(c. 1600 BC – c. 1100 BC) is a cultural
period of Ancient Greece taking its
name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in
northeastern Argolis, in the
Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also
important Mycenaean sites.
The last phase of the Bronze Age
in Ancient Greece
, it is the historical
setting of much ancient Greek
Quite unlike the Minoans
, whose society
benefited from trade, the Mycenaeans advanced through
Principal Mycenaean sites in Greece
(site names in French)
The Mycenaean civilization flourished during the period roughly
between 1600 BC, when Helladic
mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete,
and 1100 BC, when it perished with the collapse of Bronze-Age civilization
the eastern Mediterranean. The collapse is commonly attributed to
the Dorian invasion
, although other
theories describing natural disasters and climate change have been
advanced as well. The major Mycenaean cities were Mycenae and Tiryns in Argolis,
Pylos in Messenia, Athens in Attica,
Thebes and Orchomenus in Boeotia, and Iolkos in
Thessaly. In Crete, the
Mycenaeans occupied Knossos.
addition there were some sites of importance for cult, such as Lerna, typically
in the form of house sanctuaries, for the Mycenaeans did not build
free-standing temples of the familiar kind.
settlement sites also appeared in Epirus
islands in the Aegean, on the coast of Asia Minor, and then in
Cyprus. Mycenaean artifacts with Linear B inscriptions have been also found as far
away as Germany and
Mycenaean swords as far away as Georgia in the Caucasus.
Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy
. Around 1400 BC, the Mycenaeans
extended their control to Crete,
center of the Minoan
, and adopted a form of the Minoan script (called
) to write their early form of
did the Mycenaeans defeat the Minoans, but according to later
Hellenic legend they defeated Troy, presented
in epic as a city-state that rivaled
Mycenae in power.
Because the only evidence for the
conquests is Homer's Iliad
texts steeped in mythology, the existence of Troy
historicity of the Trojan War
uncertain. In 1876, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann uncovered ruins at
Hissarlik in western Asia Minor
(modern-day Turkey) that he
claimed were those of Troy.
Some sources claim these ruins
do not match well with Homer's account of Troy, but others
The Mycenaeans buried their nobles in beehive tombs
), large circular
burial chambers with a high vaulted roof and a straight entry
passage lined with stone. They often buried daggers or some other
form of military equipment with the deceased. The nobility were
frequently buried with gold masks, tiaras, armor, and jeweled
weapons. Mycenaeans were buried in a sitting position, and some of
the nobility underwent mummification
were not buried but cremated
, in Iron-Age fashion, and honoured with
gold urns instead of gold masks.
No Mycenaean priestly class has yet been identified. Worshiper and
worshiped are identified in seals, rings and votive figures through
their gestures: worshipers fold their arms, or raise the right arm
in greeting, or place a hand on the forehead. Deities lift both
arms in the "epiphany gesture" or reach forward to give or receive.
The pantheon of Mycenaean deities has been reassembled from
inscriptions in Linear B found at Pylos and at post-palatial
Mycenaean Knossos in Crete. Some of the deities' names are
recognizably present in the Olympic pantheon of written myth.
Others are not: Ares, for example, is represented only as "Enyalios
" which was retained as an epithet
. Apollo may be recognized at Knossos as
"). Far more prominent are
A-TA-NA PO-TI-NI-JA (Athena Potnia
"Athena the Mistress"), E-RE-U-TI-JA (Eileithyia
, later merely invoked during
, and Poseidon
, already the "Earth-Shaker", either with
his consort Poseida, who was not retained in the transition to
Classical Greece, or, at Pylos, with the "Two Goddesses",
. The Erinyes
Furies are already present, as are the Winds.
Mycenaean frescoes have been discovered in palace contexts, notably
at Pylos, Mycenae, Orchomenos, Thebes, and Tiryns, and in a few
non-palatial, perhaps privately-owned contexts. The earliest fresco
decorations are of the LH IIA
(ca. 1500 BC). The subjects hold tenaciously to Minoan
traditions, whether directly derived or through Cycladic intervention, and have in some cases been reduced
to decorative formulas, embodying themes appropriate to their
locations: lions and wingless griffins in audience chambers,
processional figures in corridors, etc. In a change from the Minoan
delight in the life of animals, the Mycenaean relation to nature is
reflected in their depictions of animals which are shown only in
relation to man or as victims of the hunt.
fresco panels appear at Mycenae and at Tiryns.
