The tomb of a warrior-priest found in Greece this spring is remarkable for many reasons: the grave has been untouched for 35 centuries, he was buried all by himself, surrounded by unimaginable riches, and died at the dawn of European civilization.
That means this long-dead warrior not only has a mysterious story to tell, but could shed light on a critical period of history, the New York Times reported.
The warrior tomb was found in an area in Greece surrounding the Nestor palace of ancient Pylos, the same spot that featured in Homer’s Odyssey.
The tomb contained remarkable riches on a scale never before seen in the area of Greece the warrior was unearthed. Among his bones — the warrior’s coffin has long since decayed — is a yardlong bronze sword with an ivory hilt dressed in gold and a gold-encrusted dagger; four gold rings that likely came from the “best workshops of the palaces of Crete;” an ivory plaque carved with a griffin (which in mythology protected goddesses and kings); gold, silver, and bronze cups; a bronze mirror and six ivory combs; and a 50 extremely valuable seal stones (or amulets) made of carnelian, amethyst, jasper, agate, and gold.
That’s a heck of a lot of loot for one guy.
“We never could have imagined the extent of the wealth that was contained in the particular grave,” Dr. Sharon Stocker told the Washington Post.
Stocker discovered the warrior’s tomb with her husband, Dr. Jack Davis. They have been conducting excavations near Pylos, Greece, for 25 years. But both were skeptical when they first came upon what turned out to be the opulent tomb of a warrior, Davis said.
“It is indeed mind boggling that we were first. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief. So many walked over it so many times, including our own team.”
The tomb of the ancient warrior-priest, who is believed to have died at age 30 to 35, is unusual for many reasons. Firstly, it’s pristine and has never been looted, its remarkable artifacts untouched since the warrior was buried in the five-foot deep tomb 35 centuries ago. Archaeologists date his burial sometime between 1600 B.C. to 1400 B.C. or 1550 B.C. to 1420 B.C., depending on who you talk to.
Then there’s the remarkable riches.
“You can count on one hand the number of tombs as wealthy as this one,” said archaeologist Thomas M. Brogan.
This discovery is even more remarkable when you consider that in ancient Greece, burial grounds were usually shared, so any treasures buried alongside the dead weren’t clearly owned by one person over another. Since this warrior was buried solo, archaeologists assume the loot was his and his alone.
And if so, where did it come from? Theorizing that the man was a warrior-priest, based on the fact that his tomb contained both seal stones and weapons, he may have collected them on raids (the items’ origins are varied). He also could’ve earned his wealth through marriage to a Cretan or acquired them through trade between Greece and other regions.
Even more fascinating, the time period in which this treasure-filled tomb was dug can illuminate a critical period in European history — the time when civilization came to the mainland.
The warrior’s tomb was found in territory that in ancient Greece fell under the Mycenaeans, home of Agamemnon, Nestor, Odysseus, and the epics of Homer, and it’s believed the warrior was a member of this culture. But the goods in his grave are Minoan, and the Minoans lived in Crete, where the first European civilization was born. For a while, the Minoans were dominant over the Mycenaeans. Eventually, the latter overtook the former.
The warrior died many years before the Mycenaean palace at Pylos was built. Centuries afterward, classical Greece arose from its foundations. Archaeologists think that the warrior may have been part of the cultural transition in Greece that gave rise to Mycenaean dominance.
In other words, the warrior’s tomb could rewrite history, illuminating the years leading to the birth of this lost civilization in Greece.
Archaeologists will now spend plenty of time with the warrior’s bones, using DNA and other analyses to figure out his stature, where he was born, cause of death, and exactly when he was buried at the turn of a cultural shift in Greece, Stocker said.
“On some level it means that we need to rethink a lot of the history we have written. This is the only ancient grave found of this wealth in Greece belonging to only one person.”
[Photo By Kotsovolos Panagiotis / Shutterstock]