Image: 3,000-year-old tomb on Lefkada
AP
This partly demolished, 3,000-year-old tomb recently was discovered on the western Greek island of Lefkada. The tomb, which contained several human skeletons and grave offerings, was the first major Mycenaean-era monument to be found on the island.
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updated 3/5/2008 2:30:06 PM ET 2008-03-05T19:30:06

Road works on the western Greek island of Lefkada have uncovered — and partially destroyed — an important tomb with artifacts dating back more than 3,000 years, officials said on Wednesday.

The find is a miniature version of the large, opulent tombs built by the rulers of Greece during the Mycenaean era, which ended around 1100 B.C. Although dozens have been found in the mainland and on Crete, the underground, beehive-shaped monuments are very rare in the western Ionian Sea islands, and previously unknown on Lefkada.

The discovery could fuel debate on a major prehistoric puzzle — where the homeland of Homer's legendary hero Odysseus was located.

"This is a very important find for the area, because until now we had next to no evidence on Mycenaean presence on Lefkada," excavator Maria Stavropoulou-Gatsi told The Associated Press.

Stavropoulou-Gatsi said the tomb was unearthed about a month ago by a bulldozer, during road construction work.

"Unfortunately, the driver caused significant damage," she said.

She said the tomb contained several human skeletons, as well as smashed pottery, two seal stones, beads made of semiprecious stones, copper implements and clay loom weights. It appeared to have been plundered during antiquity.

With a diameter of 9 feet, the tomb is very small compared to others, such as the Tomb of Atreus in Mycenae, which was more than 46 feet across and built of stones weighing up to 120 tons.

But it could revive scholarly debate on the location of Odysseus' Ithaca mentioned in Homer's poems — which are believed to be loosely based on Mycenaean-era events. While the nearby island of Ithaki is generally identified as the hero's kingdom, other theories have proposed Lefkada or neighboring Kefallonia.

Stavropoulou-Gatsi said the discovery might cause excitement on Lefkada but it was too soon for any speculation on Odysseus.

"I think it is much too early to engage in such discussion. The location of Homer's Ithaca is a very complex issue," she said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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