Printer Friendly

Piecing together the siege of Sardis.

Piercing together the siege of Sardis

Two ancient Greek cups are providing important clues about the fall of the kingdom of Lydia, which was established near the Greek empire in the seventh century B.C., in what is now Turkey. The cups, says Nancy Hirschland Ramage of Ithaca (N.Y.) College, were found broken and partly burned on the floor of a building undergoing excavation at Sardis, once Lydia's capital. They date to shortly before the middle of the sixth century B.C. and confirm suspicions that a collossal defensive wall behind the building was partially destroyed by Cyrus the Great of Persia in late 547 B.C. or early 546 B.C.

The destruction was caused by a battle in which the Persians, according to historical records, conquered Lydia while it was at the height of its power. At the time, says Ramage, Croesus was the Lydian king. Sardis later became a large Hellenistic and Roman city.

Over the last decade, the 60-foot-thick "city wall" has been studied by scientists associated with an ongoing expedition at Sardis sponsored by Harvard University, Cornell University, The Corning Museum of Glass and The American Schools of Oriental Research. In 1984, the floor of another structure was found buried beneath bricks that had fallen from the wall. A number of items lay scattered across the floor, including cooking pots, kitchen utensils, cups, lamps, glass beads, parts of a loom and foods such as barley and wheat heaped in storage vessels. Most of the pottery was Lydian, but the two cups in question were of Greek origin and could be compared to similar vessels that have been confidently dated.

One cup (seen below) was pierced together from 49 fragments and contains images of two panthers standing next to palmette plants. The reverse side, although missing some pieces, bears the same scene. The other cup was completely restored from 54 fragments. On each of its sides are two dancers placed between palmettes and tendrils. When compared to similar Greek cups, the shape and decorative style of the Sardis vessels dates to shortly before 550 B.C., reports Ramage in the October AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY. The two cups appear to have been imported to the site just before the Persian conquest.

"The beauty of these cups is that they confirm the chronology for the destruction of this area," says Ramage. Some investigators have doubted whether the mud-brick wall was a defensive fortification. But the new evidence, she notes, argues against their misgivings. The cups also provide a valuable landmark for dating Lydian pottery that was found in the same structure.

The fact that many of the cup fragments were burned, says Ramage, indicates that a fire raged through the building. Bricks from the city wall then fell on the structure, burying and sealing the floor. Since food storage and preparation and other household activities were carried out there, Ramage suggests that the occupants must have fled, "abandoning flood, loom, cooking pots and even fine imported pottery as fire and then falling bricks destroyed this place."
COPYRIGHT 1986 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:archaeology
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 22, 1986
Previous Article:AIDS virus protein coat lethal.
Next Article:Keeping an eye on what was once afoot.

Related Articles
Soldier of misfortune.
Archaeology & Clay: Pottery Provides Clues.
American forces press service (Oct. 3, 2005): Pace issues guidance to help military 'shape the future'.
Tax measure fails by wide margin.
Cynthia Knight joins South Lane.
City gets option to buy 2 Broadway buildings.
What about Palestine's trees?

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters