In 2018, Greek archaeologists uncovered a grave of an ancient noblewoman buried with her gold jewelry on the island of Sikinos.
Her name, according to a burial inscription, was Neko (Greek: Νεικώ). It remains a mystery who exactly this woman and her social status in Sikinos society were. The island in the Cyclades is located between the islands of Ios and Folegandros.
The box-shaped grave was found untouched in the vault of the Episkopi monument, a rare burial memorial of the Roman era, which was later turned into a Byzantine church and a monastery.
Golden wristbands, rings, a long golden necklace, a female-figure, carved cameo buckle, glass and metal vases and fragments of the dead woman’s clothes were found in the grave as well.
A wealth of jewelry proves ancient Greek was a noblewoman
“The wealth of jewelry worn by the woman betrays that she was a prominent figure in Sikinos society,” the Ministry of Culture said in an announcement on the find.
The well-preserved mausoleum on the tiny island was likely to have been constructed to shelter the grave, archaeologists said.
“We were unexpectedly lucky,” Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades Dimitris Athanassoulis told Reuters at the time. “This is Neko’s mausoleum.”
“It’s very rare. A monument, one of the Aegean’s most impressive, has got an identity,” he added. “We now have the person for whom the building was built, we have her remains, her name.”
Experts thought Neko had links to the island, but it was not clear whether she was actually from Sikinos. “We are now trying to find out more about her,” Athanassoulis said. “We are still at the beginning.”
Despite attacks by grave robbers in ancient times and the building’s various uses through the centuries, Neko’s grave was found intact mainly because it was well hidden in a blind spot between two walls at the basement of the building.
Archaeologists have been digging for ages in Greece, often uncovering long-hidden treasures and reminders of how people lived, including their vanity and desire for possessions, such as jewelry, plenty of which has been discovered among the antiquities.
Recently, Greek archaeologist Polina Sapouna Ellis told The New York Times that the discovery of the remains of women still wearing their prized jewelry is what moves her most.
“I’d see corpses wearing gold jewelry, and you’d realize the importance of jewelry to them. It was like a part of the body,” she said. “Gold is precious; it’s durable. Gold is what survives.”