The Furniture from Tumulus MM: The Gordion Wooden Objects, vol. 1. 2 vols. By ELIZABETH SIMPSON. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, vol. 32. Leiden: BRILL, 2011. Pp. xl + 285, xxv + 158 plates, CD-ROM. $373.
These two volumes represent the first in a series of final reports of the long-running Gordion Furniture Project, directed by Elizabeth Simpson since 1981. The whole series will present the wealth of relatively well-preserved and rather extraordinary furniture and other wooden objects from the Iron Age tombs and citadel buildings of Yassthoyuk in central Anatolia, the site identified as Gordion, the seat of the legendary Phrygian King Midas. Although part of a self-contained project and published in the Culture and History of the Ancient Near East series by Brill, rather than in the main Gordion Project series by the University of Pennsylvania Museum, it seems clear that in style and substance the Gordion Furniture Project's volumes are conceived of as a complementary special studies series. They may thus be seen as part of a new wave of publication activity, both print and digital, from the Gordion Archaeological Project.
Following initial excavations under Rodney Young in the 1950s and 1960s and his untimely death in 1974, the site saw an intensive second wave of excavation and publication from 1988 under the dual directorship of Mary Voigt and G. Kenneth Sams. This period resulted in the publication of much from the Young excavations in final report and special studies volumes, largely appearing in the early 1990s, and at the same time a surprising correction in the chronology of the site's stratigraphic sequence. The new chronology now forms the stuff of just one of a number of new final reports and special studies volumes issuing from the University of Pennsylvania Museum's press since 2005, which together with Digital Gordion online, launched in 2007, roughly coincides with a new period of directorship under C. Brian Rose.
During the run-up to the posthumous 1982 publication of Young's excavations of Tumulus MM--the massive tomb which dominates the site and which was initially attributed to Midas himself, but is now generally thought to belong to an immediate predecessor--it became clear that the earlier reconstructions of the array of furniture found within were unsatisfactory. Rather than delay that volume (Gor-dion I) further, it was decided that Simpson would undertake a thorough restudy of the evidence. Her painstaking work, conducted in Pennsylvania and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, has been presented over the years in various articles and small books: these final reports represent the culmination of this work, synthesizing earlier theses and presenting the evidence in admirable detail. Here one will find a full account of the finds, as can be reconstructed from Rodney Young's field notes and drawings, corrections to early mistakes about the joinery, form, and function of the furniture, and a wealth of comparanda and in-depth considerations of the significance of the furniture's decoration.
A dozen appendices by Simpson and other...