A trove of beautifully engraved gold rings and gemstones found in the untouched grave of an ancient Greek warrior

A trove of beautifully engraved gold rings and gemstones, found in the untouched grave of an ancient Greek warrior last year, were possessions from his culture, not loot from the nearby island of Crete, archaeologists now believe.

The gold rings, they 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.


A ring found at the tomb of the Griffin Warrior in Greece. Credit Jennifer Stephens/University of Cincinnati
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.

The grave was discovered last year by Jack L. Davis and Sharon R. Stocker, a husband-and-wife team at the University of Cincinnati, and is judged by other archaeologists to be one of the richest tombs to have been found in Greece in the last half-century. The warrior was buried around 1450 B.C., a date derived from pottery found around the grave. His facial appearance has been reconstructed from his skull by Lynne Schepartz and Tobias Houlton of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

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 Dr. Davis and Dr. Stocker believe otherwise, noting that objects in the grave are echoed in the iconography of the gold rings, they write in an article to be published in the journal Hesperia.