The mystery of the Greek tomb in Ischia gets more and more fascinating

The history of Nestor's Cup, among the oldest examples of written Greek, has been rewritten. What we knew about the Cup of Nestor in Ischia is false.

The oldest Greek settlement in Italy has been traced back to the first half of the eighth century BC. (770 BC precisely). It is Pithecusa, or Pitecussa, discovered on the current island of Ischia: here merchants, mostly Greeks, lived together with Etruscan and Phoenician settlers in what at some point in its history assumed the profile of a multi-ethnic emporium.

Between the ruins of Pitecussa, archaeologists have unearthed a necropolis that houses 1300 tombs and hides at least one mystery. The latter is represented by the Cup of Nestor.

What do we know about the Cup of Nestor, mysterious and ancient funerary urn

Some recent findings, analyzed in the open access journal PLOS ONE, have established that, inside the Greek urn, there would be the remains not only of one, but rather 3 people. In what has all the appearance of a cocktail of ashes, then, would be finished also some dogs and goats.

It is therefore rewritten the thesis that would like the presence, inside the decorated container, of the remains of a single person aged between 10 and 14 years, presumably an individual of a certain social importance. Regarding the little boy, however, the previous examination was not wrong. The three people cremated and deposited in the funerary vessel in fact died at 3 different stages of their lives, and one of those deposited in the urn was actually a few years old at the time of his demise.

The study reads, "These results drastically change previous reconstructions of the cremation deposit, rewriting the answer to the question: who was buried with the Cup of Nestor?"

Of the 195 bone fragments examined by researchers from the University of Padua and La Sapienza University of Rome, only 130 were human, while 45 belonged to animals that may have had a nutritional or companionship function with respect to the dead.

The Cup of Nestor is an artifact of boundless importance: it bears on its surface one of the oldest examples of written Greek at our disposal.

Everything we still don't know about the Greek vase containing the ashes

Paradoxically, the new evidence thickens the mystery: what were the names of the deceased? And how old were they, exactly, at the time of cremation? Why was it decided to put them in the bowl at the time of burial? They are still unanswered questions.

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Giuseppe Giordano