Who was buried with Nestor's Cup? Macroscopic and microscopic analyses of the cremated remains from Tomb 168 (second half of the 8th century BCE, Pithekoussai, Ischia Island, Italy)

Melania Gigante, Alessia Nava, Robert R Paine, Ivana Fiore, Francesca Alhaique, Carmen Mariarosaria Esposito, Alessandra Sperduti, Jacopo Bonetto, Teresa Elena Cinquantaquattro, Bruno d'Agostino, Luca Bondioli

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Abstract

Cremation 168 from the second half of the 8th century BCE (Pithekoussai's necropolis, Ischia Island, Italy), better known as the Tomb of Nestor's Cup, is widely considered as one of the most intriguing discoveries in the Mediterranean Pre-Classic archaeology. A drinking cup, from which the Tomb's name derives, bears one of the earliest surviving examples of written Greek, representing the oldest Homeric poetry ever recovered. According to previous osteological analyses, the Cup is associated with the cremated remains of a juvenile, aged approximately 10-14 years at death. Since then, a vast body of literature has attempted to explain the unique association between the exceptionality of the grave good complex, the symposiac and erotic evocation of the Nestor's Cup inscription with the young age of the individual buried with it. This paper reconsiders previous assessments of the remains by combining gross morphology with qualitative histology and histomorphometric analyses of the burnt bone fragments. This work reveals the commingled nature of the bone assemblage, identifying for the first time, more than one human individual mixed with faunal remains. These outcomes dramatically change previous reconstructions of the cremation deposit, rewriting the answer to the question: who was buried with Nestor's Cup?
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0257368
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume16
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 06 Oct 2021

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