Nitrogen cycling by wood decomposing soft-rot fungi in the "King Midas tomb," Gordion, Turkey

Timothy R. Filley, Robert A. Blanchette, Elizabeth Simpson, Marilyn L. Fogel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Archaeological wood in ancient tombs is found usually with extensive degradation, limiting what can be learned about the diet, environment, health, and cultural practices of the tomb builders and occupants. Within Tumulus Midas Mound at Gordion, Turkey, thought to be the tomb of the Phrygian King Midas of the 8th century B.C., we applied a stable nitrogen isotope test to infer the paleodiet of the king and determine the nitrogen sources for the fungal community that decomposed the wooden tomb, cultural objects, and human remains, Here we show through analysis of the coffin, furniture, and wooden tomb structure that the principal degrader, a soft-rot fungus, mobilized the king's highly 15N-enriched nutrients, values indicative of a diet rich in meat, to decay wood throughout the tomb, It is also evident from the δ15N values of the degraded wood that the nitrogen needed for the decay of many of the artifacts in the tomb came from multiple sources, mobilized at potentially different episodes of decay. The redistribution of nutrients by the fungus was restricted by constraints imposed by the cellular structure of the different wood materials that apparently were used intentionally in the construction to minimize decay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13346-13350
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Nov 6 2001


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