Facial Reconstruction of the so-called ‘Griffin Warrior.’

Bringing a Bronze Age Face to Light: Face of the Greek Griffin Warrior

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Researchers believe that a Bronze Age skeleton found near the Mycenaean palace of Nestor was once a handsome man with long black hair. Their reconstruction of his appearance was based on an analysis of his skull and an artifact recovered in his rich grave. This is just the latest in discoveries related to the burial of the so-called Griffin Warrior.

The facial reconstruction was one of the topics presented on October 6, 2016 at The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece. Themanews.com reports that the image of the Griffin warrior’s face was created by Lynne Schepartz and Tobias Houlton from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Schepartz and Houlton based their reconstruction on the man’s skull and a stamp which was found alongside his remains. Sharon R. Stocker, one of the University of Cincinnati archaeologists who unearthed the tomb in 2015, said the stamp provided an inspiration for the long black hair shown in the representation and “It seems he was a handsome man.” That stamp is one of the artifacts Stocker and the rest of the team will make public next year.

Some of the jewelry recovered from the grave.

Some of the jewelry recovered from the grave. ( Griffin Warrior Tomb )

The grave of the 30- 35-year-old warrior was discovered by Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis, another University of Cincinnati archaeologist, during their 2015 excavations at the Palace of Nestor on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula. The man was buried in a shaft grave that measured 5 ft. (1.5 meters) deep, 4 ft. (1.2 meters) wide, and 8 ft. (2.4 meters) long.

According to Themanews.com, the Griffin Warrior’s grave was intact except for the one-ton stone which had crushed the wooden coffin containing the man’s remains. When April Holloway wrote of the discovery for Ancient Origins she said that the unplundered tomb predates the palace of Nestor and contained many intriguing artifacts.

Looking inside the Griffin Warrior tomb, complete with the fallen stone.

Looking inside the Griffin Warrior tomb, complete with the fallen stone. ( Griffin Warrior Tomb )

Apart from his weapons - a bronze sword with a gold and ivory handle and a gold-hilted dagger, Holloway wrote that the archaeologists found “gold rings, an ornate string of pearls, 50 Minoan seal stones carved with imagery of goddesses, silver vases, gold cups, a bronze mirror, ivory combs, an ivory plaque carved with a griffin [from which the tomb received its name], and Minoan-style gold jewelry decorated with figures of deities, animals, and floral motifs.”

Artifacts within the grave.

Artifacts within the grave. ( Griffin Warrior Tomb )

The four gold rings which were found in the tomb also made the news recently for their magnificent craftsmanship and the tales that accompany their designs.

The rings were crafted with multiple sheets of gold by a skilled person who managed to create highly detailed Minoan iconography on the small artifacts. At first, it was believed that the rings and some of the other artifacts showing Minoan themes were loot from a raid of Crete, however further study suggests that they may be examples of Mycenaean-Minoan cultural transfer instead.

As Jack Davis, told EurekAlert!:

“People have suggested that the findings in the grave are treasure, like Blackbeard's treasure, that was just buried along with the dead as impressive contraband. We think that already in this period the people on the mainland already understood much of the religious iconography on these rings, and they were already buying into religious concepts on the island of Crete. This isn't just loot […] it may be loot, but they're specifically selecting loot that transmits messages that are understandable to them.”

The researchers also said that “it is no coincidence that the Griffin Warrior was found buried with a bronze bull's head staff capped by prominent horns, which were likely a symbol of his power and authority.”

One of the four gold rings found in the tomb of the Griffin Warrior depicts a leaping bull.

One of the four gold rings found in the tomb of the Griffin Warrior depicts a leaping bull. (Jennifer Stephens/University of Cincinnati )

Finally, Davis told the New York Times that they are uncertain if the warrior was buried by Minoans or Mycenaeans who had adopted elements of Minoan culture. He said, “Whoever they are, they are the people introducing Minoan ways to the mainland and forging Mycenaean culture. They were probably dressing like Minoans and building their houses according to styles used on Crete, using Minoan building techniques.”

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