Nichlas Wade in The New York Times:
Two years ago, archaeologists excavating an ancient grave at Pylos in southwestern Greece pulled out a grime-encrusted object, less than an inch and half long, that looked like some kind of large bead. They put it aside to focus on more prominent items, like gold rings, that also were packed into the rich grave. But later, as a conservator removed the lime accretions on the bead’s face, it turned out to be something quite different: a seal stone, a gemstone engraved with a design that can be stamped on clay or wax.
The seal stone’s image, a striking depiction of one warrior in battle with two others, is carved in remarkably fine detail, with some features that are barely visible to the naked eye. The image is easier to appreciate in a large-scale drawing of the original. “The detail is astonishing, especially given the size. Aesthetically, it’s a masterpiece of miniature art,” said John Bennet, director of the British School at Athens, an archaeological institute. “The stunning combat scene on the seal stone, one of the greatest masterpieces of Aegean art, bears comparison with some of the drawings in the Michelangelo show now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” said Malcolm H. Wiener, an expert on Aegean prehistory and a trustee emeritus of the Met. The seal stone comes from an untouched shaft grave near the ancient palace of Pylos. The grave was discovered in May 2015 by Jack L. Davis and Sharon R. Stocker, archaeologists at the University of Cincinnati who had been digging at Pylos for more than 25 years. “It was after cleaning, during the process of drawing and photography, that our excitement slowly rose as we gradually came to realize that we had unearthed a masterpiece,” they wrote in the journal Hesperia.