Detail of the Mycenaean-era tomb’s façade and the dry-stone masonry that sealed the entrance.

Rare Tomb Shows Bronze Age Mycenaean-era Nobleman had a Fondness for Jewelry

(Read the article on one page)

After 3,350 years, a Mycenaean-era nobleman’s tomb has been re-entered and his favored possessions have been seen by modern eyes. Archaeologists consider his burial an odd one, with grave goods and the style of the tomb standing out against others from his time.

The tomb was discovered during excavations near Orchomenos, Boeotia, Greece. It was unearthed during the first year of a five-year joint program between the Ephorate of Antiquities of Boeotia/Ministry of Culture and Sports and the British School at Athens/University of Cambridge.

According to Euronews, the tomb is “the ninth largest of its kind to be discovered out of around 4,000 excavated in Greece over the last 150 years.”

Recording the bones in the burial chamber’s interior.

Recording the bones in the burial chamber’s interior. ( Greek Culture Ministry )

The tomb has a 20 meter (65.5 ft.) long rock-cut dromos (passageway) with rock cut benches covered in clay mortar. This hall leads to the 42 sq. meter (452 sq. ft.) burial chamber. It is believed the height to the pitched roof originally measured 3.5 meters ( 11.5 ft.) However, it has been proposed that the roof had already begun to fall apart in antiquity; which slightly moved the burial but also served as some protection for its contents from looters.

View of the Mycenaean-era tomb’s façade and the dry-stone masonry that sealed the entrance.

View of the Mycenaean-era tomb’s façade and the dry-stone masonry that sealed the entrance. ( Ministry of Culture and Sports )

Upon entering the burial chamber, archaeologists found the remains of a man aged around 40-50 years old. Various grave goods were placed alongside his body: ten pottery vessels sheathed in tin, a pair of bronze snaffle-bits (a bit mouthpiece with a ring on either side used on a horse), and bow fittings and arrowheads. The most intriguing of the finds however is the collection of jewelry made of different materials, combs, a seal stone, and a signet ring. Unfortunately, images of the jewelry found in the tomb have yet to be released. Nonetheless, this provides a unique element to the burial, as jewelry was commonly believed to only have been placed in female burials in that period.

Bronze bits found in the Mycenaean-era tomb.

Bronze bits found in the Mycenaean-era tomb. ( Giannis Galanakis )

The style of burial is also considered rare for Mycenaean chamber tombs. It’s far more common for archaeologists to find chamber tombs from this period which were used for multiple burials and contain grave goods, oftentimes looted or broken, from different generations.

A final factor which sets this burial apart is the lack of decorated Mycenaean pottery in the tomb. Only two small stirrup jars were found, yet this pottery style was popular at that time. With so many different elements to consider, researchers expect this discovery to greatly improve their understanding of the variety of funeral practices used in this region during the Mycenaean period.

One of the two decorated stirrup jars found in the Mycenaean-era tomb.

One of the two decorated stirrup jars found in the Mycenaean-era tomb. ( Giannis Galanakis )

The Mycenaean era was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece and is remembered for its palatial city-states, artwork, and writing. This period collapsed at the end of the Bronze Age, possibly due to the mysterious ‘people of the sea’ (or Sea People ), Dorian invasion, or natural disasters and climate change – or some combination of these. Ancient Origins has previously reported about the impact the Mycenaean era had on ancient Greek literature and tomb building :

“Homer writes that the Mycenaean era was dedicated to Agamemnon , the king who led the Greeks in the Trojan War. The Mycenaean’s were keen traders, establishing contacts with countries across the Mediterranean and Europe. They were also excellent engineers and are also known for their characteristic ‘beehive’ tombs which were circular in shape with a high roof, consisting of a single stone passage leading to a chamber in which the possessions of the tomb’s occupant were also laid to rest.”

Gold death-mask known as the “Mask of Agamemnon.”

Gold death-mask known as the “Mask of Agamemnon.” (Xuan Che/ CC BY 2.0 ) Homer writes that the Mycenaean era was dedicated to Agamemnon.

The tomb’s excavators believe  that the recently unearthed site can be linked to the palatial center of Mycenaean Orchomenos – “the most important Mycenaean center of northern Boeotia during the 14th and 13th centuries BC.” They also call the site “one of the best documented burial groups of the Palatial period in mainland Greece.”

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

A fragment of a wall painting showing two lovers in bed from the House of L Caecilius Jucundus in Pompeii, now at Naples National Archaeological Museum.
Rarely does L.P. Hartley’s dictum that “the past is a foreign country” hold more firmly than in the area of sexuality in classical art. Erotic images and depictions of genitalia, the phallus in particular, were incredibly popular motifs across a wide range of media in ancient Greece and Rome.

Myths & Legends

The Last of the Siberian Unicorns: What Happened to the Mammoth-Sized One-Horned Beasts of Legend?
Elasmotherium, also known as the Giant Rhinoceros or the Giant Siberian Unicorn, is an extinct species of rhino that lived in the Eurasian area in the Late Pliocene and Pleistocene eras. They have been documented from 2.6 million years ago, but the most recent fossils come from around 29,000 years ago.

Ancient Technology

Yacouba Sawadogo planting.
Desertification is a serious problem facing numerous countries in the world today. Various measures have been taken to counter the negative effects, with some providing better results than others. A farmer in Burkina Faso looked to his ancestors and came up with an innovative solution.

Ancient Places

Stonehenge at night.
In the 1960s, a portion of a ditch excavated into chalk bedrock west of the henge at Stonehenge was discovered during construction for the pedestrian underpass that provided access to Stonehenge until a year ago. By 2014, geophysical testing confirmed that the ditch stretches over 900 meters (2952.7 ft.) from southwest of the Stonehenge henge to a point near the south ditch line of the Greater Cursus, northwest of Stonehenge.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article