Archaeologists have unearthed two new unplundered chamber tombs dating from the Late Mycenaean period of the Mycenaean palaces (circa 1400-1200 BC). Systematic research being conducted at the Aidonia dig by the Antiquities Ephorate of Corinth at the Mycenaean cemetery of Aidonia in Nemea continue to reveal fascinating new knowledge.
In the first of the two tombs, which preserved its chamber roof, researchers found two primary burials and the collected bones of 14 more individuals. The second tomb had no roof as it had already collapsed in Mycenaean times, but inside and above it, however, three primary burials were discovered.
According to a report by GTP, both tombs yielded clay vessels and figurines, along with small objects such as buttons. The Aidonia dig finds can be compared with the burial goods of the Early Mycenaean tombs (circa 1600-1400 BC), excavated in previous years at Aidonia and contained tableware and storage vessels, weapons and artifacts indicating status. The two new, unplundered Mycenaean chamber tombs at Aidonia point towards an understanding of the site’s evolution over time and its association with the palatial systems of the surrounding areas, Mycenae in particular.
Situated at the northwestern edge of the wine zone of modern Nemea or Flyasia of antiquity, Aidonia was a major center in the region during the Mycenaean period (ca. 1700-1100 BC). The center gained notice after extensive looting of the Mycenaean cemetery, possibly in the winter of 1976-77. The subsequent rescue excavation (1978-1980, 1986) by the Archaeological Service under Kalliopi Krystalli-Votsi and supervised by Konstantina Kaza, brought to light 20 Mycenaean tombs, the majority of which belong to the chamber category and are organized in a cluster.
The newfound tombs at the Aidonia dig are cut into the rock and comprise of three sections: a passageway called the dromos, an entrance, and an underground burial chamber. Only a handful of the Aidonia chamber tombs were found intact, while one of the looted ones contained a pit in which a stunning collection of jewelry had been saved. The findings from the rescue excavation proved their link with a collection of Mycenaean jewels which had been up for sale in a New York art gallery in 1993. The Greek State successfully claimed the collection which was subsequently returned, making these movable findings from Aidonia probably the most important case in Greece regarding the repatriation of illegally exported antiquities.
Continued antiquities smuggling at Aidonia has necessitated more excavations to investigate tombs that meanwhile have either been or are endangered of being plundered. In 2016, the Corinthian Ephorate of Antiquities launched a new, systematic research program, headed by Konstantinos Kissas, Assistant Professor of Archaeology at the Universities of Graz, Austria and Trier, Germany, with Director of the Nemea Center of Classical Archaeology Kim Shelton of the University of Berkeley, California as main collaborator.
The new program had previously documented the existence of an additional cluster of graves and brought to light an additional chamber tomb on the same level as the previously investigated cluster. The excavation part of the program’s 4th season was concluded on July 25.