|10 September 2018
Greek farmer in Crete stumbles onto 3,400-year-old tomb
Sometime between 1400 and 1200 BCE, two Minoan men were laid to rest in an underground enclosure carved out of the soft limestone native to southeast Crete. Both were entombed within larnakes - intricately embossed clay coffins popular in Bronze Age Minoan society - and surrounded by colorful funerary vases that hinted at their owners' high status. Eventually, the burial site was sealed with stone masonry and forgotten, leaving the deceased undisturbed for roughly 3,400 years.
Earlier this summer, a local farmer accidentally found the tomb beneath a shaded olive grove on his property. Archaeologists from the local heritage ministry, Lassithi Ephorate of Antiquities, launched excavations below the farmer's olive grove at Rousses, a small village just northeast of Kentri, Ierapetra. They identified the Minoan tomb, nearly perfectly preserved, in a pit measuring roughly four feet across and eight feet deep. The space's interior was divided into three carved niches accessible by a vertical trench.
In the northernmost niche, archaeologists found a coffin and an array of vessels scattered across the ground. The southernmost niche yielded a second sealed coffin, as well as 14 ritual Greek jars called amphorae and a bowl. The high quality of the pottery left in the tomb indicates the individuals buried were relatively affluent, even if other burial sites dating to the same Late Minoan period feature more elaborate beehive-style tombs.
Most Minoan settlements found on Crete are located in the lowlands and plains rather than the mountainous regions of Ierapetra. Still, a 2012 excavation in Anatoli, Ierapetra, revealed a Minoan mansion dating to between 1600 and 1400 BCE, roughly the same time period as the Kentri tomb.
Much of the Minoans' history remains unclear, but the eruption of the Thera volcano, an earthquake and a tsunami, contributed to the group's downfall, enabling enemies such as the Mycenaeans to easily invade. Analysis of the excavated Kentri tomb may offer further insights on the Minoan-Mycenaean rivalry, as well as the Cretan civilization's eventual demise.
Edited from Tornos News (22 August 2018), Smithsonian.com (4 September 2018)
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