The Pylos Combat Agate, an ancient object found in Pylos, Greece and created around 1450 BC.

Is this Minoan Artistic Marvel a Miniaturization of the Heavens?

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The discovery of the Pylos Combat Agate in a Mycenaean shaft-grave tomb dating to 1500 BC may be one of the most significant archaeological and artistic finds in decades, perhaps in centuries. The level of artistic sophistication and detail are stunning -- the more so because the piece itself is so small and the level of detail is so incredibly high. Some details are only a half a millimeter in size. But is there an extra dimension to this immaculate artistry that would put it on a whole new celestial scale?

A Scene From the Stars?

Scholars are already debating the meaning of the scene, which shows a triumphant warrior plunging a sword into a shield-bearing combatant wearing a crested helmet, while another warrior lies sprawled-out beneath their feet, apparently already dead. Unnoticed until now, however, is the fact that this scene contains details which reveal that its pattern is in the heavens, corresponding to specific constellations.

This new discovery provides yet another example of a pattern I have been researching and writing about for several years now, demonstrating that ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories from around the globe – together with ancient artwork depicting mythical scenes - are frequently based on celestial metaphor, part of a system which appears to have been fully mature before the earliest texts such as the Gilgamesh cycle were written. This surely suggests the existence of some even earlier culture or civilization, upending conventional timelines of early human history.

Out of Place and Out of Time Object d’art

In the spring of 2015, a team of scholars working in the Pylos region of Greece discovered an undisturbed shaft-grave tomb of a Bronze Age warrior which included an intact skeleton and more than 3,000 artifacts arrayed on and around the body. The tomb is believed to date to the period around 1500 BC and to be from the Mycenaean civilization, but with many of the objects appearing to be of Minoan origin. The discovery, with its rich trove of artifacts, was described as the most significant in the region to be found in several decades -- but it would be another year before the most astonishing find was uncovered: a dirt-encrusted agate stone measuring only 3.6 centimeters which, when carefully cleaned, revealed artwork depicting a close combat scene with stunning detail and artistic sophistication.

The Combat Scene

Below is a simplified, hand-drawn reproduction of the scene containing the major outlines of the figures, based upon images published thus far. I have added colorization to the three figures in the scene in order to help distinguish them. We see a triumphant, long-haired warrior in an extreme lunge, stabbing downwards with a sword held in his right hand, his right arm raised over his head. This figure, whom I will call the Swordsman, has been tinted red in the diagram. The figure into whom the Swordsman is plunging his sword has a large shield, which appears to have been battered into a somewhat folded lozenge- or diamond-shape, possibly by the prior combat. This figure's right arm holds a long spear, the point of which can be seen on the other side of the Swordsman whom he is facing. I'll call him the Spearman, and he is tinted blue in the colored diagram. He is evidently about to receive a mortal wound from the Swordsman. Finally, there is a third figure stretched out below the two fighting figures of the Swordsman and the Spearman: this figure has apparently already been killed and his body is twisted into a contorted position. He is tinted green in the diagram below and we'll call him the Fallen Warrior. His head is to the left as we face the seal, and his lower leg (his right) is fully extended to the right as we look at the scene. His left leg is sharply bent with the knee pointing upwards. His arms are splayed out at different angles, with one bent over his head with the back of the hand against the ground.

A simplified, hand-drawn reproduction of the scene containing the major outlines of the figures. (Author Sketch)

The details of this scene are strongly suggestive of the outlines of specific constellations in the night sky -- and constellations which appear to have formed the basis for many other pieces of ancient artwork and ancient myths. Below is an image showing the region of the night sky containing the constellations Hercules, Ophiucus, Corona Borealis (the "Northern Crown"), and Scorpio. Sagittarius is also included for reference.

Comments

After reading the article, I had to buy a copy of your book "Star Myths Of The World", and after reading that a copy of Rey's "The Stars". Just fascinating.

David W Mathisen's picture

Thanks Bob! This is a shorter version of the argument – many additional examples could be offered to back up the assertions being made here. Similar patterns are found in other ancient artwork, and I have previously made the argument that certain specific myths around the world (including from the cultures of the Pacific islands) include details that relate to a Hercules figure grasping a figure which is associated with the Northern Crown. Thus, when this newly-discovered piece surfaced, with a Hercules-figure grasping a crest that is positioned correctly for the Northern Crown, I find it to be particularly compelling evidence. Cheers, David 

Fascinating article, and it makes a compelling case.

