Grave of ‘Griffin Warrior’ Uncovered in Greece

WORLD

The discovery may shed light on the lost world of Odysseus and other heroes described in the epics of Homer. (Nat Geo News and New York Times)

Use our resources to learn more about Odysseus and Ancient Greece.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources, including our MapMaker Interactive map of The Odyssey!

This beautiful gold ring was buried with the so-called Griffin Warrior, whose grave contained Minoan-influenced artifacts. Compare the artistry of this “bull ring” with the different sort of Minoan bullring here. Photograph by Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati

This beautiful gold ring was buried with the so-called Griffin Warrior, whose grave contained Minoan-influenced artifacts. Compare the artistry of this “bull ring” with the different sort of Minoan bullring here.
Photograph by Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati

Put the Griffin Warrior in geographical perspective with this easy locator map of major sites in Mycenaean Greece.

Put the Griffin Warrior in geographical perspective with this easy locator map of major sites in Mycenaean Greece.

Dig deeper into Mycenaean Greece with our interactive map of the Odyssey. Use this geo-tour to follow Odysseus and his crew as they encounter nymphs and narcotics, cyclopes and sirens.

Dig deeper into Mycenaean Greece with our interactive map of the Odyssey. Use this geo-tour to follow Odysseus and his crew as they encounter nymphs and narcotics, cyclopes and sirens.

Discussion Ideas

  • According to Nat Geo News, an ancient tomb uncovered in Pylos, Greece, may help archaeologists and classicists better understand Mycenaean civilization. What is Mycenaean civilization?
    • Mycenaean civilization describes southern Greek society and culture in the middle Bronze Age, from about 1600 BCE to 1100 BCE.
    • The New York Times describes Mycenaean culture as “the lost world of Agamemnon, Nestor, Odysseus and other heroes described in the epics of Homer.” (Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces at Troy, was the King of Mycenae. Nestor, another Greek leader in the Trojan War, was the King of Pylos.)
      • In fact, the Griffin Warrior was discovered right outside the “Palace of Nestor” at Pylos, and the “Mask of Agamemnon” discovered at Mycenae helped identify the culture to begin with.

 

 

 

  • If Minoan culture preceded Mycenaean culture, why did archaeologists find so many Minoan artifacts in the Griffin Warrior’s tomb?
    • According to Nat Geo News, the abundance of Minoan artifacts could mean that the warrior “was a Minoan warrior or leader, rather than a native Mycenaean. Alternatively, he may have fought in Crete and brought back plunder or developed a taste for Minoan goods. Or he may have been a Mycenaean leader who wanted to establish a new tradition.”

 

 

  • So, which came first: Homer, the events he wrote about in the Iliad and the Odyssey, or the Griffin Warrior?
    • The Griffin Warrior. Archaeologists date the tomb to about 1500 BCE.
    • The events of the Iliad and the Odysseythe Trojan War and its aftermath—are thought to have taken place hundreds of years later, about 1180 BCE.
    • Homer wrote his epics hundreds of years after the events took place, in the late 700s BCE.

 

  • What else was going on in the 16th century BCE?
    • In the Mediterranean:
      • In what is now Greece, worshippers of the goddesses Demeter and Persephone established the Eleusinian Mysteries, religious rituals that continued for more than a thousand years.
      • In Egypt, Queen Hatshepsut, one of the ancient world’s few female leaders, became pharaoh.
      • In the Levant, the Phoenicians developed the world’s first alphabet. Greek, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets all derived from the Phoenician.
    • Elsewhere:
      • In what is now India, the Rig Veda, one of the holy texts of Hinduism, was written in the Sanskrit language.
      • In the South Pacific, Micronesians or Polynesians began to settle the islands of Fiji.
      • In Central America, Mayan civilization entered its Preclassic period in what is now Belize.

 

 

  • What are some unusual characteristics of the Griffin Warrior’s tomb? Read through the Nat Geo News or New York Times articles for some help.
    • It’s intact and unrobbed. Grave-robbing is an ongoing threat to archaeological sites around the world, and has been since antiquity. “To find an unrobbed and rich Mycenaean tomb is very rare,” says a classics professor associated with the Pylos site.
    • The site holds only one grave. According to Nat Geo News, “Resting places for the Mycenaean elite usually include many individuals.”
    • The Griffin Warrior was buried with a dazzling array of jewelry and other luxury artifacts, including a bronze mirror and ivory comb. “The discovery of so much precious jewelry with a male warrior-leader challenges the commonly-held belief that jewelry was buried only with wealthy females.” One archaeologist suggests that the jewelry may have been offerings to a goddess from the dead man on his journey to the underworld.
    • The site’s grave goods come from all over Europe. Archaeologists “estimate that three-quarters of the finished grave goods in the warrior’s shaft come from Crete—a two-day’s sail to the south—rather than from local sources. There are also amber beads from the Baltic, amethyst from the Middle East, and carnelian that may originate in Egypt that might have been brought to Crete by Minoan traders.”

 

  • Why have some archaeologists nicknamed the occupant of the tomb the ‘Griffin Warrior’?
    • The man was buried with an ivory plaque carved with a griffin, a mythical animal that protected goddesses and kings.

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Rare Unlooted Grave of Wealthy Warrior Uncovered in Greece

New York Times: Grave of ‘Griffin Warrior’ at Pylos Could Be a Gateway to Civilizations

University of Cincinnati: UC team discovers rare warrior tomb filled with bronze age wealth and weapons

Nat Geo: Major Sites in Mycenaean Greece map

Nat Geo: Travels of Odysseus map and study guide

Nat Geo: Minoan Bull-Leaping—Modern sport hints at an ancient tradition

Nat Geo: Classical Coloring Pages

Nat Geo: Fall of Troy

2 responses to “Grave of ‘Griffin Warrior’ Uncovered in Greece

  1. Pingback: 11 Things We Learned This Week | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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