Greek archaeologists have uncovered an ancient skeleton covered with gold in a grave near the ancient town of Eleutherna in central Crete.
Although some articles reporting this find have said the skeleton was covered with gold foil, excavator Nicholas Stampolidis has explained that the small pieces of gold, measuring up to 1.5 inches, had originally been been sewn onto a shroud covering the woman's body, yet that the cloth has meanwhile disintegrated.
In the most informative report on this find, the Canadian Press
informs us that the woman, presumably of a high social or religious status, was buried with a second, as yet unidentified skeleton in a large jar that had been sealed with a stone slab weighing more than half a ton. Possibly in order to confuse grave robbers, It was hidden behind a false wall.
An Australian website
also reported that, in addition, the grave contained a copper bowl, imported perfume bottles, hundreds of beads made of amber.
More interesting, however, is the fact that one also discovered a gold pendant in the form of a bee-shaped goddess, a well-known figure
in Greek mythology and archeology which has roots in Minoan times. A similar yet older bee pendant (from 1,700 BC) has previously been found in ruins of the Minoan palace of Mallia, also on Crete.
Nicholas Stampolidis, who has been working at the site of the Orthi Petra necropolis near Eleutherna for 25 years, finding several ancient burials mostly containing female skeletons, in what is believed to be a whole clan of related priestesses. The Archaeological Institute of America
described his work as follows:
For a quarter century, Greek excavation director Nicholas Stampolidis and his dedicated team have been unearthing the untold stories of the people buried some 2,800 years ago in the necropolis of Orthi Petra at Eleutherna on Crete. Until now, the site has perhaps been best known for the tomb its excavators dubbed "A1K1," an assemblage of 141 cremated individuals, all but two of whom were aristocratic men who likely fell in battle in foreign lands.
Excavated between 1992 and 1996, this elaborate rock-cut tomb was brimming with fantastic burial goods that date from the ninth to the seventh century B.C., including bronze vessels, gold and silver jewelry, and military regalia, as literally befits the burial of Homeric war heroes. Now, two unprecedented discoveries since 2007--three lavish jar burials that contained the remains of a dozen related female individuals and a monumental funerary building where a high priestess and her protégés, also all related, were laid to rest--are adding to our knowledge of Eleutherna's women, and forcing the scholarly community to reevaluate their importance and role in the so-called "Dark Ages" of Greece.
The site of Orthi Petra is not yet open to the public.