Treasure and in particular gold has always been the ultimate archaeological find in popular fiction. In reality, archaeologists are happier to find more mundane things, which will give them insight in what their lives were like, such as what people ate, or what they traded with whom.
Yet, occasionally, the archaeologists trowel does indeed strike gold; the press is enthralled, the public’s imagination is captured and countless impressiolable young people make up their minds to study archaeology.
Such finds are rare indeed, as a mere rumour of gold is enough to keep generations of looters digging on a site, and, once found, gold vanishes from the site (as well as from the historic and archaeological record).
Nevertheless, the legend of “Golden Mycenai” was found to be based on fact, when in the late 19th century, archaeologists unearthed undreamed-of golden artefacts in the graves of Mycenai. Dating from as early as the 16th century BCE, crowns and diadems, jewellery, pins and golden decorations that were probably sewn on clothing, even inlays in swords and daggers, all speak of a rich and powerful ruling class, not to mention a long artistic tradition that produced works of excellent craftsmanship.
These 36-century-old signs of conspicuous consumptions, as well as many other finds, ranging from the stone age to the cusp of the middle ages, are on display at the National Archaeological Museum, a veritable treasure trove of Greek art, which houses many a masterpiece.