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Impressive Mycenaean chamber tomb from 14c BC discovered in Orchomenos

A chamber tomb of significant archaeological importance has been discovered in Orchomenos, Viotia, Greece’s Ministry of Culture & Sports announced on Monday. Describing the discovery as  “one of the largest Mycenaean carved chamber tombs ever found in Greece,”  a Ministry statement said that the construction of the chamber tomb dates back to the middle of the 14th century B.C. The skeleton of only one dead was found in the tomb with all the grave goods. The grave was found in Prosilio village of the Municipality of Livadeia, at the foot of Mt Akontio.

Entrance – original stones 

The construction of the tomb is monumental and testifies to the special care that has been paid for its creation. In the funeral room there is a 20m long carved road leading to the funeral room which is striking 42 sq. meters. On the four sides of the room there is a carved ledge covered with clay mortar.

Ορχομενός αρχαιολογική ανακάλυψη

The original roof height, which had the shape of a rocky roof, is estimated at 3.5 m. However, the original roof began to collapse as early as antiquity, perhaps even in the Mycenaean period, giving a cave-like appearance to the interior of the chamber, totaling 6.5 m.

The collapse of the roof has disturbed to some extent the place of the deceased and the grave goods, but also covered and protected the burial layer from later interventions.

On the floor of the chamber,  [the skeleton of] a man, estimated between 40 and 50 years old, was found, accompanied by carefully selected items: more than tin pots, a pair of hooks (parts of horseshoes), arc accessories, arrows, pins, jewelry made of various materials, hair combs, a seal and a seal ring.

The value of the finding lies in the fact that it yielded one of the best documented tombs of the palace period in mainland Greece. It is noteworthy that individual burials with important finds are rarely preserved in monumental Mycenaean chamber tombs, as they are usually used for multiple burials and for many generations, resulting in disturbing or removing the grave goods.

Therefore, the important thing in the case of the found tomb is that all the objects found are associated with the only dead who was buried there.

Finding this burial site and its features will give researchers the opportunity to better understand the burial practices of the region during the Mycenaean times.

For example, the deposition of many jewels in the tomb of a man doubts the widespread belief that jewelry was mostly accompanying women in their last home. It is also noteworthy that, with the exception of two small amphoras, no Mycenaean ceramics were found in the grave, which, moreover, was extremely popular in this period.

The excavation team speculates that the chamber tomb is related to the palace of Mycenaean Orchomenos, which is approximately 3.5 km,  and was the most important center of northern Boeotia in the 14th – 13th c. B.C.

The dead in the tomb appears to have belonged to the upper social class of the local Mycenaean elite.A warrior? A member of the royal dynasty?

the narrow entrance leading to the tomb

The excavation has been taking place in cooperation of the Antiquities Dept of the Greek Culture Ministry, the British School in Athens/University of Cambridge.

“narrow path” leading to the chamber

It is the ninth largest chamber tomb of approximately 4,000 excavated in the last 150 years.

Orchomenos or Orchomenus, is the setting for many early Greek myths, is best known as a rich archaeological site in Boeotia (Viotia), that was inhabited from the Neolithic through the Hellenistic periods. Orchomenus is also referenced as the “Minyean Orchomenus” in order to distinguish from “Arcadian Orchomenos” in Peloponnese.

According to the founding myth of Orchomenos, its royal dynasty had been established by the Minyans, who had followed their eponymous leader Minyas from coastal Thessaly to settle the site.

In the Bronze Age, during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries, Orchomenos became a rich and important centre of civilisation in Mycenaean Greece and a rival to Thebes. The palace with its frescoed walls and the great tholos tomb (“Tomb of Minyas) show the power of Orchomenos in Mycenaean times. A massive hydraulic undertaking drained the marshes of Lake Copaïs making it a rich agricultural area. Like many sites around the Aegean, Orchomenos was burned and its palace destroyed in ca. 1200 BC. – More information about the history of Orchomenos here

Culture Ministry Statement & Pictures

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