Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Griffin Warrior

Archaeologists and historians were excited when, in 2015, a Bronze Age warrior’s tomb was discovered in an olive grove in Pylos, Greece. But that was nothing compared to what followed.

Some comments:
  • The tomb had a well preserved, 3,500 year old skeleton of its owner, a man dubbed the Griffin Warrior because of the ivory plaque, carved with a griffin, placed between his legs. The griffin was a mythical animal believed to protect goddesses and kings.
  • His face has been reconstructed:
  • Buried with the Griffin Warrior were over 3,000 items to make his journey to the afterlife easier, weapons to the left of him and jewellery to the right. The items included:
       cups, pitchers, and basins made of metal: bronze, silver, and gold;
       a metre long sword with its hilt coated with gold;
       a gold-hilted dagger;
       hundreds of carnelian, amethyst, amber, and gold beads;
       a gold chain and a pendent;
       dozens of seal-stones carved with intricate designs;
       four gold rings
       6 ivory combs;
       a bronze mirror with ivory handle.

Mirror with ivory handle

Ivory comb

A bronze sword with a gold-coated hilt

The Griffin Warrior wearing gold jewellery

The Griffin Warrior wearing gold jewellery
  • What really blew the archaeologists and restorers away was something that initially hadn’t even attracted a second look: a limestone encrusted bead, only 3.6cm across, that was inside hardened grime. It was put to one side as the archaeologists concentrated on more dramatic objects found in the grave.
The object, as discovered,
  • When they finally got around to cleaning the item, which was an agate seal, they found it to be on par with the greatest artworks of the ancient world. It has been described as the single best example of engraved art ever discovered from prehistoric Greece.
  • Now known as the Pylos Combat Agate, it depicts a near naked, long-haired warrior plunging his sword into the neck of his heavily shielded, spear-wielding foe. The body of a second opponent lays crumpled at his feet. It is believed that the hero shown in the carving was identified with the Griffin Warrior.
A drawing of what is depicted in the carving. Some of the details are invisible to the naked eye.
  • The craftsmanship is far beyond what archaeologists believed Bronze Age Myceneans and Minoans were capable of. In fact, the level of detail is so high it needed modern photomicroscope technology to reveal it all. The researchers say they believe it must have been carved by an artist using a magnifying glass.
  • The gem was designed to be worn on the wrist, like a watch, the researchers say. In fact, the hero on the gem is wearing one just like it.
  • Some photographs of the gem:
Due to the seal's small size and veining on the stone, many of the miniature details are only clearly visible via photomicroscopy.

The seal artist's attention to detail and use of stylized faces make the Pylos Combat Agate one of the finest works of prehistoric Greek art ever discovered.

Many of the seal’s details, such as the intricate weaponry ornamentation, become clear only when viewed via photomicroscopy.
  • According to the excavators, not all items extracted from the tomb have been cleaned. They have suggested that there will be more surprises to come.

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