There is a grave near Pylos that dates back to Mycenaean Greece. The grave goods document something that is well known about Mycenaean Greece: the cultural and trade exchanges that occurred between Greece and Crete at the time. Nearby lie the ruins of the Palace of Nestor, first discovered in an olive grove in 1939. Though this palace was destroyed by fire long ago, it is the most complete and well-preserved Bronze Age Greek palace found to date.
Thousands of clay tablets speak of the king or kings who ruled what is now all of modern Messinia, including the 50,000 or so souls who lived there. But those clay tablets tell us very little else about the king and his kingdom. The University of Cincinnati set out to learn more in 2015.
On the very first day of excavation, a deep shaft of a grave was found – the grave of the eponymous Griffin Warrior. He lay amongst an amazing hoard of grave goods. No mere clay pots or cups for this man, he was surrounded by cups, pitchers and basins made of bronze, silver and gold. On one side of him lay a meter long gold-hilted bronze sword and a gold-hilted dagger. On the other side lay carnelian, amethyst, amber and gold beads. Under his legs lay an ivory plaque with a griffin in a rocky landscape carved upon it.
It is this plaque for which the warrior’s remains are named.
He lived at the dawn of the Mycenaean civilization. Most of his grave goods are in the Minoan style or of Cretan origin. The first great mansions in Pylos were being built during his lifetime.
This warrior was a contemporary of whoever and whatever inspired tales of mythical beings and heroes: Theseus, the Minotaur, Procrustes and more. He was a contemporary of Crete’s bull-dancers and mystery cults. He was no doubt an influential ruler, fearsome in battle, and honored in death.
Yet, all we know about him are the items he was buried with. He deserves a background and history that we will probably never know in any detail. Someone needs to write a story – if not his true story – one worthy of the little we know about him.
I’m inclined to write that story.
More information about the excavation here.