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Basic Descriptions

The vast majority of the monuments shown here are rock monuments built for religious/cultic purposes. It is believed that they were built to worship gods (particularly the Phrygian mother goddess Matar) and present votive offerings. A great majority of the monuments are built facing an eastward direction. Generally they are divided into three main groups: façades, niches, and altars / idols.

    Façades: They are usually carved on the leveled surfaces of steep rocks. Architecturally, they represent the front face of Phrygian houses (megarons) usually made of wood (see Figure on the right). Façades represent the temple of god/goddess (mostly the mother goddess Matar). They have a pitched roofs and rectangular plans. On the lower part of the rectangular façade, there is a niche depicting the entrance door of the building. In the middle of the niche, there is sometimes a statue or relief of a goddess carved into the rock, sometimes a goddess statue/figurine is also placed here during the ritual. Depending on the size, they could be classified as large and small façades.

    Niches: Technically, they have no difference than the niches located in the center of the façades. These monuments are only consisting of a niche without a surrounding façade. They are shallow cavities made in oval or rectangular shape on the steep faces of the rocks, usually at heights easily accessible from the ground. Most of them also have a simple frame carved in low relief.

    Altar and Idols: Three-dimensional cult structures carved from the bedrock, for the purpose of worship, and offering of sacrifices and votive gifts. They are usually built on the top or edge of accessible low lying rocks. Typically they have the low relief of one or two (rarely three) idols with simple rounded heads and rectangular bodies, symbolizing the goddess/god. Some altars have a 'seat' shaped top, instead of idols. They are defined as 'stylized idol' by some researchers (this term is used here too) or as 'throne' by some others. Many altars also have one or more steps that lead to the idol(s). Some have only a flat platform instead of an idol, while some others have only idol(s) with no steps. But basically it is thought that all these structures were used for similar ritualistic/cultic purposes.

Rock-Cut Tombs: Phrygians built tumuli as monumental structures to bury their dead, and they also built chamber tombs carved into the rocks. A typical Phrygian rock-cut tomb reflects the shape of a wooden Phrygian house carved into the rocks. They are usually made with pitched roofs. Emilie Haspels classified the Phrygian rock-cut tombs into two groups as early and late periods. The earlier Group I tombs are small and plain. They may or may not include simple rock carved bed(s). Their dates can go back to the 8th century BCE. The Group II tombs are in normal living room sizes. Their workmanship is usually meticulous and detailed. There are artfully crafted stone beds (klinai). There may be reliefs on the outer surfaces. The tombs in this group are dated to the 6th century BCE, when Phrygia was under Lydian rule but in prosperity. The vast majority of Phrygian rock tombs were reused in later Hellenistic and Roman periods. Today, there are hundreds of rock tombs dating from the Phrygian period. Only a few monumental examples are shown on these pages.

Fortresses (Kales): In accordance with the general literature, in this website the word 'kale' (Turkish for 'fortress') is used. Phrygian kales in the highland region are usually built on high rocky hills in order to control the entrances and surroundings of the valleys where the settlements are located. They have a natural defense structure with steep rocks surrounding them. The defenses are strengthened with stone walls erected in between gaps among the rocks. A large part of these kales continued to be used (sometimes for different purposes) in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods.

Phrygian Inscriptions: Phrygian is an Indo-European language. It is most closely related to the Archaic Greek. The Phrygian script is basically same with the Greek alphabet, there are a few additional Phrygian characters. According to the dating of the inscriptions, it is at least as old as Greek. Inscriptions are divided into two groups as old (Paleo-Phrygian) and new (Neo Phrygian). Old Phrygian inscriptions are dated between 8th and 4th centuries BCE. New Phrygian was written in the Greek alphabet belonging to the Roman period, and was used only between the 1st and 3rd centuries CE. Although Phrygian can be read phonetically, it has not been fully deciphered yet. The Phrygians left very little written work compared to their contemporaries. Most of these are in the form of votive inscriptions and are found on religious structures such as rock façades, niches and altars. In addition, there are usually one-word graffiti written on ceramic or metal vessels and thought to be related to daily life.

Dating: Due to the insufficient evidence about Phrygians, the issue of dating rock monuments is quite troublesome. Existing findings are only sufficient to propose dividing the Phrygian history into a few periods at most. Almost all the dates used in these pages are based on Berndt-Ersöz's (2006) proposals: Early Phrygian (950-800 BCE), Middle Phrygian I (800-600 BCE), Middle Phrygian II (600-550 BCE), Late Phrygian (550-330 BCE).

Berndt-Ersöz, S. 2006. Phrygian Rock – Cult Shrines. Structure, Function and Cult Practice, Leiden.
Brixhe, C. & M. Lejeune. 1984. Corpus des inscriptions paléo-phrygiennes, Paris.
Haspels, C. H. E. 1971 The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and monuments, Princeton.
Tüfekçi-Sivas, T. 1999 Eskişehir-Afyonkarahisar- Kütahya İl Sınırları İçindeki Phryg Kaya Anıtları, Anadolu Üniversitesi Yayınları No:1156, Eskişehir.

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