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Bronze Age Royal Tombs Unearthed In Ruins Of Ancient City Of Pylos, Greece

Two Bronze Age tombs dating back to 3,500 years ago, containing a trove of engraved jewelry and artifacts, have been discovered by a team of American archaeologists digging in the vicinity of the ancient city of Pylos in southern Greece.

The round tombs, called Tholos VI and VII, at one time were lined with gold foil and contained artifacts that could shed new light on life in ancient Greece. Aerial photo/Denitsa Nenova/UC Classics

The discoveries may help to unlock more secrets about life in ancient Greece, and shed light on the role of the ancient city of Pylos (mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey) and located in southern Greece.

Pylos is the site of one of the most important Mycenaean settlements. It is considered one of the best-preserved and best excavated of the major palaces. It dates to the Late Helladic period before 1200 BC.

The two beehive-shaped tombs (one about 28 feet in diameter and the other about 28 feet) were unearthed last year while Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker, archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati, who earlier unearthed the grave of an individual they have called the “Griffin Warrior, a Greek military leader who was buried with armor, weapons, and jewelry.

The tombs – were littered with flakes of gold leaf that once papered the walls – contained a wealth of cultural artifacts and delicate jewelry that could help historians fill in gaps in our knowledge of early Greek civilization.

A seal made of the semiprecious stone carnelian from the family tombs at Pylos depicts an image of two genii, lionlike mythological creatures holding serving vessels and an incense burner over an altar and below a 16-pointed star. On the right is a putty impression of the piece. Photo/Jeff Vanderpool/UC Classics

The findings include a gold ring depicted two bulls flanked by sheaves of grain, identified as barley by a paleobotanist who consulted on the project.

“It’s an interesting scene of animal husbandry — cattle mixed with grain production. It’s the foundation of agriculture,” Davis said in a press release. “As far as we know, it’s the only representation of grain in the art of Crete

The Griffin Warrior is named for the mythological creature — the part eagle, part lion — engraved on an ivory plaque in his tomb, which also contained armor, weaponry and gold jewelry.

Other priceless objects include an agate sealstone depicting mortal combat with fine details. Like the grave of the Griffin Warrior, the two family tombs contained artwork including mythological creatures.

A golden pendant of the Egyptian goddess Hathor is seen that was found in a 3,500-year-old tomb unearthed near the southwestern Greek town of Pylos. Image credit: Greek Culture Ministry/AP

An agate sealstone featured two lion-like creatures called genii standing upright on clawed feet. They carry a serving vase and an incense burner, a tribute for the altar before them featuring a sprouting sapling between horns of consecration, researchers explained.

There is a 16-pointed star, which also appears on a bronze and gold artifact in the grave. UC’s team also found a gold pendant featuring the likeness of the Egyptian goddess Hathor.

The antiquities provide evidence that coastal Pylos was once an important destination for commerce and trade, researchers say.

The tombs sit close to the palace of Nestor, a ruler mentioned in Homer’s famous works “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” The palace was discovered in 1939 by the late UC Classics professor Carl Blegen.