Archaeologists Uncover Ancient 'Spooning' Couple in Greece

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient 'Spooning' Couple in Greece

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Almost 6,000 years ago, the man was placed behind the woman with his arms around her body, and their legs were intertwined. They were buried. Why they were interred in this manner is not yet determined, but the international team that discovered them in Greece is still searching for answers, according to team member Michael Galaty, a Mississippi State University archaeologist.

"There've only been a couple of prehistoric examples of this behavior around the world, but even when couples are buried together, they're beside each other and not typically touching," he said. "This couple was actually spooning. We assume they were partners of some kind, and because of DNA analysis, we do know they are male and female." Not only does Galaty head MSU's anthropology and Middle Eastern cultures department, but he also serves as interim director of the university's Cobb Institute of Archeology.

Another question for the researchers to examine is how the couple died, which happened around 3800 B.C., Galaty said. While archaeologists are unsure whether the man or woman died first, they are sure the couple's times of death are close together.


"This is unique in Greece, and we're analyzing the skeletons and bones to find out more about what was going on, how they died and why they may have been placed there," he said.

The location of the couple's burial site -- Ksagounaki, a rocky promontory, or cliff, on Diros Bay near Greece's Mediterranean coast -- is adjacent to Alepotrypa Cave, one of the largest ancient settlements yet discovered in southern Europe, Galaty said. The cave, first explored in the 1950s, was excavated by Giorgos Papathanassopoulos. It was occupied during the late portion of the Neolithic Age, approximately 5000-3000 B.C. The bodies were discovered at Ksagounaki near a Neolithic house that was dated to the same time as the couple's death around 3800 B.C. The area adjacent to Alepotrypa Cave was discovered in 2011 after the archeological team surveyed the land around the cave.

One of the Diros Caves in Greece ( Wikimedia Commons )

"The cave was occupied for a limited period of time, around the time when people started farming. People became more sedentary and built houses at a site outside the cave. It became a pretty big village," he said. "People were buried within their homes. Keeping your ancestors close to you was important, and their remains served as a title to the land."

Galaty said one of the team's biggest discoveries was that 2,000 years after the Neolithic Age, the Mycenaeans -- who comprised the human cast in Homer's epic "Iliad" chronicling the Trojan War -- returned to Ksagounaki. They dug into the earlier village-mortuary complex to rebury their dead.

Ksagounaki is a large Final Neolithic village on a promontory above the cave overlooking the sea. Excavations have exposed a Neolithic building, with multiple graves and a later Mycenaean component. Credit: Mississippi State Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures Field Work

"The bones were gathered somewhere else and brought to this feature around 1200 B.C. The Mycenaeans dug down into the old village and filled the pit they dug with bones," Galaty explained. "There were a lot of wealthy objects -- ivory hair pins, lots of beads, a Mycenaean dagger made of bronze."

He hypothesized that knowledge of Alepotrypa Cave may have been passed down through the civilization's memory of tradition.

"It's not just a coincidence that these people chose to rebury their dead here. There are 2,000 years of memory in this place," Galaty said. "Mycenaeans chose to come here to rebury their dead. They may have come from far away to bury special people. "We're going to look at where they might have lived before they were buried and what kinds of interesting rituals related to death and burial may have been used."

Featured image: A rare ancient Greek gravesite containing two intertwined corpses was discovered by an international team that included Michael Galaty, head of Mississippi State University's anthropology and Middle Eastern cultures department. Credit: Image courtesy of Mississippi State University.

Source: Mississippi State University. "Archaeologists Uncover Ancient ‘Spooning’ Couple in Greece." ScienceDaily. 7 April 2015.

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Warrior Remains in Greece

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Warrior Remains in Greece: US archaeologists in Greece have uncovered the skeleton of an ancient warrior that has lain undisturbed for more than 3,500 years along with an array of fine gold jewelry, an ornate string of pearls, signet rings, a bronze sword with a gold and ivory handle, silver vases and ivory combs. Ancient warrior? Hell, from that list, it sounds more like they may have accidentally disinterred Liberace!

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Rainstorms in Greece Helped Archaeologists Uncover a 3,000-Year-Old Bronze Idol of a Bull That May Have Been an Offering to Zeus

The Greek culture ministry announced the remarkable find by calling it an "accidental" discovery.

The bronze figurine of a bull discovered in Olympia, Greece. Courtesy Greek Culture Ministry, copyright: ΥΠΠΟΑ.

Torrential downpours in the small town of Olympia, Greece, have yielded an incredible discovery: a fully intact 3,000-year-old bronze bull figurine.

The Greek culture ministry announced the remarkable find on March 19, calling it an “accidental” discovery that occurred while archaeologists were surveying the site, where the ancient Olympic Games were held.

