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SCIENCE REPORT – February 14, 2002: King Midas - 2002-02-12

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

An American archeologist has a new theory about an ancient statue found in Greece. Keith DeVries of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia says the statue may have once belonged to King Midas.

He believes the statue may have once been part of the special chair used by the king, called a throne. He says ancient records and other evidence show the statue came from a throne that Midas is believed to have given as a gift to the Greek god Apollo.

The small statue is known as “The Lion Tamer.” It shows a man and a lion. It is about twenty-three centimeters tall. It is made of ivory, from the tusk of an elephant. It was discovered in Nineteen-Thirty-Nine in Delphi, Greece. It had been buried with other objects near the ruins of the Corinthian Treasury building.

King Midas ruled an ancient country called Phrygia in what is now central Turkey. He lived about two-thousand-seven-hundred years ago. King Midas was said to be extremely rich. Stories said he could change anything he touched into gold.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus claimed to have seen King Midas’s throne in the Corinthian treasury at Delphi three-hundred years after the king died. The throne itself has not been found. The statue has cuttings in its back. This suggests it was once attached to something, possibly a chair.

“The Lion Tamer” statue is in a museum in Delphi, Greece. For years, experts have debated the statue’s history. Many experts thought it came from Greece. However, others thought it came from somewhere else.

Mister DeVries says the discovery of similar ivory statues in Turkey adds support to his argument that the statue is Phrygian. Those objects were recovered from burial areas at the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordion and at Elmali.

Scientists used a process known as radiocarbon dating to confirm that the statues date to the time of King Midas. Radiocarbon dating shows the level of a radioactive form of carbon in a substance. This can tell scientists when an object was made.

Mister DeVries works for the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. He reported his research at a meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Philadelphia.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow.