The so-called 'Battle krater' on Monday became the latest and one of the more significant artifacts to emerge from the storerooms of Athens' National Archaeological Musem and go on public display in the context of the 'Unseen Museum' programme.
The large silver vessel seen by the general public for the first time was discovered in the tomb of a prince during excavations carried out by Heinrich and Sophie Schliemann in Mycenae, in 1876. The find was made in the royal tombs within Grave Circle A, where both objects and funeral rites dating back to the 16th century B.C. and previously entirely unknown to archaeologists were discovered.
In addition to its great archaeological value, the vessel also had an unusual history after its discovery. Unlike other Grave Circle A finds like the golden 'Nestor's Cup' that was inside the krater, or other gold and silver cups that became famous permanent exhibits of the museum's collection, the silver sheets of the battle krater were catalogued and remained permanently in the storerooms, their real significance undiscovered.
Their secret was unlocked by the archaeologist Agni Xenaki-Sakellariou and the museum's curator of the time, Christos Karouzos, almost 100 years later in the 1960s. With the help of an artist and museum restorers, the largest surviving silver artifact dating back to the Mycenean era was reconstructed and its engraved depiction of a battle between two rival sets of warriors was restored.
The two groups can be distinguished by the different shields they bear, with four fighting against four while one warrior has fallen heroically between them in battle.
The transfer of the krater to the Hall of the Altar, where it will remain on display until September 25, was carried out in the presence of Culture and Sports Minister Aristidis Baltas, who was also shown around the storerooms. On August 7 and 28 and on September 16 and 25, museum archaeologists will be on hand in the Hall of the Altar at 13:00 in order to greet visitors and talk about the artifact itself, as well as the rich variety of other grave goods interred alongside it, with that same early Mycenean-era prince.