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3400 Year Old Tomb Discovered Beneath Greek Olive Grove

A 3400 year old Minoan tomb has been discovered by chance in Greece. The tomb, which contains two coffins and sets of remains, is believed to originate in the Late Palace Period and is said to be both in pristine condition and complete with its funeral objects.

Working in his olive grove, a local farmer in Rousses, near Ierapetra in southeast Crete, was attempting to park his car when the ground gave way underneath the weight. Moving from the sinkhole, it was discovered that a four-foot hole had opened up beneath the grove, revealing an ancient tomb hidden beneath. The site soon became home to excavations from the Lassithi Ephorate of Antiquities who identified the pit as a perfectly preserved Minoan tomb.

“We are particularly pleased with this great archaeological discovery as it is expected to further enhance our culture and history” – Argyris Pantazis, the Deputy Mayor of Local Communities, Agranian and Tourism of Ierapetra
Inside The Tomb. Photo: Greek Ministry of Culture.

The tomb, which is divided into three niches accessible by a vertical trench, is believed to date from sometime between 1400 and 1200 BC and contains the bodies of two men encased in embossed clay coffins. The tomb is adorned with elaborate and colorful funerary vases of an excellent quality, suggesting that the deceased were wealthy. Other tombs linked to the period however have a more elaborate layout, suggesting that the occupants were well-off but not of the highest status.

Most Minoan settlements in Crete are in the lowlands and plains, this latest discovery being unique for its mountainous region. Said to be perfectly intact, the tomb has not been robbed in antiquity like many of its contemporaries. Upon investigating the tomb, archeologists discovered the first coffin in the first chamber with a number of artefacts with the second coffin in the next chamber, this chamber also contained 14 amphorae and a bowl.

The tomb was sealed with a stone wall and was seemingly well hidden, the discovery only coming thanks to the intervention of a burst irrigation pipe, the leaking water weakening the ground around the location that the farmer intended to park.

“Soil retreat was a result of the watering of the olive trees in the area as well as a broken irrigation tube, the ground had partially receded, and when the farmer tried to park in the shade of the olive, it completely retreated.” – Argyris Pantazis, the Deputy Mayor of Local Communities, Agranian and Tourism of Ierapetra
Inside The Coffin. Photo: Greek Ministry of Culture

The skeletons found at the site have been dated to the Late Minoan IIIA-B period, also known as the Late Palace Period, the exciting discovery being one that archeologists hope may teach us more about the still mysterious Minoan civilisation after further detailed analysis of the remains.

Much of the Minoan way of life and history is still unknown beyond their labyrinth-like palaces and the legends of the minotaur. Historians believe however that their civilisation came to an end through a string of natural disasters, including a triple tragedy of the eruption of the Thera volcano, an earthquake and a tsunami, all weakening their empire and allowing their enemies to embark on conquest.


Michael East View All

Michael East is a writer with a wide variety of eclectic tastes including politics, history, archaeology, professional wrestling and British science-fiction. A former Students' Union President and newspaper editor, he has studied at a variety of institutions and graduated in both history and politics.

He is interested in truth, justice and the unAmerican way. Named as TIME Person of the Year in 2006 and 2011, he is known variously as a rake, a libertine and as the King in the North... if to nobody else but himself.

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