It has been announced that archaeologists and researchers have found hard evidence, indeed stone-hard evidence, of a lost kingdom of Turkey dating from hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.

Archaeologists and linguists from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute (OI) have already dated the ancient kingdom to between the ninth to seventh centuries BC, and say this could be the lost civilisation which may have defeated Phrygia, the kingdom once ruled by King Midas, in battle.

The discovery of a stele, an inscribed stone pillar, was made during the Konya Regional Archaeological Survey Project (KRASP) in Turkey, at a site known as Türkmen-Karahöyük, which scientists had identified as a large Bronze and Iron Age mounded settlement that was occupied between about 3500 and 100 BC.

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KRASP is an international interdisciplinary project which is aiming to understand, among other things, how the human species embarked on urbanism and settled agriculture.

Finding the lost kingdom seems to have been a huge bonus, and not surprisingly all involved are cock-a-hoop at the discovery.


Located in an area littered with the ruins of other famous ancient cities, Türkmen-Karahöyük was already yielding significant finds such as pottery during the dig last summer.

A local farmer approached the Chicago team and told them about a stone block with carvings on it that was stuck in an irrigation canal nearby.

Archaeologist James Osborne from the University of Chicago takes up the story: “ My colleague Michele Massa and I rushed straight there, and we could see it still sticking out of the water, so we jumped right down into the canal – up to our waists wading around.

“Right away it was clear it was ancient, and we recognised the script it was written in: Luwian, the language used in the Bronze and Iron ages in the area.” 

The farmer hung around to help pull the stone out, after which the archaeologists realised they had something special on their hands.

Osborne couldn’t translate it himself, but he works at the OI with two of the foremost experts in the world on Luwian: Petra Goedegebuure and Theo PJ van den Hout, editors of the Chicago Hittite Dictionary without which, obviously, no civilised home is complete.

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Luwian is one of the oldest branches of the Indo-European languages. A unique language written in hieroglyphic signs native to the Turkish area, Luwian is read alternating between right to left and left to right.

According to Chicago University, the OI’s translation revealed that the king named on the stele was called Hartapu, and Türkmen-Karahöyük was probably his capital city. The stone tells the tale of King Hartapu’s conquest of the nearby kingdom of Muska, better known as Phrygia – home to King Midas. “The storm gods delivered the [opposing] kings to his majesty,” the stone read. The OI’s linguistic analysis suggested the stele was composed in the late-eighth-century BC, which lines up with the time that Midas ruled.

It helps answer a long-standing mystery: not quite 10 miles to the south is a volcano on which lies a rock containing a well-known inscription in hieroglyphics.

It refers to a King Hartapu, but no-one knew who he was –or what kingdom he ruled.

There’s still a puzzle to solve, though: they still don’t know, the kingdom’s name and no other clues to its existence have been found as yet.


Many years ago British experts such as Professor Douglas Baird of Liverpool University led the way in excavating and researching this part of Turkey and now KRASP, which features scholars from Oxford University and experts like Michele Massa of the British Institute in the Turkish capital Ankara, will hope to get solutions to the many riddles and puzzles posed by the history of an area, which is crucial to our understanding of how ancient peoples migrated westwards.

Osborne admitted: “We had no idea about this kingdom. In a flash, we had profound new information on the Iron Age Middle East.

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“Inside this mound are going to be palaces, monuments, houses. This stele was a marvellous, incredibly lucky find – but it’s just the beginning.”

Osborne added that it appears the city at its height covered about 300 acres, which would make it one of the largest ancient cities of Bronze and Iron Age Turkey, so its discovery is “revolutionary news” in the field.


King Midas, the legendary ancient ruler said to have a golden touch, was a real person, though heavily mythologised once the ancient Greeks got to work on his story. He was rich, but didn’t turn everything he touched into gold.