The tomb of a 3,500 year old Bronze Age warrior was found near Pylos (an ancient city in southwest Peloponnese) with a trove of treasure. Discovered near the Palace of Nestor, the best preserved Mycenaean palace and the one from The Odyssey, he was believed to be a powerful warrior or priest from the Mycenaean civilization. Honestly just beginning to describe it is exciting. The sheer volume is unprecedented in a time where most discoveries are small and added to a museum slowly. The Bronze Age of Mycenaean Greece is one of many mysteries shrouded in their lack of accurate history but plethora of oral mythology. The find of over 2,000 objects included gold rings, stone beads, fine ivory combs, numerous weapons and an intricate sword. The skeleton was given the name Griffin Warrior due to the ivory plaque featuring a griffin found with the body. But there are more mysteries within.
Finding an intact grave is no easy feat as they were commonly looted. In addition Mycenaean’s had group burials, making the identification of which item belonged to who a bit difficult. The puzzling aspect about the find was that the artifacts were not Mycenaean, they were Minoan. This was a culture that inhabited the island of Crete in the southern Aegean. It is known that the Mycenaean’s invaded and fought with the Minoans, eventually gaining the upper hand and colonizing them but what was the direct connection? Well we look toward the rings that were found.
The gold signet rings had beautifully detailed Minoan art and iconography. What the rings depicted, in order: 1) A bull leaping, the Minoans would jump over bulls for contest 2) 5 wonderfully dressed women attending a shrine by the sea, this one was also the second largest ring found in the Aegean cultural area 3) A woman, perhaps a goddess, holding a Y-shaped staff with birds on either side 4) A woman giving a bull’s horn to a goddess holding a handheld mirror, seated on a throne with a bird seated on top and her feet on a stool. The rings are quite detailed for the time, sure to leave researchers, craftsmen and history buffs interested for years to come. University of Cincinnati researchers believe the artifacts found suggest far more than just a raider or stolen treasure. Based on the items chosen for the grave they think it is likely the person was interested in or influenced by culturally in the Minoans.
To support the basis that the items found were not random but carefully selected; a mirror found with him may refer to the fourth ring which had a mirror. In Mycenaean art bulls are featured but not as much as in Minoan culture where it was sacred. By linking the rings together it may be inferred that after a bull-leaping the bull was slaughtered, the horns were offered to a goddess and the goddess used them for a staff. A bronze bull head staff with horns found in the grave suggests a complete connection between the myths and their lives. The researchers plan to explore this further in their research paper as well as find how it connects to Mycenaean culture and the inevitable Minoan influence. The Greek Culture Ministry hailed the find as the most important Greek discovery in 65 years. Hopefully this grave will hold the clues to peering beyond the thin veneer of current historical understanding.