Lime-covered artefact reveals to be an engraved gemstone

A lime-covered object the size of a bead that was excavated from a shaft grave of the so-called Griffin Warrior in 2015 at Pylos, Greece, turned out to be a gemstone engraved with a design that can be stamped on clay or wax depicting a warrior fighting with two others.

The Pylos Combat Agate after cleaning (by Jeff Vanderpool & University of Cincinnati)

The seal stone comes from an untouched shaft grave near the ancient palace of Pylos which was excavated in 2015. The individual found within the grave was dubbed the Griffin Warrior after the mythical animal depicted in his grave. He was buried around 1450 BC and is said to have lived during a period when the Mycenaean civilisation started to be more prominent than the Minoan civilisation on Crete. Archaeologists Jack L. Davis and Sharon R. Stocker from University of Cincinnati believe that the seal stone, like other objects in the Griffin Warrior’s grave, was made on Crete as work of such quality was not being produced anywhere on the Greek mainland at the time. The miniature masterpiece shows a stunning scene of a victorious hero slaying an adversary while a third warrior lies dead in the foreground, carved in remarkably fine detail, with some features that are barely visible to the naked eye. The two defeated warriors seem to belong to the same group, because both are wearing patterned kilts whereas the hero sports a codpiece. According to Fritz Blakolmer, an expert on Aegean art at the University of Vienna, the seal stone is a miniature copy of a much larger original, probably a stucco-embellished wall painting like those found at the Palace of Knossos on Crete.

The Pylos Combat Agate before cleaning (by Alexandros Zokos & University of Cincinnati)

(after Jeff Vanderpool, The New York Times, Alexandros Zokos & University of Cincinnati)

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