One of the central figures in the "Iliad," Homer's epic war poem, Agamemnon is also known for his bloody end in a bathtub.
Credit: Mycenaean Foundation
A stone fragment that might belong to the lost throne of the kingdom of Mycenae has been found by a Greek archaeologist, if his claims are right.
Made of a type of stone that has not been found anywhere else in Mycenae, the 110-pound slab is dubbed the throne of Agamemnon after the legendary king of Mycenae and leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War.
A Greek archaeologist says he has found a stone fragment that might belong to the lost throne of the kingdom of Mycenae. Made of a type of stone that has not been found anywhere else in the ancient city, the slab is dubbed the "throne of Agamemnon" after the legendary king of Mycenae and leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War. The polished stone block was found in 2014 directly below Mycenae's royal palace. Shortly after the stone fragment was brought to light in 2014, the finding was questioned and dismissed as a basin. But new research claims the limestone slab is a fragment of the royal seat of Mycenae, as shown in this virtual reconstruction.
According to Greek archaeologist Christofilis Maggidis, the throne stood in the royal palace, where four columns surrounded a central hearth, as shown in this virtual reconstruction
One of Greece's most important late bronze age centers, Mycenae still boasts impressive remains, such as walls made of giant boulders and a 3,500-year-old sculpture of stone lions above the main gateway. Known as the Lion Gate, this is the only surviving monumental piece of Mycenaean sculpture and the largest sculpture in the prehistoric Aegean.
The massive beehive tomb dubbed by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann the Treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agamemnon, is the most impressive of the nine tholos at Mycenae. Built about 1350 to 1250 B.C., with carefully dressed masonry and megalithic elements, the burial most likely has no relationship with either Atreus or Agamemnon. Although it was found robbed, it was never buried and remained always visible.
To the south of the Lion Gate stands a 16th-century B.C. royal cemetery that was later labeled Grave Circle A. The site was first excavated in 1876 by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, the discoverer of the ruins of Troy. It contained intact royal shaft graves filled with objects of gold, silver, bronze and terracotta.
In the royal cemetery, Schliemann claimed to have found the tomb of Agamemnon, complete with his funerary gold mask. The authenticity of the funeral mask has long been questioned. In any case, it can't be attributed to Agamemnon: modern archaeological research dated it to about 1550–1500 BC, about 300 years earlier than the traditional date for the legendary king.
One of the central figures in the "Iliad," Homer's epic poem about the war, Agamemnon is also known for his bloody end in a bathtub, hacked to death by his wife and her lover as he returned from his victorious expedition against Troy.
A team led by Greek archaeologist Christofilis Maggidis found the fragment two years ago in the now-dry riverbed of the Chavos River, within the city's Lower Town.
Maggidis, associate professor at Dickinson College and president of the Mycenaean Foundation, said the polished stone block was found directly below Mycenae's royal palace. The hilltop building had partially fell down during a catastrophic earthquake in about 1200 BC.
"The throne fragment had fallen, rolled and was subsequently buried by the river fill when the southeastern part of palace collapsed in the ravine," Maggidis said.
Shortly after the stone fragment was brought to light in 2014, the finding was questioned.
Vassilios Petrakos, the Secretary General of Archaeological Society at Athens, appointed a committee to examine the piece. At the end, the stone fragment was dismissed as a basin. The committee's conclusion was accepted by the Ministry of Culture and the case appeared settled.
But Maggidis, who has been leading excavations at the site of ancient Mycenae in southern Greece since 2007, announced recently that further studies indicate conclusively that the find is "a fragment of the stone seat of the monumental royal throne of the palace at Mycenae."
"The assessment of the Petrakos committee about a 'basin' is unreliable and fallacious, as it was based on unfounded assumptions and erroneous observations," Maggidis told Discovery News.
He noted that the fragment is made of porous stone and would have been useless to hold liquids had it been a basin.
"The importance of an archaeological find is assessed by the international academic community on the basis of its scientific publication and in due time, not by committees or organizations," he added.
Maggidis, who will detail his findings in a scientific publication in 2017, said the block shows a stunning resemblance to another, older and smaller throne found in the Minoan palace of Knossos.
"It is similar in terms of shape, size and proportions," Maggidis said.
He noted that all the other alternative interpretations of a basin, altar, offering table or mortar are eliminated when considering the high quality of fine carving and polishing and the morphology of the block, which is carved in such a way as to support being sat upon.
"For example, the shallow central depression, which is only 3cm (1.18 inch) deep, and the way in which it slightly deepens towards the rear side, identical to the Knossos throne, are indisputable traits of a seat," Maggidis said.
"This is one of the most important and emblematic finds of the Mycenaean age," he added.
One of Greece's most important late bronze age centers, Mycenae achieved an almost legendary status thanks to its rulers, who, according to Greek myth, were involved in incestuous relationships, parricides and dynastic fights.
The town still boast impressive remains of its past -- walls made of giant boulders, a 3,500-year-old sculpture of stone lions in a heraldic pose above the main gateway and nine beehive-style tombs known as tholos, where its rulers were buried.
Maggidis said he believed that other parts of the throne may lie beneath the stream bed and hopes to gain a permit to fully excavate the site.