Dynasty of Priestesses
Greek archaeologists found an ancient skeleton covered with gold foil in a grave on the island of Crete. The woman, who presumably had a high social or religious status, was buried with a second skeleton in a large jar sealed with a stone slab weighing more than half a ton. It was hidden behind a false wall, to confuse grave robbers.
Excavator Nicholas Stampolidis said his team discovered more than 3,000 pieces of gold foil in the 7th-century B.C. twin grave near the ancient town of Eleutherna.
Gold crescent shaped pendant decorated with granulation repoussé technique. Two male warrior heads with helmets vividly appear in heraldic profile. Between the helmets, a thick gold disk may have used a stone inset.
The grave also contained a copper bowl; pottery; perfume bottles imported from Egypt or Syria and Palestine; hundreds of amber, rock crystal and faience beads; as well as a gold pendant in the form of a bee goddess that probably was part of a rock crystal and gold necklace.
"If you look at it one way up, it's shaped like a lily," said Stampolidis, a professor of archaeology at the University of Crete who has worked at Eleutherna for the 25 years. "Turned upside down, you see a female figure holding her breasts, whose lower body is shaped as a bee with wings. The workmanship is exquisite."
Amid the jewels was a crescent lion god gold pendant. The lion is a beloved theme on the famous bronze shields of the Idaean Cave and in the necropolis of Eleutherna.
The ruins of Eleutherna stand on the northern foothills of Mount Ida -- the mythical birthplace of Zeus, chief of the ancient Greek gods. Past excavations have discovered a citadel, homes and an important cemetery with lavish female burials.
The town flourished from the 9th century B.C. -- the dark ages of Greek archaeology that followed the fall of Crete's great Minoan palatial culture -- and endured until the Middle Ages.