Ancient Greek 'Asylum-Like' Tombs Filled With Skeletons Discovered at 3,000-Year-Old Mycenaean Cemetery

Two ancient chamber tombs have been uncovered in southern Greece which date back to the Late Mycenaean Period (1,400-1,200 B.C.) according to the nation's Ministry of Culture and Sport.

Archaeologists made the discovery near the town of Nemea—located in the northeastern Peloponnese peninsula—at a site known as Aidonia, which is well known for its collection of tombs, the Associated Press reported.

The first of the two tombs—which has an intact roof—contains two main burials and the bones of 14 more people which were transferred from other sites, according to the culture ministry. Meanwhile, the second tomb—whose roof has collapsed—contained three primary burials.

The burial site at Aidonia—which contains around 20 Mycenaean era tombs dating to between 1,700 B.C. and 1,100 B.C.—was first excavated in the late 1970s.

It became clear that most of the tombs at the site, which was a major center during the Mycenaean Period, had been extensively looted, most likely during the winter of 1976-1977.

During these excavations, researchers found a stunning collection of ancient jewelry, some of which turned up for sale in a New York art gallery in 1993. The Greek state subsequently requested that the jewellery should be returned and it was eventually repatriated.

Both of the newly uncovered chamber tombs contained clay pots and figurines as well as other small objects, such as buttons.

"These findings are contrasted with the burial sites of the early Mycenaean period (circa 1,600- 1,400 B.C.), which were excavated in Aidonia in previous years and included table and storage vessels, weapons and prestigious objects," a statement from the culture ministry read.

"The two new, asylum-like, Mycenaean chamber tombs at Aidonia pave the way for an understanding of the site's evolution over time and its relationship to the palatial systems of the surrounding areas, particularly Mycenae."

The tombs were discovered as part of a program conducted by the Corinth Ephorate of Antiquities which began in 2016 under the direction of Konstantinos Kissa—a professor of archaeology at the universities of Graz, Austria and Trier, Germany—and Kim Shelton from the University of California, Berkeley.

The Mycenaean culture was the first advanced civilization to develop on the Greek mainland, centered around the capital of Mycenae. The Mycenaean period spanned the years between around 1,600 and 1,100 B.C. and during this time, these people developed a syllabic script which represents the earliest form of Greek.

Ancient Greek tombs
Aerial view of the road and chamber of the two new tombs in the eastern part of the Mycenaean cemetery at Aidonia, as well as the old excavation tombs. Corinth Ephorate of Antiquities