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Buried in bed, loyal to Apollo

Skeleton of woman found lying on bronze bed, Greece.

A middle-aged woman buried on her bed during the 1st century BC was recently uncovered in a lignite mine in Eordea in northern Greece. Her bed was decorated with symbols associated with the god Apollo. We’ve long known that people were buried in their beds in Greece and items associated with such interments have long been known. But this is the first example of an actual bed burial to come to light in an excavation.

The owner of the bed must have been wealthy, for it was fabricated from bronze. This made it possible for archaeologist Areti Chondrogianni-Metoki and her colleagues to reconstruct it in its entirety, the wooden parts having long decomposed.

The deceased was clearly an individual of wealth and status, possibly with royal associations. She lay on a strongly constructed bed with legs, in itself often a sign of status. The base was formed by eight wooden slats, while the ends were decorated with the heads of mermaids. The top of the bedstead bears a symbol of a waterfowl holding a snake in its mouth, a well-known tribute to Apollo. Ancient myths told of the god slaying the snake at Delphi, a deed which saved the world. The woman wore golden laurel leaves around her head, laurel trees being sacred to the deity. A sanctuary to Apollo survives in nearby Mavropigi.

Ongoing research will hopefully confirm her age and sex and perhaps establish the cause of death. A reconstruction of the bed will be exhibited in the local archaeological museum, and is also shown on our Instagram feed @archaeologyworldwide. For in-depth stories, read Archaeology Worldwide magazine.

Image: Skeletal remains of woman buried in bronze bed, 1st century BC.

Credit: ANA-MPA

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