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Mycenaean Bronze Swords Uncovered in Greek Tomb

mycenaean swords
Two out of the three Mycenaean bronze swords discovered near the city of Aegio in the Achaia region of the Peloponnese. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Three bronze swords dating back to the Mycenaean civilization were discovered recently near the city of Aegio, in the Peloponnese. The swords, among other finds, were found in an ancient tomb, dating back to the 12th to 11th century BC.

Excavations on the Trapeza plateau, eight kilometers southwest of Aegio, brought to light valuable offerings and bronze swords, among other items.

The site has been identified as Rypes, a city that flourished in early historical times and participated in the colonization as well, founding Croton, the ancient Greek colony in Magna Graecia, in southern Italy. The excavation was focused on the research of the Mycenaean necropolis, according to the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The necropolis is located over the ancient road that led to the citadel in ancient times. The tombs discovered are chambered, carved into the soft sandy subsoil. They were used for many years during the “first palace” period of the Mycenaean world, during the prosperous times of the great centers of Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos.

Mycenaean excavation Aegio
The location of the Mycenaean excavation, outside the city of Aegio, on the Peloponnesian peninsula. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Significant reuse of the tombs dates back to the 12th century BC, when the tombs were repeatedly reopened. They were used in burial customs and complex ritual practices until the end of the Bronze Age, dating to the 11th century BC.

The necropolis excavation yields valuable sets of gifts consisting of vases, numerous seal stones and many kinds of beads. It also uncovered pieces of various materials (glass, faience, gold, and rock crystal).

They were parts of necklaces and golden wreaths in the shape of bucranas, which are trademarks of Mycenaean trade relations with islands in the eastern Aegean and Cyprus. The chamber of tomb 8, investigated this year, is in the shape of a rectangle, presenting a complex stratification.

Mycenaean tomb with swords, amphorae, alabaster

In the first layer of tombs from the 12th century BC, three burials adorned with false-mouth amphorae were investigated. The bones in the older tombs had been removed with respect and great care. They were placed in two superimposed piles at the back of the chamber, touching the walls of the tomb.

Mycenaean big sword
The largest bronze sword discovered in the Mycenaean site near Aegio. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

At the very top of these excavations, three pieces of clay and an amphora were discovered. Their discovery means these first burials are from the early Mycenaean palace period (14th century BC).

Among the bones and offerings accompanying these ancient burials (among them glass beads, cornaline and a clay horse figurine), an exceptionally well-preserved bronze sword was found. At the base of the pile of bones, two more intact bronze swords were also discovered, with even part of their wooden handles preserved.

The three swords, which belong to different types – Sandars D and E – date back to the heyday of the Mycenaean palace period. The discovery of these weapons is particularly important. Long spears from the same chronological period were found during the excavation in neighboring tombs in the plateau necropolis.

The Trapeza plateau necropolis is distinguished from other necropolises in the Achaia region of the Peloponnese. They emphasize the direct dependence of the local community on the powerful palace centers.

The location of the Mycenaean settlement of Trapeza is still not clear enough, however. During the early cycle of the necropolis, the settlement was probably located on a hill about 100 meters (328 feet) south of the Bank.

The excavation of part of the settlement further from the tombs revealed part of a building, perhaps a mansion. It is a wide rectangular room with a hearth in the center and pottery characteristic of the 17th century BC.

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