Scientists confirm Midas was given good send-off

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The Independent Online
MOURNERS AT the funeral of King Midas - the legendary despot who was reputed to have turned to gold everything he touched - may have dined on a spicy meal of sheep or goat meat washed down with a mixed brew of wine and beer.

Scientists have chemically analysed the contents of bronze eating and drinking vessels found in a mound at Gordion in central Turkey, which they believe to be Midas's tomb.

A research team led by Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania reports in the journal Nature that mourners ate the savoury food with pulses at a feast before interment. They also identified "a mixed fermented beverage of grape wine, barley wine and honey mead in the most comprehensive Iron Age drinking set ever found, comprising numerous bronze mixing and serving vessels and more than 100 bowls."

Midas ruled ancient Phrygia around 700BC. The kingdom, known for its metalwork, wood carving and embroidery, though its staple industry appears to have been sheep rearing, for both wool and meat.

The preservation conditions inside the tomb, which is the earliest wooden structure yet found, were extraordinarily good, the scientists say. "The body of a male, aged 60-65, was laid out in state on a thick pile of dyed textiles in a unique log coffin. The identification of the body as King Midas is strongly supported by the monumental size of the earthen mound built over the tomb, the richness of the burial goods, and the contemporaneous Assyrian inscriptions," they say.

A chemical analysis of contents of the dining vessels revealed a mixture of fatty acid compounds that were typical derivatives of sheep or goat fat. Some of the drinking vessels contain tartaric acid and its salts, which indicate a beverage made from grapes, as well as calcium oxalate, a solid substance derived from brewing beer from barley.