Griffon Warrior found from Greek tomb could rewrite art history

Pylos Combat Agate

An archaeological team’s amazing discovery of a rare Minoan seal stone in the treasure-laden tomb of a Bronze Age Greek warrior is set to rewrite ancient Greek art as we know it.

Bronze Age Greek warrior
Bronze Age Greek warrior

In 2016, a team of archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati were digging at a Mycenaean site in the region of Pylos, when they made a surprising discovery: the intact tomb of a Bronze Age Warrior “Griffon Warrior” dating back to about 1500 B.C. The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports at the time declared the find the “most important to have been discovered in 65 years.”

Now, two years on, the tomb has revealed its most valuable find so far- an intricately carved seal stone that researchers are calling “one of the finest works of prehistoric Greek art ever discovered.”

Pylos Combat Agate
Pylos Combat Agate

A thick crust of limestone was cleared off to reveal a detailed scene of a victorious warrior, one defeated opponent beneath his feet and another falling at the tip of his sword. And all this was carved in meticulous detail on a piece of stone just over 1.4 inches long.

The dig’s co-leaders, married team Shari Stocker and Jack Davis of the University of Cincinnati, were pleasantly surprised by the detailed engravings, including intricate weaponry ornamentation and jewellery decoration. Such work has never been seen before in art from the Aegean Bronze Age.

“What is fascinating is that the representation of the human body is at a level of detail and musculature that one doesn’t find again until the classical period of Greek art 1,000 years later,” Davis said.

Many of the details in the “Pylos Combat Agate,” as it has been named for the type of rock it is carved on, become clear only when viewed with photomicroscopy, which has left the researchers wondering about the technique behind it.

“Some of the details on this are only a half-millimetre big, they’re incomprehensibly small,” said Davis.

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.

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