Pylos Combat Agate
|Pylos Combat Agate|
|Size||3.4 centimetres (1.3 in)|
|Period/culture||Aegean Bronze Age|
|Discovered by||Sharon Stocker and Jack L. Davis|
The Pylos Combat Agate is an Ancient Greek sealstone created by Minoans in Crete during the Mycenaean era. It depicts a warrior engaged in hand-to-hand combat. It was discovered in the Griffin Warrior Tomb near the Palace of Nestor in Pylos and is dated to about 1450 BCE. The seal has come to be known as Pylos Combat Agate for the fierce hand-to-hand battle it portrays.
The seal is noted for its exceptionally fine and elaborate engraving, and considered "the single best work of glyptic art ever recovered from the Aegean Bronze Age" due to its resemblance to artworks from the Classical era which would emerge a millennium later.
The Pylos Combat Agate was discovered by a University of Cincinnati archaeological team directed by Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis in the Griffin Warrior Tomb near modern-day Pylos. It consists of a sealstone measuring 3.6 cm in length (1.4 in) and was found alongside four gold signet rings.
Though the site was discovered in 2015, the agate, then covered in limestone, would not be revealed until 2017 as other finds from the site were published first. Afterwards, the agate underwent conservation and study for a year. Prior to conservation, the stone was believed to be a bead due to its small scale. It is believed that the seal was created in Crete due to a longstanding consensus that Mycenaean civilizations imported or stole riches from Minoan Crete. The fact that the stone was found in a Mycenaean tomb in mainland Greece is suggestive of cultural exchange between the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations.
As interpreted by the team that discovered it, the seal portrays a warrior who, having already defeated one opponent sprawled at his feet, is plunging his sword into the exposed neck of another shielded foe while at the same time he is grabbing the man's helmet. It is believed that this sealstone depicts the warrior it was buried with, the Griffin Warrior, though it remains possible that he was a priest. University of Vienna archaeologist Fritz Blakolmer believes this sealstone intends to depict a larger work of art and may replicate a wall painting depicting an event that both Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations recognized.
In 2016, the Greek Culture Ministry referred to this excavation as the most significant discovery in continental Greece in the last 65 years. The small scale of the intricate details prompted questions regarding ancient Greek civilizations' ability to create such an object; some archaeologists believe that such minute details could have only been created with the help of a magnifying glass, though none dating from the stone's period have been found on the island of Crete.
Its co-discoverer, Dr. Jack Davis, refers to the piece as "incomprehensibly small", remarking that works of art with as much detail would not be seen "for another thousand years." He also added: “It seems that the Minoans were producing art of the sort that no one ever imagined they were capable of producing. It's a spectacular find." Researchers have asserted that this discovery challenges previously established consensuses regarding the artistic development of the Minoan civilization. The agate's researchers state that this discovery necessitates a reevaluation of the time-line on which Greek art developed. While dated as belonging to the Aegean Bronze Age, Davis notes that it bears more resemblance to Classical period art, which developed a millennium later, due to the breadth of anatomical knowledge embodied in the stone's engravings.
- Ancient Greek art
- Arkalochori Axe
- Minoan Bull-leaper
- Minoan snake goddess figurines
- Phaistos Disc
- Severe style
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- Unearthing a masterpiece
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