Archaeology meets mythology in Mycenean Pylos

Clearing thick brush from a mound at his archaeological dig site in Pylos, Greece, Michael Cosmopoulos found a real-life palace dating back to the mythical Trojan War.

The palace is from the Mycenaean period (1600-1100 B.C.), famous for such mythical sagas as the Trojan War. It is thought to sit within one of the capital cities of King Nestor, a personality featured in the legends of the war.

Close-up of palace walls. Credit: University of Missouri-St.Louis

"We are thrilled, excited and fascinated at the prospect of continuing its excavation," said Cosmopoulos, the Hellenic Government-Karakas Family Foundation Endowed Professor in Greek Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "We have been searching for it since the dig started in 2006."

Other finds at the site include thousands of vases, frescoes, walls, figurines, drainage systems, offering tables and amulets.

"This is a unique site -- a place where archaeology meets ancient texts," Cosmopoulos said. "This discovery may change our perspective of how the first states were born. It appears that this was the seat of the chiefdom that was annexed by the earliest known state in Greece -- that of Mycenaean Pylos."

Pylos drain. Credit: University of Missouri-St Louis

The multi-year project is funded by UMSL, the National Endowment for the Humanities Institute for Aegean Prehistory and the Loeb Foundation. Cosmopoulos, who was born and raised in Athens, Greece, has been working at the site in Pylos since 1999 and brought the project to UMSL when he was hired in 2001.

Each year, Cosmopoulos and UMSL students work at the site as part of a field school he started there. This summer, some 65 students from UMSL and other American and Canadian universities, as well as 25 staff members, took part in the dig.

"This is such an amazing opportunity for the students and everyone who works on this," Cosmopoulos said. "We are thrilled to have made such a find and can't wait to uncover more."

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Source: University of Missouri-St Louis