The small sculpture, measuring about two inches in length, was found by Zacharoula Leventouris, an archaeologist who saw “one of its horns protruded from the ground,” according to the ministry. The object was later taken to a laboratory, where conservators have been studying it more thoroughly.

The bronze figurine of a bull, discovered in Olympia, Greece. Courtesy Greek Culture Ministry, copyright: ΥΠΠΟΑ

Preliminary results indicate that the bronze sculpture dates to the Geometric period of Greek art, from around 1050–700 BCE, and would have been presented as an offering to Zeus along with thousands of other votive offerings at a sanctuary. T he sculpture was uncovered near the Altis , the sacred grove of Zeus, according to the Guardian.

Bulls and horses were important animals in Ancient Greece, as they “acquired a special role in the worship of the gods of antiquity,” according to the Greek ministry.

In Greek mythology, Zeus was enamored with a woman named Europa, and transformed himself into a bull and took her to the island of Crete, where she bore his sons.

Other symbols associated with Zeus include oak trees, thunderbolts, and eagles.

Press Release : Excavation Reveals Ancient Town and Burial Complex in Diros Bay, Greece

Recent research by The Diros Project, a five-year excavation program in Diros Bay, Greece, has uncovered the remains of an ancient town and burial complex that date to the Neolithic and Bronze Age. In addition to the Neolithic ‘spooning’ couple that has been highlighted in recent news articles – an adult man and woman buried side-by-side, embracing – the archaeological team also uncovered several other burials and the remains of an ancient village that suggest the bay was an important center in ancient times. Located outside the entrance to Alepotrypa Cave, the site of Ksagounaki yeielded Neolithic buildings and adult and infant burials that indicate the sites together were part of one huge ritual and settlement complex.

Although Alepotrypa Cave was used for domestic and ritual uses throughout the Neolithic period (ca. 6300-3000 BC), radiocarbon dates indicate that the site of Ksagounaki was used during the Final Neolithic period, 4200-3800 BC. This period in Greece is noted for wide trading networks, as well as the introduction of copper tools, laying the groundwork for the subsequent Bronze Age.

The Field Museum’s Dr. William Parkinson explains that perhaps the most surprising discovery was a Mycenaean-period burial structure, filled with the disarticulated bones of dozens of individuals accompanied by Late Bronze Age painted pottery, exotic stone beads, ivory, and a Mycenaean dagger made of bronze. Parkinson and his team have suggested that the megalithic buildings at Ksagounaki, constructed during the Neolithic Age, may have attracted the attention of Mycenaeans over 2,000 years after they were abandoned.

An international team of archaeologists including Dr. Anastasia Papathanasiou (Studies and Ephoreia of Spleology and Paleoanthropology), Dr. William Parkinson (The Field Museum), Dr. Michael Galaty (Mississippi State University), Dr. Daniel Pullen (Florida State University), and Dr. Panagiotis Karkanas (American School of Classical Studies at Athens completed the five-year project.

The Diros Project was coordinated by the Ephorate of Palaeoanthropology and Speleology of the Ministry of Culture, under the direction of Dr. Giorgos Papathanassopoulos (Honorary Ephor of Antiquities). The project focused on the publication of finds from Alepotrypa Cave, the survey of the surrounding area, and excavations at Ksagounaki. In 2011, following a season of archaeological survey, the site was further investigated. Excavations began at the site in 2012 and concluded in 2014.

Funding for this research was generously provided by the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, an Archaeological Institute of America-Cotsen Excavation Grant, a grant from the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, an International Collaborative Research Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, The Field Museum’s Women’s Board and private donors.

  • Archaeologists discovered the tombs that once had dome-shaped roofs
  • They were near a major Mycenaean-era palace in Greece's Peloponnese region
  • They contained a golden seal ring and an amulet of an ancient Egyptian goddess
  • The tombs were disturbed during the period of their use over generations

Published: 19:10 BST, 17 December 2019 | Updated: 21:22 BST, 18 December 2019

Archaeologists have unearthed two monumental Bronze Age tombs in the south of Greece, littered with flakes of gold leaf that once papered the walls.

The tombs, which date back around 3,500 years, were discovered near the Mycenaean-era palace of Pylos in Greece's Peloponnese region - which featured in Homer's Odyssey.

They were made in the Tholos style, characterised by massive domed underground constructions like beehives. These types of tombs were generally reserved for Mycenaean royalty.

The tombs contain a trove of engraved jewellery and artefacts, which researchers claim could help historians fill in gaps in our knowledge of early Greek civilisation.

The larger of the two tombs had a diameter of 40 feet (12 metres) at floor level and its stone walls survived to a height of 15 feet (4.5 metres) - less than half its original height.

The other was about two-thirds of that size and its walls now stand 6.5ft (two meters) high.

