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Your bed or mine?

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

Archaeologists have found an old and interesting bed burial in an abandoned Macedonian mining village.

Mavropigi is a doomed village in western Macedonia, 500km northwest of Athens. You cannot see far from the now-deserted village, thanks to the thick dust from the nearby lignite (‘brown coal’) mine. Half-demolished houses, hungry stray dogs, and dilapidated churches are all that remains of the once-vibrant community. After the inhabitants were evacuated in 2011, archaeologists investigated the area, which has been occupied since early farmers settled there in about 6500 BC.

In 2019, the demolition of the last house in the village revealed an intact burial site dating to the late first century BC or the early 2nd century AD. Inside the grave lay a woman lying on a bed made of wood and bronze. The bronze was decorated with a mermaid’s head and a long-legged aquatic bird with a snake in its beak. Bed burials were commonplace in Hellenistic times, but this was the first one ever discovered with bronze adornment. The bed was 2m long, 90cm wide, and 40cm high, an imposing, and expensive piece of furniture. The woman was buried with an amphora and several vases, six perfume vials, and other valuable items. The mourners covered her mouth with a square gold plate and placed ten gold laurel leaves around her head, perhaps once a wreath. Gold threads around her right wrist may have been part of a richly decorated dress or robe.

This was no ordinary woman, but one with high economic and social standing. Archaeologist Areta Chondrogianni-Metoki points out that the laurel leaf was a symbol of Apollo, also the snake. The deceased may have been connected to the cult of Apollo. She was certainly an important person in the Hellenistic kingdom of Eordaea. whose history goes back to before 2000 BC.

Image: skeletal remains of the woman buried on the bronze and wood bed. Credit: AMNA

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