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3,500-year-old golden sword and rings and jewelry from an ancient warrior’s tomb can give insight into the origins of Greek civilization

Last year, archaeologists discovered the skeleton of a 3,500 year old ancient warrior in a tomb packed with treasure in Greece.

The find was described as ‘the most important discovery in 65 years.’

Until now, little has been known about the findings, but researchers have been working over the past year to uncover new information.

They say that new understandings of the artefacts – particularly four gold rings – could provide fresh insights into the origins of Greek civilisation.


The rings, three of which the researchers are unveiling for the first time, are crafted from multiple sheets of gold. The first ring shows a scene of a bull leaping – a common motif seen in Minoan imagery

Dr Sharon Stocker and her husband, Professor Jack Davis, stumbled upon the remarkably undisturbed grave while digging near Pylos, an ancient city on the southwest coast of Greece.

Inside, they discovered the well-preserved remains of what is believed to have been a powerful Mycenaean warrior or priest in his early to mid 30s who was buried around 1500 BC, near the Palace of Nestor.

Immortalised in Homer’s ‘Odyssey,’ the large administrative centre was destroyed by fire sometime around 1180 BC but remains the best preserved Bronze Age palace on the Greek mainland.

The warrior’s tomb revealed more than 2,000 objects arrayed on and around the body, including four solid gold rings, silver cups, precious stone beads, fine-toothed ivory combs and an intricately built sword, among other weapons.


The rings – three of which the researchers are unveiling for the first time – are crafted from multiple sheets of gold and feature iconographical references seen elsewhere in Minoan art and religious culture.

The grave and its bounty, including necklaces (pictured), sheds light on the dawn of the Mycenaean civilisation, a transformative period in the Bronze Age. The researchers believe the Mycenaeans understood what they were taking from the Minoans

Inside the tomb, they discovered the well-preserved remains of what is believed to have been a powerful Mycenaean warrior or priest in his early to mid 30s who was buried around 1500 BC, near the Palace of Nestor and several artifacts, including jewellery


The first ring shows a scene of a bull leaping – a common motif seen in Minoan imagery.

Another, the second largest gold signet ring known in the Aegean world, shows five elaborately dressed female figures gathered by a seaside shrine.

A third ring shows a female figure, thought to be a goddess, holding a staff and flanked by two birds atop a mountain glen.

The final ring shows a woman presenting a bull’s horn offering to a goddess holding a mirror and seated on a high-backed throne atop of which is perched a bird.

Dr Stocker, from the University of Cincinnati, said: ‘They are carving these before the microscope and electric tools.


‘This is exquisite workmanship for something so tiny and old and really shows the skill of Minoan craftsmen.’

The skeleton was dubbed the ‘Griffin Warrior’ after an ivory plaque adorned with the half lion and half eagle mythical beast was buried with him.

The grave and its bounty sheds light on the dawn of the Mycenaean civilisation, a transformative period in the Bronze Age.

The warrior’s tomb revealed more than 2,000 objects arrayed on and around the body, including four solid gold rings, silver cups, precious stone beads, fine-toothed ivory combs (pictured)

A mirror (pictured) and an intricately built sword were also discovered during excavations

A significant number of the artefacts, including bronze cups and bowls (pictured) were made by Minoans, a culturally more advanced civilisation that arose on the large island of Crete, southeast of Pylos

A significant number of the artefacts were made by Minoans, a culturally more advanced civilisation that arose on the large island of Crete, southeast of Pylos.

Dr Stocker explained: ‘The grave was right around the time the Mycenaeans were conquering the Minoans.

‘We know there were extensive raids and shortly after the date of our grave, Minoan-Crete fell to the Mycenaeans.’

Several pieces of well-preserved jewellery were found within the tomb, including rings, necklaces and precious beads

The tomb was found on the site of the Mycenaean-era Palace of Nestor on the country’s Peloponnese peninsula (marked on this map)

The researchers said that the carefully selected and hand placed items, including intricate jewelllery, reveal much about the heart of the relationship of the burgeoning mainland Greek culture to that of the more refined Crete

But the researchers said that the carefully selected and hand placed items reveal much about the heart of the relationship of the burgeoning mainland Greek culture to that of the more refined Crete.

After a year of careful examination of the grave’s artefacts, Dr Davis and Professor Stocker now believe the Mycenaeans understood what they were taking from the Minoans and the concepts behind the iconography of the rings.

Professor Davis said: ‘People have suggested the findings in the grave are treasure, like Blackbeard’s treasure, that was just buried along with the dead as impressive contraband.

The tomb, which measures seven feet ten inches (two metres) long and five feet (1.5 metres) in width, was unearthed during excavations begun in May near Pylos, on the site of the palace of Nestor

While people have suggested that the items in the tomb, including swords and weapons, were treasure, the researchers thing that they were specifically selected to be taken from the Minoans

‘We think that already in this period the people on the mainland already understood much of the religious iconography on these rings, and they were already buying into religious concepts on the island of Crete.

‘This isn’t just loot. It may be loot, but they are specifically selecting loot that transmits messages that are understandable to them.’

Dr Stocker added: ‘They are not just going there and robbing a jewellery store.

‘They are thinking about it and selecting specific items for inclusion in the burial.’

The researchers believe that the items, such as this sword, were not just loot, and instead were specifically selected due to the iconography they contain

A mirror found above the Griffin Warrior’s legs may relate to the fourth ring, in which a seated goddess is portrayed holding a mirror. The mirror’s placement in the grave suggest it holds special significance to the Mycenaeans

The bronze weapons found within the tomb included a metre-long slashing sword with an ivory handle covered with gold (left), and an intact necklace (right)

A mirror found above the Griffin Warrior’s legs may relate to the fourth ring, in which a seated goddess is portrayed holding a mirror.

The mirror’s placement in the grave suggest it holds special significance to the Mycenaeans while the presence of half a dozen combs may point to a ritual practice of hair combing before battle.

The bull, a sacred symbol to the Minoans, can also be seen in Mycenaean imagery, and features in two of the rings.

The researchers said it is no coincidence the Griffin Warrior was found buried with a bronze bull’s head staff capped by prominent horns, which were likely a symbol of his power and authority.

More than 50 seal stones were found with intricate carvings in Minoan style showing goddesses, altars, reeds, lions and bulls, some with bull-jumpers soaring over the bull’s horns – all in Minoan style and probably made in Crete

By his right side and spread around his head were over one thousand beads of carnelian, amethyst, jasper, agate and gold, while four gold rings and silver cups, as well as bronze bowls, cups, jugs and basins were placed nearby



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