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The Pylos Combat Agate

When archaeologists found a bead in a Greek grave, they put it aside. The unlooted burial from 1450 BC churned out better treasures, such as gold rings. The chamber was discovered in 2015 and was close to the ancient palace of Pylos.

Remarkably, the big bead proved to be one of the most jaw-dropping finds from the grave. A good cleaning in the laboratory revealed its true nature. It was a seal stone, a tool used to impress an image on a soft substance. Made of agate, it bore a three-man battle scene. It was done in striking detail, with some features so fine that the naked eye nearly missed them.

How and why the miniature was engraved on the hard gemstone, measuring 3.8 centimeters (1.5 in) long, is a mystery. It is difficult to imagine that this feat occurred without a magnifying device. But no such technology has ever been found on Crete, where researchers believe the masterpiece was made.

It was mounted to be worn like a wristwatch.

The Pylos Combat Agate is found in...

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