Humanities

Prosilio 2: Comparison with the Griffin Warrior Tomb and Discussion of Orchomenos

The Griffin Warrior Tomb

The Griffin Warrior tomb is a cist tomb located near the Palace of Nestor at Pylos. The burial took place centuries before the destruction of the palace, and was not discovered until 2015.

The grave is a small 12th century BCE cist grave with the skeleton, a man in his early thirties laying on his back, positioned with a griffin-carved ivory plaque between his legs, weaponry lays to the man’s left and jewelry to the man’s right. The burial is one of the wealthiest yet discovered. Within the burial were nearly 1,400 objects placed on and around the body. Over 50 stone seals, half a dozen ivory combs, a bronze mirror, a necklace once made of over 1,000 amethysts, jasper, and carnelian beads were discovered in the tomb. Additionally, silver cups and a bronze sword with an ivory hilt were discovered. The location of the grave and its wealth makes it highly likely that the grave belonged to an individual who played some role in the palace, perhaps even part of the ruling family.

 

The Griffin Warrior Tomb (courtesy of smithsonianmag.com)

A bronze mirror with an ivory handle found in the Griffin Tomb (courtesy of smithsonianmag.com)

Both Prosilio 2 and the Griffin Warrior tomb appear to represent economically and socially powerful men – though the Griffin Warrior is arguably buried with more wealth. Additionally, both are single burials, which eliminates any ambiguity as to which burial a grave-good belongs. Despite being one century apart, they reveal some important findings about Mycenaean burial customs. First, as briefly mentioned before, the wealth of both the graves might reveal that chamber tombs were not recognized as on a different economic or social plain as cist graves. Additionally, jewelry may have been as popular among male burials as it was among female. A difference might be found in their role in Mycenaean burial culture: with chamber tombs and tholoi it was easy to collect grave goods after the interned had biodegraded and may have been a regular part of grave maintenance or part of burying additional people in the same tomb. However, with pit and cist graves, such collection is not as easily done. This may represent a split or change in Mycenaean burial culture or even individual preference. Overall, comparing the single burials Prosilio 2 and the Griffin Warrior tomb gives a better definition to Mycenaean burial customs through their grave goods.

Orchomenos

According to tradition, Orchomenos was one of the fortified sites established by the royal Minyas dynasty in order to protect their major earth work: the draining of lake Kopais. The Minyans flourished from the 15th to the 12th century during which they controlled areas of western Boeotia and created the famous gray or yellow Minyan ware. That it was an important center is attested to by its palace and large tholos tomb, it was also noted by Homer as supplying ships during the Trojan war.

The town of Prosilio is located 3.5km away from Orchomenos which would have put it well within the realm of the power of Orchomenos. Though it is not possible to discern the specific life of individual interned in the tomb, it is possible that the man was part of the landed aristocracy – especially given the location of Prosilio within the fertile area of Greece. Further exploration of the ancient settlement could help put Prosilio 2 in a greater context.