One of the largest Mycenaean-era carved tombs ever found in Greece has been discovered in Orchomenos in Viotia, the culture ministry announced on Monday. The discovery was made in Prosilio, near Orchomenos, during the first year of a five-year cooperation programme between the Viotia Antiquities Ephorate and the British School at Athens (BSA) and Cambridge University.
“Specifically, the tomb is the ninth-largest chamber tomb out of roughly 4,000 excavated in the last 150 years,” the culture ministry said.
The tomb is of monumental size and well made, it includes a large death chamber measuring 42 metres square with a 20-metre carved ‘road’ leading up to it. On all four walls of the chamber is a carved ledge covered in clay plaster, while the initial height of the roof is estimated to have been 3.5 metres high.
There is evidence that this roof started to collapse very early after construction, possibly even during the Mycenean era, giving the tomb a cave-like aspect and a total height of 6.5 metres. The collapse disturbed the position of the body and objects inside but then covered and protected the tomb from later interference.
On the floor of the chamber, archaeologists have found the remains of a man aged 40 or 50 years old, surrounded by carefully chosen grave goods. These included tin-lined vessels, horses’ reins, bow parts, arrows, pins, jewellery, combs, a seal and a seal ring.
The tomb is dated to the middle of the 14th century B.C. and has yielded some of the best collections of confirmed burial goods from the palace period of mainland Greece. The discovery of a single burial with significant finds is exceptionally rare, since Mycenean chamber tombs tended to be reused for multiple burials across generations, so that grave goods were disturbed or looted. The Prosilios tomb is exceptional in that all the items found were linked to the single dead body buried there, giving archaeologists greater insights into burial practices of the period.
One example is the discovery of several items of jewellery in the tomb, as in that of the Pylos warrior found in 2015, casts doubt on the previous belief that jewellery was mainly used in the burials of women.
The tomb is believed to be linked to the nearby Orchomenos palace complex that dominated the area in the 14th and 13th centuries B.C. and to belong to a member of the upper social classes of the time.
In charge of the excavations are Dr. Alexandra Charami, head of the Viotia Antiquites Ephorate, and Dr. Yiannis Galanakis of Cambridge University.