Ancient Tombs Unearthed in Nemea, Greece Shed Light on Mycenaean Civilization



Aerial view of the road and the chamber of the two tombs in the eastern part of the Mycenaean cemetery at Aidonia, along with the tombs from the old excavation. Source: Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinth

The Greek Ministry of Culture announced on Sunday that archaeologists have discovered two ancient, unlooted chamber tombs dating from the Late Mycenaean period, (1400 – 1200 BC), near Nemea in the Peloponnesian Peninsula.

The newly-found tombs at the Aidonia burial site include five full burials and the skeletons of fourteen individuals whose remains had been transferred there from other tombs.

The finds will shed more light on the Mycenaean civilization, the Greek Culture Ministry announced.

Both chamber tombs provided an array clay pots and figurines to the discoverers, as well as other small objects.

However, these findings are in rather sharp contrast with the burial sites from the early Mycenaean period (1600 – 1400 BC), which were excavated in Aidonia in previous years. These burial chambers contained table and storage vessels, as well as weapons and other objects which would hav belonged to high-status individuals.

Still, the two newly-discovered Mycenaean chamber tombs at Aidonia pave the way to a better understanding of the development of the ancient settlement and its ties to neighboring villages.

Newly-discovered chamber tomb with fallen roof and two pits. Source: Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinth

Located next to the vineyards of Nemea, Aidonia was a key settlement in the Mycenaean civilization, which enjoyed its greatest period of flourishing from the 17th to the 12th century BC, the press statement noted.

Excavation at the Aidonia burial site first began in the late 1970s, after the site containing tombs from 1700-1100 BC had already been extensively looted, most likely in 1976-77. The  Archaeological Service excavations which followed this, in 1978-1980, and 1986, under the direction of Kalliopi Krystalli-Votsi and Constantina Kaza, brought to light a total of twenty chamber tombs.

These consisted of gravesites carved into the rock, with three sections, including an access road, entrances and burial chambers. Few of the Aidonian chamber tombs were found unlooted during that dig, but one pit included a treasure trove of ancient jewelry.

The finds in a pit located inside one of these tombs even helped experts link them to a set of jewelry which was about to be sold in an auction house in New York in 1993 and was eventually repatriated, the ministry noted.

Ancient Greek clay pots. Source: Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinth

Ongoing archaeological activity in Aidonia has prompted the resumption of excavations to investigate tombs which were considered to be in danger of being looted.

The Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinth launched a new, systematic research program in 2016, under the direction of Konstantinos Kissa, the Assistant Professor of Archeology at the Universities of Graz, Austria and Trier, Germany. Kim Shelton, Director of the Nemea Center of Archeology, and Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is also collaborating with Kissa in the research.

Their research has documented the existence of this additional cluster of tombs that had been missed in all the excavations carried out in previous years.

Perfectly-preserved Ancient Greek clay pot. Source: Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinth