The tomb of a Bronze Age warrior left untouched for more than 3,500 years and packed to the brim with precious jewelry, weapons and riches has been unearthed in southwestern Greece, according to researchers at the University of Cincinnati. The shaft tomb, about 5 feet deep, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long, was uncovered in May by a husband-and-wife team from the university. But the find was kept under wraps until an announcement Monday by Greek authorities.
Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis began excavating the site near the modern-day city of Pylos, Greece, in May. They were working near the Palace of Nestor, a noted destination in Homer’s “Odyssey.” That site was uncovered by famed University of Cincinnati archaeologist Carl Blegen in 1939. Stocker and Davis initially thought they might have stumbled upon a Bronze Age home just outside the palace, but as they continued digging, they uncovered one bronze piece after another. “That’s when we knew ,” Stocker told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview from Greece, where she is still working.
It’s a fascinating story, but it wouldn’t be modern-day journalism if the reporter didn’t work in some anachronistic modern notions of “gender.” For among the precious objects buried with this unknown soldier:
Six fine-toothed ivory combs, mostly intact and about 6 inches long, were uncovered in the grave. They were intricately decorated and accompanied by a bronze mirror with an ivory handle. Stocker says it’s significant that the warrior was buried alone, and that jewels, combs, and a mirror accompanied him.
It was extremely rare for a person to be buried alone, Stocker says, and archaeologists uncovering group graves in the past have had trouble determining which objects are associated with which remains, male or female. “In the past, people have wondered if you could divide finds along gender lines. Did the beads go with women? Did the combs go with women and the swords with the men?” Stocker told The Times. “Since it’s only one burial, we know that all these objects went with this man.”
Well, it was ancient Greece, after all.
“This guy was really, really rich,” Stocker says. His bones indicate he was “strong, robust … well-fed,” she says. He may have been royalty, or even the founder of a new dynasty at the Palace of Nestor. (A conqueror may not have wanted to be buried in a communal grave with generations of the previous dynasty, Stocker says).
The man, who was 30 to 35 years old when he died, could have been a warrior who led a raiding party to the nearby island of Crete and whose loot was buried with him. Or even a trader who acquired the goods through commerce. “We don’t know his name, and we don’t really know anything else about him,” she says.
Molon labe! Keep digging!