Pictured, an immaculate golden seal ring from the temple. American archaeologists have discovered two monumental royal tombs dating 3,500 years back, near a large Bronze Age palace that featured in Homer's Odyssey

Pictured, a golden pendant of the Egyptian goddess Hathor is seen that was found in a 3,500-year-old tomb. She is the goddess of the sky, women, fertility and love and is usually depicted as a woman with the head of a cow, ears of a cow, or simply in cow form


The Mycenaean era, between roughly 1650-1100 BC provided the material for many of the myths and legends of ancient Greece including that of the Trojan War.

The Mycenaeans used a syllabic script that is the earliest form of GreeK.

Many Mycenaeans sites, cemeteries, and Tholos Tombs of the era have been unearthed throughout Greece.

They revealed the Mycenaean people had a strong cultural presence, a centralised political system with a King at the top.

They also made strong commercial ties to the rest of the Bronze Age Mediterranean centres, and a militaristic attitude.

These attributed allowed them to thrive around 3,500 years ago.

Archaeological and tablet evidence indicates that the Mycenaeans dominated the area around the Aegean sea.

According to the Greek culture ministry, the dome-shaped roofs of both tombs collapsed during antiquity, and the chambers became filled with so much earth and rubble that grave robbers couldn't get in to plunder them.

But the tombs were not immune from being targeted by opportunistic thieves, with several generations of Greeks disturbing the sacred site around 1,000 BC.

Recovered grave goods from the two tombs included a golden seal ring and a golden amulet of the ancient Egyptian goddess, Hathor.

She is the goddess of the sky, women, fertility and love and is usually depicted as a woman with the head of a cow, ears of a cow, or simply in cow form.

Hathor is one of the central figures of Greek mythology who is closely associated with sky god Ra.

The gold ring shows two bulls flanked by sheaves of grain, identified as barley by a paleobotanist who consulted on the project.

'It's an interesting scene of animal husbandry - cattle mixed with grain production. It's the foundation of agriculture,' Jack Davis, one of the lead archaeologists at the University of Cincinnati who spent 18 months excavating the site, said.

The golden objects found inside the gold-lined walls of the tomb indicate the importance of those laid to rest within.

As does the considerable art emblazoned with mythological creatures throughout the catacomb.

An agate sealstone adorned with two lion-like creatures - called genii - was found inside, with the beats portrayed as standing upright on clawed feet.

Above the genii is a 16-pointed star. The same 16-pointed star also appears on a bronze and gold artefact in the grave, the researchers say.

'It's rare. There aren't many 16-pointed stars in Mycenaean iconography. The fact that we have two objects with 16 points in two different media (agate and gold) is noteworthy,' Sharon Stocker, dig supervisor, said.

Archaeologists uncover 'extraordinary' Neanderthal remains in Italian cave

In a cave south of Rome, archaeologists recently found the remains of nine Neanderthals, an "extraordinary discovery that will be the talk of the world," Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said.

Archaeologists began excavating the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo in 2019, 80 years after a Neanderthal skull was found inside. Because of either an earthquake or landslide, the cave was closed off, and the inside is preserved as it was 50,000 years ago, NPR reports. The archaeologists found skulls, skull and bone fragments, and teeth, with the oldest remains from 90,000 to 100,000 years ago the rest likely date back 50,000 to 68,000 years, the Italian Cultural Ministry said on Saturday.

The ministry described the cave as "one of the most significant places in the world for the history of Neanderthals," and said archaeologists also uncovered the fossilized remains of elephants, hyenas, rhinoceros, and giant deer.

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Ruins of Monastery, Greek Inscriptions in Egypt

An inscription found at the site was written in Coptic, an Egyptian language using Greek letters. Credit: Egyptian Antiquities Ministry

Archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of an ancient Christian settlement, including a monastery, dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries AD, in Egypt’s Western Desert, the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry stated on Saturday.

A team of French and Norwegian archaeologists conducted a series of excavations at the site, called Tal Ganoub Qasr al-Agouz, and found a large complex of buildings, including a church, in 2020.

The find, which includes “nineteen structures” and the church, which was “carved into bedrock,” is expected to greatly expand our knowledge of the period, and helps to “the nature of monastic life in the region,” stated Dr. Victor Ghica, the head of the archaeological team.

According to Ghica, the walls of the church, which dates back to the fifth century AD, a critical period in the development of early Christianity, were adorned with religious inscriptions and passages from the Bible written in Greek.

The walls of the church also include inscriptions, written in yellow ink, detailing some aspects of monastic life in the region.

Ruins found at the site. Credit:Egyptian Antiquities Ministry

Ruins of monastery in Egypt part of larger, ancient Christian complex

The massive complex includes “six sectors containing the ruins of three churches and monks’ cells,” Osama Talaat, head of Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Antiquities at Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities stated.

