Aktepe lies within a cluster of tumuli near Güre in eastern Lydia, where many items in the famous ‘Lydian Treasure’ were unearthed by tomb-robbers in the late 1960s1. It had the most lavishly decorated chamber of them all, with an ornamental façade, false barrel vault, and life-sized human figures painted on the side walls, one on each side of a monolithic limestone burial couch resembling a Greek-style kline with volute and palmette decoration (figs. 1–2)2. Based on the style of the wall-paintings and the masonry, the tomb has generally been dated c. 525–500 BC, early in the era of Persian rule3. The original tomb assemblage cannot be reconstructed because finds from the salvage excavation were very limited and the chamber was already nearly empty when would-be looters first entered it in 1967.4 They soon returned and cut parts of the paintings from the walls, broke the kline, and removed fragments of its decorated supports5.

The rest of the couch remained in the chamber and bore witness to further vandalism before being moved to the Usak Museum and reunited with some of its stolen fragments (fig. 2), upon the return of the Lydian Treasure from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1993. The 1996 publication of this material included a digital rendering of the front rail of the kline, showing incised lines that once delineated a painted frieze, including horsemen, a wheeled vehicle, and a winged animal6. In 2002, Christopher Roosevelt and I examined the kline under varying light conditions in order to discern more of this frieze. This analysis has not only allowed a more complete reconstruction of the original decoration – horsemen at each end of the frieze, flanking a central confrontation of lions and bull – but also adds an important new element to the socio-cultural significance of the tomb’s decoration, because the horsemen wear typical Persian riding attire. This paper will present our new reading of the Aktepe kline frieze (fig. 3) and consider the significance of this decoration to the dating of the tomb and to the social and cultural identity of the tomb occupant 7.

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Copyright © 2008 Direzione Generale per le Antichità. This article first appeared in Proceedings of the XVII International Congress of Classical Archaeology (2008), 24-36.

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