Greek Farmer’s Mind-Blowing 3,400-year-old Discovery
An Unusual Discovery
Imagine this: it’s a beautiful summer’s day. The sun is shining, the cicadas are chirping, and you’re just pulling into your driveway after a long day. As you park your car, you notice some of the ground begins to crumble, revealing an unusual hole in the ground beneath your trees. You get out to investigate and see that it isn't just a normal pothole. Something very special lies beneath... This was a very recent reality for one Greek farmer! Read on to discover what happened when he stumbled across something very unusual right below an olive grove.
What on Earth?...
One afternoon in an olive grove in Rousses, a farmer made a phenomenal discovery. The man was just north of Kentri to the southeast of Crete, which is a Greek Island known for its incredible history and stunning seaside location. The farmer was returning home for the day and began to park his car under in an olive grove, making sure that the vehicle was in a nice shady spot. There had been nothing unusual about the day, but suddenly the ground beneath seemed to give way a little. What happened next will surprise you!
The Crete man quickly manoeuvered his car away from the patch of earth and got out to inspect the unstable piece of ground. As he watched, the dirt began to give way to reveal a pit at least six foot deep in his very own garden. But why did the earth just fall away like this? Our farmer was utterly bamboozled. Nothing like this had ever happened before! What could have caused such an enormous hole to suddenly spring up out of nowhere?
Getting to the Bottom of the Mystery
It was difficult to see through the dirt and rubble, but he could see that there was clearly something curious at the bottom of the pit. However, there was one problem: the hole was very deep, and he knew it probably wasn’t safe for him to go down there alone. The farmer remained curious, however, and wanted to know what on earth (or under the earth, rather!) was going on. He decided to make some phone calls.
Greece has been an exciting location for classicists, archaeologists, and historians for a very long time. There had not been very many discoveries of ancient artifacts around the farmer’s town in Kentri. For this reason, there were very few researchers around that the farmer knew to call upon. But he was determined to find out what it was at the bottom of the mysterious hole in his backyard and managed to find some archaeologists who could help.
A Bronze Age Discovery
As he spoke to the archaeologists on the phone, they grew more and more excited as he told them the story. They asked him frenzied questions, getting him to repeat himself as if they couldn’t believe what he had found. The farmer remained puzzled - what was underneath his garden that had these researchers so worked up? Could it be that he had accidentally unearthed something extremely rare? He was about to find out!
Theseus and the Minotaur
Some researchers have speculated that earthquakes may have caused damage to palatial structures, which is why they had to be rebuilt. Nonetheless, one of the most famous places on Crete was about an hour’s drive from our Kentri farmer’s house the palace of Knossos. Knossos is one of the oldest historical sites in all of Europe, and legend has it that King Minos lived there. King Minos kept his son, a Minotaur (half-man, half-bull) a kind of maze called a labyrinth, where they sent the beast human sacrifices. Eek! We're glad we weren't characters in Greek mythology.
The Greek hero Theseus fought the Minotaur to free the people who were sent to be sacrificed. Ariadne, who was the King’s daughter, helped Theseus to get in and out of the labyrinth safely. The hero won the fight against the Minotaur, and Ariadne and Theseus then fled the angry king. According to Greek myth, all of this happened right there, at Knossos, on the same island where the Greek farmer lived! In the Minoan period, the palace of Knossos measured around three acres in size - and that was the main building alone! Talk about luxury. But all this was all about to change for the citizens of the sea empire.
Of course, there are volcanoes on the island of Santorini, which is nearby Crete. At the time of the Minoans, Santorini was called Thera. While many of Thera’s volcanoes are extinct now, this was not so in ancient times. In around 1628 BC, the volcano of Thera erupted. But this was no ordinary eruption! It just so happens that the Theran eruption was one of the biggest in recorded history. Can you guess what kind of impact that had on the Minoans in the Greek islands? It was terrible news, indeed. The Minoan empire, which had been so prosperous, was suddenly fragile. The Mycenaeans took advantage of this, and by the time 1450 BC rolled around, they had taken over.
