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Remains found in one of the tombs

Mycenean Tombs with Skeletal Remains Discovered near Legendary Nemea


New Mycenaean tombs have been unearthed during recent excavations at the Mycenaean cemetery of Aedonia, a village near Nemea, Greece. The Mycenaean cemetery of Aedonia includes several Late Bronze Age cemeteries dating from the 15th to 13th centuries BC.

New Mycenean Tombs Excavated in Nemea

Tornos News reports that new Mycenaean tombs have been uncovered and examined during the second period of the advancing excavation works taking place near Nemea, Greece, which were completed on 29 July, as the Greek Ministry of Culture stated. Two chamber tombs have been discovered at the Mycenaean cemetery at Aedonia (a village almost 10 km outside Nemea) by a team led by Dr. Konstantinos Kissas of the Corinth Antiquities Ephorate, with the collaboration of Dr. Kim Shelton head of the Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology of the University of California at Berkeley.

According to their reports, the Mycenaean cemetery at Aedonia is composed mainly of chamber tombs ordered in clusters. Additionally, Tornos News reports that the hammocks are graves sculpted on the rock, which are made of three sections: the road, a downhill runway directing from the surface of the ground to the opening, and the entrance of the tomb blocked by asymmetrically positioned stones, closing up the underground burial chamber.

Entrance of the tomb blocked by stones (Greek Ministry of Culture)

Entrance of the tomb blocked by stones (Greek Ministry of Culture)

One Tomb Looted, One Intact

One of the tombs, which had been looted in the 1970s, has been dated to between 1350 and 1200 BC. The second tomb is believed to be a few hundred years older as Greek Reporter mentions. Burials were also discovered in three pits and on the floor of the second chamber. One of the pits measured more than 3.5 meters long, and had been covered with large stone slabs. According to Greek Reporter, archaeologists found the human remains of three individuals there, while a second pit contained two more burials, copper arrows, and five knives, two of which had handles decorated with fine gold leaves.

Broken pieces of two piers, and commemorative vases adorned with flowers, were also spotted in the third pit. The burials on the floor were accompanied by plain vases and stone buttons.

Two burials were found in the second pit (Greek Ministry of Culture)

Two burials were found in the second pit (Greek Ministry of Culture)

Nemea’s Rich History and Culture

New Nemea, a small town in Corinthia, Greece, is particularly known for its wine these days, but only a few kilometers to its west, is located the famous ancient Nemea, one of the most significant cities of the ancient world. In Greek mythology, we meet Nemea as home of the Nemean Lion, which was killed by a young Heracles. According to another legend, Nemea was the place where the infant Opheltes, lying on a bed of parsley, was murdered by a serpent while his nurse fetched water for the Seven on their way from Argos to Thebes. The myth suggests that The Seven founded the Nemean Games – the second most famous athletic event in antiquity behind the Olympics – in his honor, with the crown of victory being made of parsley. The Games were first recorded in 573 BC, at the sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea.

Campana relief with Heracles (Hercules) fighting the Nemean lion. Roman, 50 BC-50

Campana relief with Heracles (Hercules) fighting the Nemean lion. Roman, 50 BC-50 (Public Domain)

Nemea is also famous for a bloody battle that took place there: the Battle of the Nemea River. This was the first major battle on the Corinthian front that gave the Corinthian War (395-386 BC) its name.

The specific conflict was the result of simmering tensions between the major Greek powers in the aftermath of the Great Peloponnesian War. Corinth and Thebes felt that they had been denied a just reward for their efforts, and the Spartans didn't help by expanding their power in Thessaly, an area that Thebes felt was within its sphere of influence.

Although the battle of Nemea was a clear Spartan victory it didn't actually give them much of an advantage. It did stop the allied invasion of Laconia, but with Corinth held against them the Spartans were unable to advance any further. Instead they settled back into their base at Sicyon, and awaited the return of Agesilaus. This would prove to be equally frustrating. He won an inconclusive victory at Coronea (394 BC), but was unable to make any more progress and had to retreat west into Phocis.

Fight Against Looting

Ultimately, Tornos News reports that the Tombs of Aidonia Preservation, Heritage, and Exploration Synergasia has been committed to fight against looting, and for that reason they will apply a program to protect the site and educate the local community about the cultural and archaeological catastrophe looting can cause.

Top image: Remains found in one of the tombs (Greek Ministry of Culture)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Theodoros Karasavvas's picture


Theodoros Karasavvas, J.D.-M.A. has a cum laude degree in Law from the University of Athens, a Masters Degree in Legal History from the University of Pisa, and a First Certificate in English from Cambridge University. When called upon to do... Read More

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