University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Papers

Document Type

Technical Report

Date of this Version



Vegetation cover is managed to enhance the preservation of the archaeological ruins at Gordion, Turkey. We use our knowledge of the habits and growth cycles of the native vegetation to determine which plants should be encouraged or discouraged to grow in the excavated. For the surfaces of tumuli and unexcavated settlement mounds, minimal intervention can have dramatic results for remarkably little effort, and can be thought of as parkland. In particular, fencing to keep animals and children off the biggest mound allowed the vegetation cover to improve rapidly, so there is much less erosion. The excavated area with exposed architecture requires more active intervention and maintenance, as in a garden. The roots of some plants harm the standing structures, but others protect the ruins. In particular, we have planted the shallow-rooted perennial, Poa bulbosa, on the soft caps of the masonry walls exposed by excavation.

With a metaphor and practice of open-air archaeological site as garden, we are not trying to restore the vegetation to some hypothetical earlier state. Rather, as a garden evolves and changes over the year and from year to year, the program at Gordion aims aims to use the resilience of the native vegetation to highlight and protect specific archaeological remains, like wall stubs, as well as the traces of ancient landscape that remain, and that have formed part of the viewshed and environment of all peoples since the tumuli were constructed over 2500 years ago.


An abridged version of this paper appears under the title "Working with Nature to Preserve Site and Landscape at Gordion," in The Archaeology of Phrygian Gordion, Royal City of Midas, edited by C. Brian Rose, pp. 243–258. University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia (2012).


Gordion, historic preservation, archaeological site management, archaeological site conservation, archaeology



Date Posted: 10 November 2016