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Pylos Combat Agate Could Rewrite Ancient Greek Art History

It didn’t look like much at first. A small piece of stone, just 3.6 centimeters (1.4 inches) in length, encrusted in a layer of limestone.

Found in a 3,500-year-old Bronze Age Warrior’s Tomb (The Griffin Warrior) in Pylos in Greece, it was set aside for more exciting treasure – but turned out to be the most stunning piece of the archaeological plunder.

Researchers uncovered a carved sealstone no larger than an inch and a half wide. The “Pylos Combat Agate” meticulously displays two warriors engaged in battle with bodies strewn at their feet, with some details less than a millimeter wide. The carving is perhaps most astonishing because it predates artistic skills that were not associated with Greek civilization for another millennium.

“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,” said Jack Davis, Carl W. Blegen professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Cincinnati in UC Magazine. “It’s a spectacular find.”

In a testament to the anonymous artist’s skills, it’s also worthy to note that magnifying glasses were not believed to be used for another thousand years. This ability and sophistication shows that the inhabitants of the area were creating art with an interest and knowledge of representational art not previously imagined. This new discovery, explained Davis and fellow dig leader Shari Stocker, is a catalyst to completely reevaluate the timeline and development of Greek art.