Last year, archaeologists digging at Pylos, an ancient city on the southwest coast of Greece, discovered the rich grave of a warrior who was buried at the dawn of European civilization. Archaeologists expressed astonishment at the richness of the find and its potential for shedding light on the emergence of the Mycenaean civilization, the lost world of Agamemnon, Nestor, Odysseus and other heroes described in the epics of Homeros. In the year since, a lot of research and discovering has been done--and the results are very interesting!

The warrior was buried around 1500 B.C., next to the site on Pylos on which, many years later, arose the palace of Nestor, a large administrative center that was destroyed in 1180 B.C., about the same time as Homeros’ Troy. The palace was part of the Mycenaean civilization; from its ashes, classical Greek culture arose several centuries later. He was a man about 30 to 35 years old and lying on his back. Placed to his left were weapons, including a long bronze sword with an ivory hilt clad in gold and a gold-hilted dagger. On his right side were four gold rings with fine Minoan carvings and some 50 Minoan seal stones carved with imagery of goddesses and bull jumpers. The grave contained gold, silver and bronze cups. An ivory plaque carved with a griffin, a mythical animal that protected goddesses and kings, lay between the warrior’s legs, giving the warrior it's moniker of 'griffin warrior'.

Archaeologists are now convinced that the riches he was buried with were possessions from his culture, not loot from the nearby island of Crete. If true, the grave throws light on a dramatic historical process: the extension of the Minoan culture of Crete to southern Greece, where it formed the basis of Mycenaean civilization, the first in mainland Europe. Mycenaean rulers such as Achilles, Agamemnon and Odysseus were the heroes of Homer’s epics, and Mycenaean civilization, even though it collapsed shortly after 1200 B.C., was the forerunner of the classical Greek era that arose some 700 years later.

A lot of focus has been on the rings discovered in the grave. The gold rings, archaeologists say, were rings of power. These items served as insignia of the elite who ruled the local inhabitants of Pylos, the town on the southwestern coast of Greece where the warrior’s grave was found. The gold rings, engraved gemstones and many other items in the grave bear Minoan themes, so they could have been plunder from a raid on Crete. But Jack L. Davis and Sharon R. Stocker, the husband-and-wife team at the University of Cincinnati who discovered the grave, believe otherwise, noting that objects in the grave are echoed in the iconography of the gold rings. they will soon publish an article on the subject in the journal Hesperia. Dr. Davis did mention:

"[The warrior’s grave] is telling us that right from the beginning there were people on the mainland who knew what Minoan culture meant and were bringing it to the mainland for a specific reason, that of establishing themselves in positions of power."

Cynthia W. Shelmerdine, an expert on the Aegean Bronze Age at the University of Texas, said she agreed that the rings and gemstone seals in the warrior’s grave represented administrative and political power.

"These things clearly have a power connection. [The grave, whether dug by Minoans or Mycenaeans] fits with other evidence that the elites on the mainland are increasingly closely connected to the elites on Crete."