Warrior’s Grave Found at Pylos
Archaeology, Greece, Pylos
One of more than four dozen seal stones with intricate Minoan designs found in the tomb. Bulls were a common Minoan motif. (Photo: Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)
Archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati excavating near Nestor‘s palace at Pylos found an intact shaft grave.
Remarkably, the burial was intact apart from a one-ton stone, probably once the lid of the grave, which had fallen in and crushed the wooden coffin beneath.
The coffin has long since decayed, but still remaining are the bones of a man about 30 to 35 years old and lying on his back. Placed to his left were weapons, including a long bronze sword with an ivory hilt clad in gold and a gold-hilted dagger. On his right side were four gold rings with fine Minoan carvings and some 50 Minoan seal stones carved with imagery of goddesses and bull jumpers. â€œI was just stunned by the quality of the carving,â€ Dr. Wright said, noting that the objects â€œmust have come out of the best workshops of the palaces of Crete.â€
An ivory plaque carved with a griffin, a mythical animal that protected goddesses and kings, lay between the warriorâ€™s legs. The grave contained gold, silver and bronze cups.
The warrior seems to have been something of a dandy. Among the objects accompanying him to the netherworld were a bronze mirror with an ivory handle and six ivory combs.
Because of the griffins depicted in the grave, Dr. Davis and Dr. Stocker refer to the man informally as the â€œgriffin warrior.â€ He was certainly a prominent leader in his community, they say, maybe the pre-eminent one. The palace at Pylos had a king or â€œwanax,â€ a title mentioned in the Linear B tablets, but itâ€™s not known if this position existed in the griffin warriorâ€™s society.
Ancient Greek graves can be dated by their pottery, but the griffin warriorâ€™s grave had none: His vessels are made of silver or gold, not humble clay. From shards found above and below the grave, however, Dr. Davis believes it was dug in the period known as Late Helladic II, a pottery-related chronology that corresponds to 1600 B.C. to 1400 B.C., in the view of some authorities, or 1550 B.C. to 1420 B.C., in the view of others.