Jack Davis & Shari Stocker, Cincinnati: "The Lord of the Gold Rings: The Griffin Warrior of Pylos"

Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 6:00pm

Penn Museum, Widener Hall

"The Lord of the Gold Rings: The Griffin Warrior of Pylos”


The Palace of Nestor at Pylos is the best preserved center of the Mycenaean civilization.  Carl Blegen, perhaps the most famous American prehistorian to work in Greece in the 20th century, discovered the "Palace of Nestor" and continued to explore it and its surroundings until his death in 1971. In his final years Blegen dug several deep trenches through an olive grove near the palace but found little. One of his last acts was to cover his excavations there and allow the grove to slumber in peace.

And there things stood until May of 2016 when a team from the University of Cincinnati discovered in the same olive grove one of the richest graves of the Greek Bronze Age ever found, a find that has attracted the attention of mass media worldwide, including the New York Times.

This tomb of the so-called Griffon Warrior, a stone-lined shaft of modest dimensions, contained the body of a single man, 30–35 years of age, who died in the 15th century B.C.  The warrior had been laid to rest in a wooden coffin, where he remained undisturbed until our day. He had died at a time when centers of military and political power were only just emerging in Mainland Greece.

Hundreds of objects surrounded the warrior: gold, silver, ivories, bronze vessels and weapons, gems, beads, and seals (manufactured from precious gemstones imported over great distances). Several grave goods bear designs of great iconographical importance for understanding Aegean religion.  The 15th century was a critical period when a Mycenaean identity was being shaped through the importation and adoption of ritual practices borrowed from the much older civilization of Minoan Crete.

In our presentation we will discuss in particular the iconography of four gold signet rings from the grave of the Griffin Warrior that are of particular significance for understanding Mycenaean religion in its formative stages.

Both Stocker and Davis will speak, she about the excavation of the tomb, he about the finds from the tomb and their significance.

This event is being hosted by The Institute for Aegean Prehistory, The University of Pennsylvania Museum, The History of Art Department of the University of Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA, The University of Pennsylvania Department of Classics, The Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Graduate Group, and The Center for Ancient Studies.