Archaeologists discover an ancient Mycenaean chamber tomb in the Greek island of Salamis

mycenaean-tomb-greek-island-salamis_1Credit: ANA-MPA

Back in March, we talked about how archaeologists have possibly identified the ruins of the famous ancient Greek military harbor at Salamis that played its crucial role in one of the largest naval battles of antiquity against the Persians. Well this time around another significant discovery has been made in the island of Salamis, and this archaeological scope harks back to an even earlier period, corresponding to the Greek Bronze Age dominated by the mysterious Mycenaeans. To that end, researchers from the Western Attica, Piraeus and Islands Antiquities Ephorate, have identified an entire Mycenaean chamber tomb with grave goods (in Salamina, the main town of Salamis) that dates back to 13-12th century BC.


Interestingly enough, the initial discovery was made when infrastructural works were conducted in the area to connect a residential unit with the central sewage system. However the presence of a tomb in itself is not that surprising to the archaeologists, since two earlier tombs and 41 well-preserved pottery vessels had already been discovered in the proximate area during excavations in 2009. These discoveries were complemented by inscribed decorative elements that were ubiquitous during the Mycenaean period.


Credit: Ministry of Culture and Sports

In fact, all of these tombs were part of a greater Mycenaean cemetery that was actually discovered many years ago, with archaeological projects being previously conducted in 1964, 1992 and 2009. As for the third tomb found recently, the chamber measures 8.5 ft by 9.5 ft in area with a depth of around 5 ft, which makes it a bit smaller than the other two tombs within the cemetery complex. And beyond just its gauged dimensions, this grave was also ‘home’ to five deceased occupants (as judged by their skeletal remains), thus indicating how the structure was used as a typical group tomb of the period. In terms of the main plan, these chamber tombs, with roughly square shapes, were ‘bored’ into the monolithic rock and accessed via connecting narrow paths.


Credit: Ministry of Culture and Sports

According to archaeologist Ada Kattoula, who works at the from the Western Attica, Piraeus and Islands Antiquities Ephorate –

The excavation conditions are extremely difficult because there are many springs in the area and the specific tombs, being carved into the rock, are prone to flooding. We needed pumps to empty the water. With great technical difficulty and significant assistance from the contractor we were able to investigate.

However in spite of these technical problems during the excavation, the researchers have decided to salvage the skeletal remains and analyse them in a detailed manner, while the tomb itself will remain buried. In that regard, according to the experts, the assessment of these finds will shed more light into the rather obscure scope of Salamina’s Mycenaean cemetery.


Mycenaean spearmen were the mainstay of their army, as precursor to Greek hoplites. Illustration by Angus McBride.

Source: ANA-MPA

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