Tomb of the Griffin Warrior

An article I was reading this morning replaced at the last minute what I had planned for February’s ARCHAEO-Crush.  Yes, this Mycenaean treasure is super cool…

TOMB OF THE GRIFFIN WARRIOR

Type: burial (intact, no less!)
Civilisation: Ancient Greece, Mycenaean civilisation, circa 1600-1100 BCE
Date: circa 1450 BCE

ARCHAEO-Crush: The Tomb of the Griffin Warrior (so-named because of an ivory plaque featuring a griffon found between the man’s legs) was discovered at Pylos (Greece) in May 2015 and excavated during that summer by a team from the University of Cincinnati, led by archaeologists Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker.
Situated in an unexplored field near the Palace of Nestor (erected later), the tomb has remained undisturbed for 3,500 years, from the day the warrior was laid to rest until today. The discovery came as a surprise to the archaeologists, who were flabbergasted at the richness of the tomb’s contents.  Surprisingly amongst the numerous pots, cups, pitchers, and basins deposited into the grave, none are actually made of ceramic. They are all made of metal–bronze, silver or gold–speaking to the power and wealth of the man buried therein. There are several weapons, various pieces of jewellery, including hundreds of gold, carnelian, amethyst and amber beads, combs and mirrors as well as hundreds and hundreds of other objects. (More than 1500 artefacts were discovered in this tomb alone!) What most impressed me, however, were the perforated wild boar’s teeth that were part of the warrior’s helmet–just like the one given to Odysseus in Homer’s Iliad! (I don’t recall ever seeing one before, but there was a drawing that struck me in the article and you can actually find real examples in museums. A Google search led me to this one at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.)
Because of the early date of the burial (this is the beginning of Mycenaean civilisation), it is interesting to note that most objects are in the Minoan style, the previous Bronze Age civilisation of ancient Greece (circa 3650 BCE –1450 BCE). There are many other very interesting things to learn about this tomb and its fabulous contents, but it is too much to present here. I will leave the reading to you: you can find several articles here. The write-up I was reading this morning is this one.

Bucket list status: It’s a treasure I have yet to see with my own eyes. I have been discussing Mycenaean art with a colleague the last couple of weeks and when he sent me an article about the tomb this morning, I remembered that I had only glanced at the announcement of this discovery. As I actually read in depth the article, I thought it would make a great ARCHAEO-Crush post.
Additional information:  There is an official website entirely dedicated to the ‘Grave of the Griffin Warrior.‘  You can find out more about the discovery and the project, and find great shots of the excavations as well.

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds

Today opens at the British Museum a new and very interesting exhibition: Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds.

Sunken below the waters of the Mediterranean for over 1000 years, the cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus as well as their recently recovered underwater treasures are the subject of this blockbuster exhibition.  Not to be missed if you’re in London between 19 May and 27 November.

BM-sunkentreasures

Chinese Terracotta Army

Today, I’m combining two chronicles—Did You Know? and ARCHAEO-Crush—using one group of artefacts: the Chinese Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Did you know that on this day back in 1974 two local farmers in Xi’an came upon this incredible discovery while digging a well?  Archaeologists soon arrived to investigate and the rest is history…

Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di's terracotta army, intended to protect him in the Afterlife. (Photo taken by my Dad during his trip to Xian.)

Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta army, intended to protect him in the Afterlife. (Photo taken by my Dad during his trip to Xi’an.)

CHINESE TERRACOTTA ARMY
Type: artefact (funerary statuary)
Civilisation: ancient China
Date: 210–209 BCE
ARCHAEO-Crush: I love those terracotta warriors and other figures.  There are so many of them (more than 8000 soldiers, horses, chariots and non-military figures) and remarkably each one has individual features. There aren’t two alike! What I find utterly fascinating (and horrifying) is that the statues were fully painted, but in just a few minutes the pigments dry up and flake away with exposure to the dry air at the time of excavation. After much research, scientists and conservators have been able to consolidate the pigments with polyethylene glycol 200 (PEG200) and electron beam polymerization. I find conservation absolutely fascinating… You may have hear of PEG before as it is also used in the consolidation of water-logged wooden artefacts like Viking ships.
Bucket list status:  I have seen a selection of soldiers, chariots and horses in The First Emperor: China’sTerracotta Army, an exhibition held at the High Museum in Atlanta in 2008-09. I would definitely like to see them again, this time in China.  It’s at the top of my bucket list!
Additional info: UNESCO World Heritage 441
The science geeks interested in learning more about the conservation aspect can read the Getty’s 2010 Conservation of Ancient Sites along the Silk Road (PDF available online, at the virtual library on their website), which features a scientific article (pages 35-39) on the consolidation of the colour pigments of the terracotta army.

Tomb of an unknown queen

Yesterday’s archaeological discovery of the day was the tomb of an unknown queen–a woman named Khentkawes III–at Abusir in Egypt. The lady may have been the wife of King Neferefre of the Fifth Dynasty.  You can read more about it in the Washington Post or Art Daily (the articles have different photos).

Wonderful things…

Did you know that on November 26, Howard Carter made a breach in the second door to Tutankhamun tomb. After the hot air gushed out of the tomb, he took a closer look by candlelight and, when Lord Carnarvon asked him if he could see anything, answered: Yes, it is wonderful!

Ninety-two years ago today Carter was the first person to lay eyes on the wonderful things in the antechamber of Tutankhamun’s tomb.  As with the Nov. 4 post, you can read the Nov. 26 entry in Carter’s diary on the Griffith Institute website.

Stairway to… Tutankhamun’s tomb

Did you know that 92 years ago today Howard Carter found the first step of the stairway leading to Tutankhamun’s tomb?  You can see a scan of Carter’s very own diary entry for November 4, 1922  (and several others) on the Griffith Institute‘s website dedicated to Howard Carter’s diaries and journals. The discovery of the young king’s quasi-intact tomb is one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time.

Photo of Tutankhamun’s beautifully carved canopics jars, used to store miniature coffins that contained his internal organs removed during mummification. I took this photo more than a decade ago. This is actually a scan from the first version of An Archaeologist’s Diary back in 2002!

Catching up on world archaeology

After a walk in the Museum Park, lunch at my neighbourhood deli, a few errands and laps at the gym pool, I came home to find the latest Archaeology magazine in my mailbox. (It is published by the AIA.) I spent the second half of the afternoon lounging on my balcony reading it, enjoying the unusually pleasant summer weather.

I learned about excavations under Mexico City and the renewed research on the Gokstad ship burial first excavated more than a century ago (Norway). I caught up with the work of my colleague Josef Wegner (not Wenger, as misspelled in the article) at Abydos (Egypt). There were several other articles about archaeological research going on at various places around the world—all very interesting! It kept me happily occupied until dinner time.