The Mycenaeans became the dominant power in the Greek Islands and even occupied the palace of Knossos, which had once been the center of Minoan civilization. So what does all this have to do with a farmer? You will recall that his house was on the island of Crete. Most of the Minoan ruins and artifacts have been found closer to Knossos, on the other side of the island from this man’s house. When he rang the archaeologists, he wondered if they believed him or not. Because the eruption and the Mycenaeans had wiped out a lot of Minoan historical remnants, it was unusual for new artifacts to be found in such a place. The researchers had suspected something fascinating…
The Mystery Unfolds...
In Crete, it is against the law not to report ancient discoveries to the local Ministry of Heritage. The farmer knew this and had been in touch with the Lassithi Ephorate of Antiquities to report the contents of the unusual hole in the olive grove. The ministry must have also been excited about what was in the pit, as a team of archaeologists and other experts from the University of Athens were sent immediately. No one could wait to see what was down there.
The researchers were sure to secure the site to protect the new discovery, and their team started the process of excavating the site. They would finally find out what lay beneath the earth! Everyone was exhilarated. Photos were taken of the site and uploaded to a digital laboratory throughout the process so that researchers could document the find. The deeper they got into the pit, the clearer it became that this was a very unusual discovery.
A 3,400-Year-Old Find
It turns out that the strange pit in the ground in a small Kentri olive grove wasn’t just any old hole. It was larger than they had anticipated, measuring four feet across and eight feet deep. The excavation had revealed a hidden tomb! What was even more exciting was that it had been sealed back when the Minoan empire had still been intact - over 3,400 years ago! Can you believe it? The researchers had questioned the farmer so intently because most of the remains of the Minoan sea empire had been found in the lowlands of Crete, not higher up in the mountains of Kentri.
So what were the objects that the Kentri man had spotted at the bottom of this tomb? To begin with, there were two decorative chests covered in ancient Minoan patterns. These drawings were similar to Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and depicted ceremonies, sea creatures, and hunting traditions. According to National Geographic, the Minoans also were keen traders and often made deals with the Egyptians, as well as with places as far as Syria and Italy. Nonetheless, inside the two clay boxes, called “larnakes,” were the remains of two men. But there were also other treasures inside the tomb.
The Tomb for VIPs
The farmer was awestruck. He could not believe that these incredible things had been buried underneath his garden for so long! As the researchers pulled more items from the tomb, he watched on in amazement. In addition to the two larnakes, there were also 14 pieces of Ancient Greek pottery. Those who have brushed up on their history lessons know that an important kind of pottery in Greece was the amphora. The word itself means “to carry on both sides” due to the two handles on the vases, and they were used widely.
Wine, oil, olives, and other dry goods and liquids were often kept in these amphorae. The particular vases inside the Kentri tomb were of very high quality and gave the experts an idea of who the men inside the larnakes might be. Because the tomb was so large, and the amphorae so beautiful, the researchers speculated that the two men buried there must have been fairly wealthy. Bigger tombs had been discovered elsewhere in Crete, so it was clear that they were not royalty. All the same, these two had been important figures in some way.
An Explosive Discovery
You will recall that it was a volcano that brought about the end of Minoan civilization over three thousand years ago in Crete and its surrounding islands. It is thought that the eruption had also caused a tsunami as the volcano’s cone collapsed. This tidal wave wiped out Santorini, which is why the island is shaped like it is today. Researchers think that the waves that came along with the pyroclastic flow may have reached up to 28 meters around Northern Crete. The eruption also showered pumice and other volcanic debris down onto the surrounding islands. What’s more, is that violent earthquakes often accompany a geothermal event of this kind.
Entire towns were destroyed by these natural disasters, and this is why Minoan artifacts have been rare in certain parts of Greece. The enormous eruption devastated the coastal sea empire based around the Greek Islands, and so the farmer from Kentri had accidentally stumbled across some very significant history. It turns out that an irrigation pipe in the olive grove had leaked and loosened the soil. Had the pipe worked the way it should, we wouldn't have this awesome find!
Imagine the chances! While little else is known about the unusual Minoan discovery in Kentri, researchers at the University of Athens are continuing to examine the artifacts to find out what other information they might give us. Isn’t it exciting, though? It just goes to show that no matter who you are or what you do, there is always the possibility of a fascinating new discovery right around the corner! If you enjoyed the curious tale of the Kentri farmer and the Minoan tomb, you might also like some of our other articles!