PHILADELPHIA -- When Rodney S. Young staged his great archeological campaigns at Gordion, Turkey, from 1950 to 1974, he commanded teams of natives and massive mining and drilling equipment to cut into giant earth-covered tombs. In 1957, the University of Pennsylvania scientist discovered the burial chamber believed to be that of King Midas. Later he excavated the king's palace.

When a team of archeologists sponsored by Penn's University Museum returns to the site during the next three summers, their plans will be more modest: gathering burnt seeds, charred animal bones and animal dung. Instead of palaces and kings, they will seek remnants of pot-making shops and animal herders.

The approach used by this newly formed team reflects the sweeping changes in archeology since Young, now deceased, started his expeditions to Turkey. Technological advances enable scientists to use fragments of plant and animal remains to reconstruct hunting, agricultural and economic practices of day-to-day life in past civilizations.

Gordion -- also referred to as Gordium -- is one of an increasing number of sites to be examined by two waves of scholars, representing two approaches. Classic historical archeologists, such as Young, work with written records, architecture and other materials, and usually focus on the history of the social elite and on large-scale events such as wars and invasions. Anthropological archeology, a field that has been steadily growing since the 1950s, is more intent on studying mass populations and the social history of mankind in general.

"We know about the palace at Gordion, but we don't know what the other people did," said Mary M. Voigt, research archeologist at the University Museum and director of excavation for the Gordion project. "I'm more interested in looking at day-to-day living. How did the Gordions relate to other settlements? We think {Gordion} was an important textile center. How was it organized? Were there shepherds living in tents?"

Because they often study prehistoric civilizations, for which there are no written records, anthropologists are forced to reconstruct a social history from scraps and fragments. Voigt is one of 12 excavators and specialists in such diverse fields as seed, plant and animal-bones analysis who will return to Turkey with the aim of constructing a broader social history of the five or more civilizations that built settlements, one on top of the other, at Gordion from the Bronze Age, in 2500 B.C., through 189 B.C.

"This is the beginning of a new trend in archeology, to match the two techniques, to see if the historical records, which are well documented, can be tied and expanded and deepened into a more social context," said Machteld J. Mellink, professor of archeology at Bryn Mawr College and a historical archeologist. She has been involved in Gordion since 1950 and is a member of the newly formed team to continue study there.

"If Gordion goes through this new phase, it will be a very real test," she said.

The site, 50 miles southwest of modern Ankara at a major transportation and river crossing, is rich in history as well as mythology. As the capital of ancient Anatolia, this is where King Midas reigned in the 6th century B.C. and where Alexander the Great, unable to untie the intricate Gordian knot, is said to have cut it with his sword in 333 B.C. An oracle had predicted that the man who untied the knot would be master of Asia, and some scholars now theorize that Gordion itself was the "knot" cut by Alexander when he conquered the city and gained control of major transportation routes to the East.

Young conducted yearly summer digs at Gordion for 24 years until he died in 1974, at the age of 67, in a car crash. During those years, he and his workers drilled into 32 tumuli, burial chambers concealed in giant mounds.

His most celebrated achievement was the penetration of the Midas Mound -- tunneling through 135 meters of earth to reach a preserved burial chamber, a boxlike room of pine and juniper believed to be the oldest standing wooden structure. Inside was a burial pallet, bronze vessels, cauldrons and furniture, all now displayed at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.

Although there is some debate about whether the tomb belonged to the King Midas of myth, whose touch was said to turn objects to gold, or to another Phrygian king, Young's discovery of the tomb is considered one of the most significant finds in Near Eastern archeology in the last 25 years.

Young exemplified a style of adventurer-archeologist that is rapidly becoming extinct. A large, commanding figure, he was independently wealthy and was decorated in World War II for driving an ambulance for the Greek Red Cross. Young financed some of the archeological expeditions himself, according to colleagues, and the 25-year-long Gordion project was dominated by the force of his personality and a fearless approach to earth-moving that probably would not be possible in this day of high insurance costs and safety regulations.

In contrast, next summer's dig is very much a collaborative effort by a team of archeologists and technologically sophisticated specialists from around the country. In July, six members of the team, led by University Museum Director Robert H. Dyson, made a reconnaissance expedition to Gordion to reevaluate the site after a virtual absence of 13 years. One member of the team roamed the surrounding countryside in search of satellite settlements for further study, which might indicate whether the city of Gordion was supported by shepherding or agricultural settlements.

The team also selected two sites within the old city's industrial areas where they will dig two pits, each about 40 by 40 feet. In some places the pits will be 50 feet below the earth's surface. As the archeologists dig, they will descend from evidence of a Hellenistic outpost built in the 3rd century B.C. to evidence of Persian rule, which began in the mid-6th century B.C.; through a period of Lydian domination in the 7th century B.C.; to the Phrygian civilization that flourished in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries B.C.; to a Hittite civilization that abandoned the site in 1200 B.C., and finally to Bronze Age settlements built about 2500 B.C.

Young focused almost exclusively on the Phrygians, who occupied Gordion until 690 B.C., when nomadic Kimmerian tribes from the east appeared to have swept through the town and torched it.

Voigt intends to go deeper into the Hittite layer. As well as trying to determine how each civilization lived -- what they ate and hunted, how they subsisted, how they wove cloth and what kind -- Voigt will attempt to satisfy a particular interest in the interactions between cultures and how one succeeded another.

For instance, she asks, how and why did the Phrygians, as it appears, leave Gordion after the city was torched? How was it that the city was burned with everything in place? "But there were no bodies. Were they all evacuated? But why did no one return to loot the city?"

The fleeing Phrygians left pots, furniture, looms, seeds, horse equipment, even ivory plaques. The material was preserved by the fire's carbonizing action, in a way similar to how volcanic ash preserved Pompeii. Even seeds charred in fire leave a perfect record for archeologists 3,000 years later, much like the way a piece of charcoal reveals the structure of a piece of wood.

Voigt says it is likely that the excavation will yield thousands of bone fragments, seeds, metal alloy fragments and potsherds. With a speed unheard of 30 years ago, each bag of earth that comes out of the site and all of its contents will be recorded on a computer.

Quantitative analysis back in the University Museum's basement Applied Center for Archaeology can lead to broad insights. During the 1970s at a site in Malyan, Iran, for example, Miller found the proportion of wheat to barley seeds, preserved by fire fueled by animal dung, was 1 to 13. But when she found a human latrine site in which excreted seeds were preserved by fossilization, the ratio of wheat to barley seeds was 2 to 1.

"That suggested to me that the animals were being fed barley, and people were eating primarily wheat," Miller said. That, in turn, suggested that the culture was not only domesticating animals, but cultivating animal fodder.

Charred animal remains subjected to similar quantitative analysis are also used to yield broad observations about the culture's economy. From tiny fragments, specialists can determine not only the animal but its sex and age. If the majority of sheep bones are from older males and females, for instance, researchers conclude that the people raised sheep for wool, and therefore manufactured textiles. If the preponderance of bones are from young sheep, they conclude that the culture raised sheep for meat.

"One thing that helps differentiate between ethnic groups is to look at how the diet changes and when," said Voigt. "By historical accounts, the Phrygians came into the area sometime around 1000 B.C. Was there a local population, and did they stay there with the Phrygians? If so, that should show up in the diet. If we get the beginning of a real change in the diet, then that is good evidence of an ethnic break."

Evidence could be a change in the proportion of sheep versus goat bones, or a preponderance of wild species. The team also will look for evidence of changes in culinary practices -- perhaps an increase in burnt bones, or a change in the way meat was butchered or broken up.