Archaeologists found both graffiti and intentional decorations featuring Coptic symbols on the walls of the ruins.

The many structures uncovered in the area, located in the desert southwest of the Egyptian capital Cairo, were made from a variety of materials, including basalt, bedrock, and mud bricks.

According to archaeological evidence, the site was occupied by monastic and other Christian communities from the fourth century AD until the eighth century, yet scholars believe its peak was from the fifth to the sixth centuries AD.

Previous excavations at the site, undertaken in 2009 and 2013, unearthed other monastic activities at the complex, including the “the production and preservation of wine as well as the husbandry of animals” by monks, according to the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology.

Archaeologists Uncover Two Well Preserved Bodies at Pompeii

Pompeii with Vesuvius in the background. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered the perfectly preserved bodies of two men who died together at a villa just outside of Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago.

The men were relatively young when they were killed after Mt. Vesuvius erupted, sending lava coursing down to the land below and hot ash blanketing all of Pompeii.

From their garments and the state of their bones, archaeologists have determined that one of the men was wealthy, while the other was enslaved, possibly by the wealthy man.

The rich man was thought to be in his thirties or forties, and the slave in his late teens or early twenties. They were found in the suburban villa of Civita Giuliana, 0.7 km (0.4 miles) from the center of Pompeii.

The bodies were found in an underground corridor, signaling that the pair sought refuge there before their deaths, falsely assuming that they would be safe from the fiery ash coursing through the villa.

Their bodies remained preserved and undiscovered under 6 feet of ash for nearly 2,000 years.

After they were discovered, specialists examined their remains using lasers, and filled in the empty spaces between the hardened ash surrounding them and their bones, where tissue once was, to make a cast of their bodies, which depict the tiniest details like the folds in their garments.

The plaster casts of their remains are moving and deeply tragic — their clenched fists and feet attest to their suffering and bring humanity to the ancient tragedy, separated from us by so many years.

The bulk of remains recovered from Pompeii were found 150 years ago, making the recent discovery extremely significant for the study of the site, which was first excavated in the eighteenth century under the order of King Charles III of Spain.

Pompeii, home to around 13,000 people at the time of the eruption, has been the source of essential information regarding daily life in the Roman Empire in that the period, as the city remained extraordinarily well preserved after it was covered in ash from the volcano.

Ancient bronze figurine of bull uncovered in southern Greece

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Heavy rainfall in southern Greece has led to the discovery of a bronze bull figurine believed to have been a votive offering made to the god Zeus in Ancient Olympia as early as 3,000 years ago.

Greece’s Culture Ministry said Friday that the small, intact figurine was found after an archaeologist spotted one horn poking out of the ground following recent rainfall in the area.

The excellently preserved figurine was transported to a lab and initial examination indicates it dates from the Geometric period of ancient Greek art, roughly 1050 B.C. to 700 B.C. It is believed to have been a votive offering to Zeus made as part of a sacrifice, as the sediment cleaned from the statuette bore distinct burn marks, the Culture Ministry said.

Thousands of votive offerings are believed to have been made at the altar of Zeus. Many have been found in a thick layer of ash and are exhibited at the archaeological museum in Olympia.

Student archaeologists uncover more of ancient Greece

Over the last three weeks, every new day has been an adventure for a group of University of Missouri–St. Louis students in Greece. And each of those days starts at the crack of dawn.

“This is my very first dig, and let me tell you, it’s no walk in the park,” said senior anthropology major Valentina Emiliani, a participant in this summer’s Iklaina Archeological Project under the direction of Professor Michael Cosmopoulos. “Our days here begin with a wake-up call at 5 a.m. and departure to the site at 6 a.m.”

Emiliani, a transfer student who was drawn to UMSL’s strong archeology program, said the excavation work continues until early afternoon, when the students get a brief respite before the night’s lectures begin. Then, following a late-evening four-course meal, the students hit the sack by 10 p.m., “and the day repeats itself.”

Emiliani and fellow students took a few moments within that intense schedule to reflect on their overseas field-school experience so far and share some thoughts with UMSL Daily readers.

“The excavation itself is difficult work, and I am definitely building muscles,” said Corri Mader, another senior anthropology major at UMSL. “Even so, it’s such fun. I’m having a wonderful time with my trench-mate and roommate, Jessica Engel.”

Mader and Engel helped uncover a variety of artifacts in just their first week of work at the excavation site of the Mycenaean settlement at Iklaina, once an urban center.

“We are trying to find where the rubble for the collapsed building ends,” said Engel. “So far we have found bronze nails, charcoal and mountains of pottery.”

Courtney Hayden, who expects to finish her anthropology degree at UMSL this December, said she’s learned how to distinguish various kinds of materials from rock and dirt.

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