Archaeologists in Greece have unearthed the skeleton of an ancient warrior that has rested undisturbed for more than 3,500 years with more than 1,400 precious objects.
The tomb, found in Pylos, on the southwest coast of Greece, has been hailed by the Greek ministry of culture as "the most important to have been discovered in 65 years in continental Greece."
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The skeleton of the adult male was found this summer by a University of Cincinnati-led international team who was excavating what they initially believed was a Bronze Age house.
Instead, they were presented with a spectacular find.
Stretched out on his back, a skeleton lay on the floor of the grave. Weapons lay to his left, and jewelry to his right.
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The remains were literarly covered with objects. A bronze sword, with the ivory hilt covered in gold, was placed near the head and chest. Next to it was a gold-hilted dagger, while more weapons were found by the man's legs and feet.
A plaque of carved ivory with a depiction of a griffon with huge wings lay between the man's legs, and nearby was a bronze mirror with an ivory handle.
Gold cups rested on the chest and stomach, and near the neck the archaeologists found a perfectly preserved gold necklace with two pendants.
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Spread around the head were over 1,000 beads of carnelian, amethyst, jasper, agate and gold. Four gold rings, and silver cups as well as bronze bowls, cups, jugs and basins were found nearby.
"It is truly amazing that no ceramic vessels were included among the grave gifts. All the cups, pitchers and basins we found were of metal: bronze, silver and gold. He clearly could afford to hold regular pots of ceramic in disdain," said Sharon Stocker who, along with husband Jack Davis, led the University of Cincinnati team.
Dating back to about 1500 B.C. and measuring about 5 feet deep, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long, the tomb was found near the remains of the Palace of Nestor. The site is linked to Homeric legend, and sacrifices were said to be offered on its beaches.
"This is not the grave of the legendary King Nestor, who headed a contingent of Greek forces at Troy in Homer's Iliad. Nor is it the grave of his father, Neleus," Stocker, senior research associate in the Department of Classics, McMicken College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, said.
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"This find may be even more important because the warrior predates the time of Nestor and Neleus by, perhaps, 200 or 300 years," she added.
She noted the individual was likely an important figure at a time when that part of Greece "was being indelibly shaped by close contact with Crete, Europe's first advanced civilization."
The man, who died at about 30 to 35 years of age, could have been a powerful warrior, a king, or even a trader or a raider.
According to the archaeologists, he helped lay the foundations of the Mycenaean culture that later flourished in the region.
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Many of the items found in the tomb were made in nearby Crete and feature a Minoan style and technique unknown in mainland Greece in the 15th century BC.
Indeed, the archaeologists found some 50 seal-stones carved with intricate Minoan designs of goddesses as well as depictions of bulls.
"Whoever he was, he seems to have been celebrated for his trading or fighting in nearby island of Crete and for his appreciation of the more-sophisticated and delicate are of the Minoan civilization, found on Crete, with which he was buried," Jack Davis said.