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Celtic Ritual Activity at Gordion, Turkey: Evidence from Mortuary Contexts and Skeletal Analysis


  • P. Selinsky

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
    • Correspondence to: Page Selinsky, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


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Primary support for a Celtic presence in Turkey during ancient times comes from textual sources. However, the analysis of human skeletal remains and mortuary practices at the site of Gordion, combined with archaeological findings, provide persuasive evidence of a Celtic settlement including ritual activity. Data are drawn from 47 individuals excavated from the Lower Town area of the site: 21 Later Hellenistic (late 3rd to 2nd centuries BCE) and 26 Roman (1st to 2nd centuries CE). The two sub-samples have markedly different paleodemographic profiles. Composition of the Later Hellenistic group is unusual, with very few infants (5%) and primarily young or middle aged adults (52%), whereas the Roman sample has many infant burials (27%) and less than half young or middle aged adults (35%). Burial contexts for the two groups are also distinct, with only one formal interment associated with the Later Hellenistic, the remaining individuals being in mixed groupings of human and animal bones or disarticulated and commingled human skeletal deposits. By comparison, the Roman sample comprises exclusively primary burials, two cremations, and 24 inhumations. Evidence of inter-personal violence, such as perimortem cranial trauma and decapitation, is totally absent in the Roman group but present in 25% of the Later Hellenistic specimens. The nature of the Later Hellenistic skeletal assemblages and the ritual space in which they were found show similarities to European Celtic remains identified as resulting from ritual sacrifice. The data presented here represent the first comprehensive bioarchaeological approach to these population groups from central Turkey. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.