David W Mathisen's picture

If you’re able to spend some more time looking through my blog posts and videos and discussions of the myths (there’s a whole “Myths” section at my website at www.starmythworld.com) you’ll see that my interpretation of the evidence found in myths from around the world is that this system which underlies the ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories from virtually every culture, on every inhabited continent and island, is extremely ancient – far more ancient than the period we think of as “ancient Greece.” In Hamlet’s Mill, the authors write that “the dust of centuries had settled upon the remains of this great world-wide archaic construction when the Greeks came on the scene” (quotation found on pages 4 and 5; see further discussion here: http://mathisencorollary.blogspot.com/2015/10/fragments-of-lost-whole.html ). This system predates (and informs) the mythologies of the earliest conventionally-known ancient civilizations – including those of ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia ancient China, and the ancient Indus-Saraswati civilization. It may in fact predate Gobekli Tepe (see discussions in my 2017 book entitled “Astrotheology for Life,” as well as in recent books by Robert Schoch and Graham Hancock and others). The constellation we know as Hercules informs figures in mythologies that came long before classical Greece. I’m convinced based upon overwhelming evidence that all of these various figures and episodes (including the adventures of Heracles, later called Hercules) are based on celestial metaphor, not on historical actors. This includes the stories regarding what we know of as the “Trojan War.” I spend some time in my book Star Myths of the World, Volume Two, showing that the events and characters in both the Iliad and the Odyssey are celestial in nature, based upon constellations, primarily, and describing the cycles of the heavens. The same can be said for the characters and episodes in the ancient Sanskrit epics such as the Mahabharata. You correctly point out that the various labors performed by Heracles relate to constellations in the night sky (not all of them are zodiac constellations, however, according to my analysis). Ancient artwork, including that on ancient Greek pottery from the sixth century BC and forward, also provides compelling evidence that the ancients understood that these myths relate to the constellations. The newly-discovered Pylos Combat Agate provides us with startlingly sophisticated artwork from a period of time almost one thousand years earlier than those other examples that I have examined in the past and written about (writing about them before the Pylos Agate was even discovered, or any photographs of it published). And, as I argue in this brief article, there is abundant evidence that the scene in the Pylos Agate is using the very same ancient system of celestial metaphor. Thus, it provides us with important new confirmatory evidence that this ancient system goes very deep into history. Thanks for your comments and insights into this extraordinary piece of ancient artwork – I’m glad you find it as engaging and intriguing as I do! Cheers, David 

Hi David, thanks for the reply. Taken a look at the blog, another good read. I’m struggling to see the figures in relation to the dating? Hercules (stand to be corrected) seems to pop up around the time of Troy.
Dumb Q’s on astronomy. The feats of Hercules represent the zodiac right. This is a weird time, due to procession the pole star is changing from Thuban to Kappa Draconis. Hercules popped up around 1200BCE. The snake is less relevant as it doesn’t help you find North, enter the time of Hercules. I do agree these story get passed down for a reason, they help you understand the seasons and world around you. The stars are like modern day TV, there are stories that can be used to preserve useful information.
I think we do agree that this is an exquisitely crafted artefact, whether a very nearsighted craftsman or lens assisted, they had such a fine hand. I can’t see a modern day craftsman producing this, it is fabulous. Seen some iconography that MAY suggest levers, but I'm still struggling with this, there is such fidelity at the edges. I cannot understand how it's made, it’s a nightmarish material to work at this scale with fairly crude tools, even if you are so very careful and have all the time in the world. It’s wonderful. I can’t see it being Mycenaean myself, it is just too good. But obviously was found in a Mycenaean grave, so what was it doing there? I’d love to see the wax imprint it leaves.
Everything in the scene supports Minoan origin, that suggests a dating between Thera and Mycenaean conquest. Boy, did these people have tech, it’s like DARPA in antiquity and across so many disciplines: art, engineering, science, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, commerce and trade. My jaw dropped on learning they had steam! They are completely out of time, it is more like being on the cusp of the industrial revolution, but not quite, then Thera blow up and the world went wrong. No wonder others perceived them as gods. But they themselves don’t seem to.
Best, Nick
PS to me, it looks as if there are two Cretans bodies, one ontop of the other on the ground. Should have said the horsehair plume, would face forwards (the Carians head has been turned away - not very clear in this image), it allows the combatant to use the crest to counter a downward blow from a sword, this tech has first rate. If the scene represents a civil war, there was a high attrition rate. The Carians were good fighters. Just to give others food for thought, they might spot something neither of us sees.

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Hopewell mounds from the Mound City Group in Ohio. Representative image
During the Early Woodland Period (1000—200 BC), the Adena people constructed extensive burial mounds and earthworks throughout the Ohio Valley in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Many of the skeletal remains found in these mounds by early antiquarians and 20th-Century archaeologists were of powerfully-built individuals reaching between 6.5 and eight feet in height (198 cm – 244 cm).

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