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Four years after University of Cincinnati researchers unearthed the 3,500-year-old tomb of a Bronze Age warrior in southwest Greece, the stunning revelations gleaned from the so-called “Griffin Warrior’s” treasure-laden grave continue to make national headlines.
Archaeology magazine describes the UC’s team’s extraordinary 2015 discovery of the ancient warrior-priest’s tomb in its September-October edition out on newsstands this week.
The story also details new revelations of items discovered in the grave, including a sealstone depicting a sun with 16 rays above two mythological creatures, known as Minoan genii. Recent X-rays of a badly corroded bronze breastplate found among hundreds of fragments of bronze in the tomb show that the same 16-pointed sun symbol once adorned the Griffin Warrior’s armor.
Sharon Stocker, a senior research associate in UC's Department of Classics, and Jack Davis, the university's Carl W. Blegen chair in Greek archaeology, led the UC team that made the discovery, hailed by experts as “the find of a lifetime.”
Not only does the Griffin Warrior’s tomb offer a time capsule preserving the details of the life of what is believed to have been a powerful Mycenaean warrior-priest, but it promises to reveal the secrets of an era of ancient Greek civilization still steeped in mystery.
“There’s no way to overestimate the tomb’s importance,” Jan Driessen, a Minoan specialist at the Catholic University of Louvain, is quoted as saying in the story.
Indeed, unraveling the mysteries of the Griffin Warrior calls into question some of our most basic ideas about Western civilization, scholars say.
The UC team’s 2016 reveal of four gold signet rings challenged accepted wisdom among archaeologists about the origins of Greek civilization. Its findings on the “Pylos Combat Agate,” an intricately carved gem, or sealstone, that researchers say is one of the finest works of prehistoric Greek art ever discovered, promises to rewrite the history of ancient Greek art.
And the study of the ancient warrior-priest is still in its initial stages, say Stocker and Davis.
“The precision of the excavation and richness of the finds encourage us to exploit this marvelous find to its fullest potential. There will be surprises for years to come,” the couple said in a joint release to UC Magazine.
In the spring of 2015, a UC-based team made a rich and rare discovery of an intact, Bronze Age warrior’s tomb dating back to about 1500 B.C. in the Pylos region of Greece. The Greek Culture Ministry declared the find the “most important to have been discovered [in continental Greece] in 65 years” by the Greek Culture Ministry.
The tomb revealed a remarkably intact skeleton, which UC researchers dubbed the “Griffin Warrior” for the discovery of an ivory plaque adorned with a griffin — a mythical beast with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle — buried with him.
The 3,500-year-old shaft grave also revealed more than 3,000 objects arrayed on and around the warrior’s body, including four solid gold rings, silver cups, precious stone beads, fine-toothed ivory combs and an intricately built sword, among other weapons.
Read more about the Griffin Warrior tomb at UC Magazine:
Featured image at top: UC archaeologist Sharon Stocker at work excavating items in the tomb of the Griffin Warrior. Photo provided