrity: The archaeological remains comprising the Phrygian civilization are protected by the Act (No. 2863) on the Conservation of Cultural and Natural Property. There are many archaeological and natural conservation sites, as well as individual monuments to be conserved, within this wide area. As a result, 348 sites and 494 monuments are registered on the national inventory. Despite the fact that range of archaeological remains is quite wide, the boundaries can be delimited easily following the geographical thresholds defined by valleys. However, as the remains sprawl on a large area and stays within different administrative boundaries of three provinces, conservation and management of the remains have always been a challenge for ensuring its integrity. The union namely FRIGKUM (Association for Development and Protection of Phrygian Cultural Heritage) is constituted by governorates of three provinces of Eskisehir, Afyonkarahisar and Kutahya for the purposes of fulfilling necessary activities for conservation, promotion and development of the site. FRIGKUM, in this sense, is the only example in Turkey of such administrative structures constituted for conserving a cultural property expanding on a huge area.
Authenticity: Monuments situated within Mountainous Phrygia are very well communed with the topography. Their authenticity firstly stems from the geological structure of the area as the geography itself served for construction of the monuments in the manner that the rocky formations formed by volcanic tuff were the main construction materials. Secondly, since the remains are far apart from modern urban settlements, they have always been away from development pressures and thus kept their original appearance and substances. And thirdly, no heavy restoration activity has taken place in time, except limited and minor repairs. However, due to the richness in mine resources at site, the potential for opening new mining quarries is the biggest threat which might adversely affect the remains statically, while erosion poses the second risk for conservation of the remains.
As stated above, Phrygia is a civilization which lived and disappeared only in this region in the world and therefore remains from this period are only standing as an ensemble within the boundaries of nominated property. Although there exist archaeological remains similar to Phrygian culture in both Anatolia and Mediterranean geography, it’s hard to find the likes of rock-cut architecture seen in Phrygia Valley which is dedicated to Mother Goddess “Matar Kubileyya”. The idea of carving the rock for burial purposes has been aroused in Urartian Civilization in Eastern Anatolia in the 9th century B.C. and then transferred to Phrygia and continued to disperse into the Roman civilization as from the 8th century B.C. However, Phrygian rock-cut monuments differentiate from its pioneers in the manner that while Urartian monuments had flat roofs, Phrygians applied pediments to roof architecture which has been taken as model by later civilizations. While some writers (C.F. Lehman-Haupt, K. Bittel, M.N.von Loon, Forbes, and F. Işık) highlighted similarities between Urartian and Phrygian rock art, P. Demargne states that there is no Western influence on creation of Phrygian art and E. Akurgal claims Lycian influence on its emergence. F. Işık, contrarily to E. Akurgal, argue that the one which comes later is Lycian monuments where rock had been carved only for the burial purposes unlikely to Phrygia. Likely, rock works similar to ones in Phrygia can be found in pre-Phrygian period like in Hittite monuments such as Eflatunpinar (Konya), Gavurkale (Ankara) and Fraktin (Kayseri), however, while the Hittite ones are in scattered character and located distant to settlements; Phrygian rock-cut monuments are collectively localized in the Mountainous Phrygia. As a result, rock monuments in Mountainous Phrygia differ from its pioneer and follower examples as being innovative in design and being constructed related with Mother Goddess cult. Mountainous Phrygia, in this sense, is the only property providing information about religious life and rituals of Phrygian people.