Some of humanity’s greatest discoveries happen by accident. Indeed, bog workers have uncovered ancient men preserved in peat and rug designers have found ancient villas while re-carpeting their homes. Then, there’s this Greek olive farmer.
In the summer of 2018, the unidentified farmer was caring for olive trees on his property when he accidentally uncovered something in the soil. But when he called in the experts, they confirmed his discovery answered a long-debated question about the history of Greece…
In the early summer of 2018, a Greek farmer from the small village in Crete parked his truck beneath an olive tree on his land. Before he could even undo his seat belt, however, the truck shifted awkwardly in the soil.
So the farmer backed his truck up, looking to see what caused the truck to shift (and probably a new parking spot)! Right where his front tire had been was a hole about four feet wide. Where did that come from?
By the looks of it, a broken irrigation pipe — plus the water-saturated olive trees — softened the soil where he parked his truck, making it collapse under its weight. Curious, the farmer crawled to the edge of the hole and looked in.
First, he saw darkness. But then, as his eyes adjusted and light flooded in from the summer day above ground, he realized he was looking at “something important.” The cavern below, carved into the limestone, sank eight feet into the ground.
The farmer reached out to the local heritage ministry Lassithi Ephorate of Antiquities, which sent out a team of archaeologists to study the accidentally unearthed underground cavern. They went to work, trying to understand the farmer’s find…
It didn’t take long for experts to realize that the farmer — near Ierapetra in southeast Crete — uncovered a tomb. Three niches accessible by a vertical trench had been carved into the chamber. Then, they noticed its contents.
In one niche, archaeologists found a coffin with a male skeleton inside. Scattered about were a dozen or so clay vessels — containers for liquids or foodstuffs such as grain. But these were not the only artifacts hidden away in the tomb.
In another chamber, the team uncovered a second clay coffin also containing a skeleton presumed to be male. He, too, was buried with a dozen or so colorful pots, which the archaeologists inspected to answer the question burning in all of their minds…
Who were these men? the archeologists wondered. Were they local landowners? Wealthy nobles? Heroes of their small village? Examining the design and quality of the pots would hopefully provide the answers they sought.
The first thing they noticed? These pots and vessels were nice — not the type of thing a poor villager would own. High-quality pottery indicated they were very wealthy men, but other details about the pottery suggested otherwise.
See, according to the archeologist’s statement, “the ceramic typology [says] the tomb can be dated to the Late Minoan IIIA-B period, approximately from 1400 to 1200 BC.” These people — who lived 3,500 years ago — had another burial ritual for the wealthy…
Before the Minoan people were wiped out by outsiders who preyed on them after natural disaster weakened their civilization, they developed into a surprisingly affluent society. Impressive art, ceramics, and lavish tombs abounded.
In fact, the late Minoans — living in a time period archaeologists called Late Palace Period— often buried their nobles in a tomb called a tholos, a massive beehive-looking structure with domed walls. Meaning?
Even a blind man could see the men in the Crete tombs were not buried in beehive structures, leading archaeologists to believe that the men were wealthy, but not crazy-rich village lords. Still, they hoped they’d help solve some long-standing mysteries.
See, the skeletons, archaeologists noted, had been completely untouched since the time they’d been buried, as evidence indicated that the tomb was never found by grave robbers. Once the men were sealed up, they stayed that way for 3,500 years!
The archaeologists removed the skeletons from their coffins and returned them to the lab for further study. While this would take some time, experts hoped the skeletons would shed light on the origins of the Minoan people.
Indeed, these bones were a rare find, even in history-rich Greece. Though this was the only tomb uncovered in the nearby area, experts here often uncovered antiques (and usually by accident)! Still, this find settled a long debate.
“We are particularly pleased with this great archaeological find as it is expected to further enhance our culture and history,” said the deputy mayor of Local Communities, Agrarian, and Tourism of Ierapetra, Argyris Pantazis. He continued…
Paul / flickr
Finding these men, Argyris said, “is also a response to all those who doubt that there were Minoans in Ierapetra” — the little section of Crete where the tombs were found — “This is a great day for Ierapetra!”
Yep, on that warm summer day in 2018, a farmer just parking his truck uncovered a piece of history — and maybe helped change our understanding of it for good. It makes you wonder: what other artifacts are waiting to be found?