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The ‘Pylos Combat Agate’ has been hailed as one of the finest works of prehistoric Greek art ever discovered
The history of art has been rewritten after archeologists unearthed an astonishing 3,500 year old carving of an ancient Greek battle, depicting human bodies in anatomical detail which was thought way beyond the skill of Bronze Age artisans.

In 2015, the tomb of the so-called 'Griffin Warrior' was discovered near the ancient city of Pylos, southwest Greece, containing the remains of a powerful Myceneaen warrior and a treasure trove of burial riches.

Dating from around 1,500BC the grave also held a intricately carved gem, or sealstone, which was covered in limestone.

Now after a year of careful restoration the scene beneath has finally been uncovered. It depicts an ancient battle in which a bare-chested warrior plunges a blade into the neck of an assailant, while a second enemy corpse lays at his feet.

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The seal was originally covered in limestone and has taken a year to clean and restore
The seal, named the 'Pylos Combat Agate' has been hailed as one of the finest works of prehistoric Greek art ever discovered and may depict the mythological war between the Trojans and Mycenaeans, which was told in Homer's Iliad hundreds of years later.


"What is fascinating is that the representation of the human body is at a level of detail and musculature that one doesn't find again until the classical period of Greek art 1,000 years later. It's a spectacular find.," said Jack Davis, Professor of Archaeology of the University of Cincinnati's Department of Classics.

"It's a spectacular find."

The find is all the more remarkable because of its tiny size. The tiny piece of agate measures just 1.4 inches in length (3.6cm) and many of the details such as the ornamentation on the shields and jewellery are too small to be viewed with the naked eye.

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Detail of the seal, which cannot be seen with the naked eye
Researchers are baffled as to how ancient craftsmen were able to create the minute scene without microscopes.

"Some of the details on this are only a half-millimeter big," added Prof Davis. "They're incomprehensibly small.

"It seems that they were producing art of the sort that no one ever imagined they were capable of producing.

"It shows that their ability and interest in representational art, particularly movement and human anatomy, is beyond what it was imagined to be. Combined with the stylized features, that itself is just extraordinary."

Dig leader Shari Stocker, of the University of Cincinnati's Department of Classics, said: "Looking at the image for the first time was a very moving experience, and it still is.

"It's brought some people to tears. It would have been a valuable and prized possession, which certainly is representative of the Griffin Warrior's role in Mycenaean society.

"This seal should be included in all forthcoming art history texts, and will change the way that prehistoric art is viewed."

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A sketch of the seal
The tomb contained more than 3,000 objects arrayed on and around the warrior's body, including four solid gold rings, silver cups, precious stone beads, fine-toothed ivory combs and an intricately built sword, among other weapons.

An ivory plaque adorned with a griffin was also buried with the warrior, leading archaeologists to dub him The Griffin Warrior.

The grave-good are helping archaeologists piece together greater detail about the interactions between the Mycenaens and Minoans at the time.

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A reconstruction of the seal
The seal, and other artefacts suggest that the Griffin Warrior was a Mycenaen nobleman but many of grave-goods are Minoan, including four gold signet rings. Around the time of his death, approximately 1500BC, the Mycenaeans conquered the Minoans meaning the tomb riches could be the spoils of conquest.

The new findings are published in the journal Hesperia.