Around 1100 BC, the Mycenaean civilization collapsed. Numerous cities were
sacked, and the region entered what historians describe as a
dark age for its lack of
inscriptions, with some Mycenaeans fleeing to Cyprus as well as
other Greek islands and coastal parts of Anatolia.
During this period Greece experienced
and the limited
literacy, connected with bureaucrats of palace culture,
disappeared. Historians have traditionally blamed this decline on
an invasion or uprising by another wave of Greek people, the
, who may have been a subjugated
local people. Alternate
theories for the decline
also include natural disasters such as
a series of earthquakes or large-scale drought, although these
recent theories are more controversial.
From a chronological perspective, the Late Helladic period
(LH, 1550-1060 BC)– is
the time when Mycenaean Greece flourished under new influences from
Minoan Crete and the Cyclades. Those who made LH pottery sometimes
inscribed their work in Linear B
syllabic script recognizable as a form of Greek
. LH is divided into
I, II, and III; of which I and II overlap Late Minoan
ware and III overtakes it. LH III is
further subdivided into IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.
LH pottery typically stored such goods as olive oil and wine.
had reached Santorini just before the Thera eruption.
LHIIB began during LMIB, and has been found
in Egypt during the reign of Tuthmosis
. LHIIB spanned the LMIB/LMII destruction on Crete, which is
associated with the Greek takeover of the island.
LHIIIA:1 corresponds with the reign of Amenhotep III, who recorded
as part of tj-n3-jj
the apparently equal cities
(*Thegwas, Thebes) and m-w-k-i-n-u
(*Mukana, Mycenae). LHIIIA:1 also corresponds with the time of
Attarsiya, the Man of Ahhiya, who alternately attacked and aided
the rebel Madduwatta
"Ahhiya" and its LHIIIA:2-B derivative, "Ahhiyawa", can be linked
to Greece only indirectly. The Hittites did not use any term
; and they did not link "Ahhiya[wa]"
to *Thegwas, *Mukana, or any other projected LBA names of known
Greek cities. Also, no "Attarsiyas layer" of LHIIIA:1 has yet been
found in western Anatolia. Still, Ahhiya must refer to a powerful
people off the coast of Miletus, and Greece is the best available
option at this time.
/ "Ahhiya" (and for that matter
LHIIIA:1 Greece) did not feature otherwise in the inscriptions of
the great kings of the Bronze Age, and certainly not as a coherent
ware was in the Uluburun shipwreck, and was in use at Miletus before Mursili II burned
it ca 1320 BC.
At this time, actual maritime trade
was the specialty of the Cypriots and Phoenicians (so the presence
of LH ware does not necessarily mean the presence of
During the LHIIIA:2 period, kings of "Ahhiyawa" began to come to
the attention of the Hittites, possibly as rulers of the "Achaean"
states. In LHIIIB, they rose almost to the status of the Great
Kings in Egypt and Assyria. LHIIIB is also the period of Linear B
script at the mainland palaces; prior to then, Linear B was in use
primarily in the Cyclades and Crete.Minoians contribuated to the
myceneans.The term "Submycenaean" was introduced in 1934 by T. C.
Skeat. but this is now regarded as a pottery style rather than a
distinct period. Current opinion sees this style as the final stage
of Late Helladic IIIC (and perhaps not even a very significant
one). Arne Furumark already termed it LHIIIC:2 in his monumental
"Mycenaean Pottery: Analysis and Classification" (Stockholm 1941).
pottery is best known from the cemeteries of Kerameikos in Athens, the island of Salamis located in the Saronic Gulf off Attica, Skoubris in
Lefkandi (Euboea), and the
markets of Athens (Agora), Tiryns, and Mycenae.
Since the decipherment of the somewhat younger Linear B tablets, it
is thought that the people called Mycenaeans
or later subjected by them.
