ATHENS (AFP/REUTERS) - US archaeologists in Greece have uncovered the skeleton of an ancient warrior that has lain undisturbed for more than 3,500 years along with a huge hoard of treasure, the Greek culture ministry announced Monday.
The treasure is "the most important to have been discovered in 65 years" in continental Greece, the ministry said.
The wooden coffin of the unknown soldier - evidently a person of some importance - was found on the site of the Mycenaean-era Palace of Nestor on Greece's Peloponnese peninsula.
He had been laid to rest with an array of fine gold jewellery, including an ornate string of pearls, signet rings, a bronze sword with a gold and ivory handle, silver vases and ivory combs, a chain, and gold and silver goblets.
More than 1,000 fragments of semi-precious stones have also been found in the tomb believed to date back to 1,500 B.C., the Greek Culture Ministry said.
The jewellery is decorated in the style of the Minoans, the civilisation that flourished on the island of Crete from around 2000 BC, with the figures of deities, animals and floral motifs.
The discovery was made by American archaeologists working in the Pylos region in the southwest Peloponnese this summer.
The archaeologists, Jack L Davis and Sharon R Stocker from the University of Cincinnati, have identified more than 1,400 pieces "whose quality testifies to the influence of the Minoans" on the later Mycenaeans.
The Mycenean civilisation spread from the Peloponnese across the whole of the eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd century BC.
The tomb, which stands at 2.4 metres long and 1.5 metres wide, was unearthed during excavations begun in May near Pylos, on the site of the palace of Nestor.
Built between 1300 and 1200 BC, the palace's ruins were discovered in 1939.
The jewellery and weapons are thought to have been used to surround the shroud, placed in a wooden casket, of a warrior aged 30 to 35, likely a prominent figure of his time in the early Mycenaean period, the ministry said.
"The placement of so many jewels at a man's grave also challenges the widely held conviction that jewels were mainly used in women's burials," the ministry quoted Mr Davis and Ms Stocker as saying.
The Ministry said: "It is the most impressive display of prehistoric funerary wealth in mainland Greece which has come to light in the past 65 years."