Gold funerary mask found in archaic Macedonia cemetery revives Hercules and Doric myths

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Gold funerary mask found in archaic Macedonia cemetery revives Hercules and Doric mythsUnearthed along with hundreds of 6th century BC Macedonian graves in ancient cemetery of Achlada in northern Greece

A golden funerary mask was among the finds in an Archaic-era cemetery in Achlada, west of Florina in northern Greece, the Ministry of Culture said this week, according to ANA.

The mask reflects and partially confirms the literary version, through genealogical myths, of the origin of the kings (Temenides, Bacchians) of Macedonia from the northeastern Peloponnese, Argos, and Corinth respectively, with Hercules as a patron hero. It also highlights along with numerous other finds from Macedonia, the cultural affinity with the Doric tribes.

Reporting on the excavation results for this summer, the ministry announced the tomb was one of six that stood out in the 6th century BC cemetery containing a total of 73 tombs. The six tombs were set off with a low surrounding wall (peribolos) paved with slate and measuring approximately 4,00m by 3,50m.

Photo Source: Greek Ministry of Culture

 

The skeletons were found in pits nearly two meters deep from the level of the flagstones or in tombs lined with stones. The golden mask places Achlada in the company of the cemeteries of Sindos and Archontko in Pella, as the third site in Macedonia where funerary masks were discovered with burials. 

The archaeological site of Achlada, associated with ancient Lynkestis or Lyngos, is situated within the grounds of the Lignite Mines of Achlada SA company, and the excavations of the multi-era cemetery come under salvage operations. The Ministry of Culture signed in 2010 a memorandum of understanding with the firm, which has been operating since 1936.

During the 2019 season, 73 tombs belonging to the Archaic and Classical eras (6th to 4th centuries BC) were excavated, along with another 131 dated to the Byzantine times. The ministry pointed out the tombs excavated during all seasons in Achlada have reached a total of 1,290. 

Photo Source: Greek Ministry of Culture


Findings from this year's excavations included a golden ring, a silver fibula, fragments of iron daggers, iron points, small pieces of electrum and a bronze cauldron. 

They also included an aryballos - a small rounded jar - of faience and clay statuettes depicting a female figure sitting on a throne holding a pigeon, and of an enthroned Sphinx with a lyre. Of two vessels found with sculpted figures, one may depict Hercules. All of these date to the Archaic era, the ministry verified in a statement. 

 

Photo Source: Greek Ministry of Culture


Archaeologists also found four bronze helmets of the early, Illyrian type, which have not been located on the site before. These particular helmets, the ministry noted, "differentiate the dead from the other Achlada warriors on the basis of the equipment accompanying the burials."

Even though the Archaic tombs were looted, the remaining finds point to the prominence of the dead, the ministry said. According to the ministry, the finds "reveal the wealth, aristocratic origins, heroic character and leading role of some Macedonian aristocracy in the political and social life of ancient Lyngos during the latter half of the 6th century BC."

The excavation comes under the supervision of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Florina and is headed by archaeologist Liana Gelou. 

 

 

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