No written source found at a Mycenaean site reveals what they
called themselves. Upon a reading of the Iliad
, where the
residents of the Peloponnesus and adjacent islands are often called
, and taking into account mention of the
in Hittite sources from the Late Bronze Age, the
theory suggests itself that the Mycenaeans could possibly even be
. The Tawagalawa Letter written by an
unnamed Hittite king of the empire period
(14th-13th century B.C.) to the king of Ahhiyawa, treating
him as an equal, suggests that Miletus (Millawanda) was under his control and
refers to an earlier "Wilusa episode" involving hostility
on the part of Ahhiyawa. Ahhiya(wa) has been
identified with the Achaeans of the Trojan
War and the city of Wilusa with the legendary city of Troy.
However the exact relationship of the term Ahhiyawa
Achaeans beyond a similarity in pronunciation is hotly debated by
scholars, even following the discovery that Mycenaean Linear B
is an early form of Greek; the earlier
debate was summed up in 1984 by Hans G. Güterbock
of the Oriental
In the absence of direct sources, the general political
organization of the Mycenaean world cannot be known with certainty.
In the tradition recorded centuries later in Homer, there were
several states, the cities of the Iliad
: Mycenae, Pylos,
Orchomenos— which are known to archeology— and perhaps also
unconfirmed Sparta or Ithaca. Only the states of Pylos and Knossos
are clearly attested in the Linear B texts. Even so, it is
impossible to know which was the dominant political center in
Argolis, if there indeed was one: Mycenae, Tiryns, or Argos?
of Athens, the fortified location at Gla, and
Connection of the mention of a King of the Ahhiyawa
Hittite sources with the King of the Achaeans
Mycenaean king Agamemnon of the Iliad
, rests on the
insecure foundations of an Ahhiyawa/Achaean identity; the very
location of the Ahhiyawa kingdom remains a matter for debate: Asia
Minor, Rhodes, Peloponesus?
States of Pylos and Knossos
smaller scale, some uncertain information about the internal
organization of the best-known kingdoms, Pylos and Knossos, can be gleaned from sources in Linear
The state appears to have been ruled by a king, the
(ϝάναξ / wánax
), whose role was no doubt
military, judicial, and religious. He is identifiable in the
(ἄναξ) ("divine lord, sovereign, host"). Nine
occurrences of the word in texts having to do with offerings
suggest that the sovereigns of Pylos and Knossos were worshiped.
However, in Homer the word can also designate a deity.
The king was assisted by the ra-wa-ke-ta
), no doubt the leader of the army. He and the
king each possessed a landed estate, the te-me-no
). Other dignitaries were the te-re-ta
), who appear in the texts as landowners. They
perhaps exercised a religious function. The e-qe-ta
), literally, the companions
), formed the entourage of the king. These were the
Besides the members of the court, there were other dignitaries in
charge of local territorial administration. The kingdom of Pylos
was divided into two great provinces, the de-we-ra
, the near province, and the
, the far province, around the town of
. The kingdom was further subdivided into
seven districts, then into a number of communes. To manage these
districts, the king named a ko-re-te
) and a po-ro-ko-re-te
, vice governor
, one who takes care of
), in charge of the commune, the da-mo
, cf. δῆμος / dễmos
), and a
(cf. βασιλεύς / basileús
responsibility at the communal level. Their roles are not precisely
known; it seems they chaired a council of elders, the
(cf. γερουσία / gerousía
). It is,
incidentally, interesting to note that in Classical Greece, the
is the king, the monarch, as if between the
disintegration of Mycenaean society and the Classical Age no higher
authority survived — de facto
, and then, over the
generations, de jure
— than the communal official.
Mycenaean society appears to have been divided into two groups of
free men: the king's entourage, who conducted administrative duties
at the palace, and the people, da-mo
lived at the commune level; these last were watched over by royal
agents and were obliged to perform duties for and pay taxes to the
Among those who evolved in the palace setting could be found
well-to-do high officials who probably lived in the vast residences
found in proximity to Mycenaean palaces, but also others, tied by
their work to the palace and not necessarily better off than the
members of the da-mo
: craftsmen, farmers, and perhaps
merchants, to name a few. On a lower rung of the social ladder were
found the slaves, do-e-ro
(masculine) and do-e-ra
(feminine) (cf. δούλος / doúlos
). These are recorded in
the texts as working either for the palace or for specific
By the close of the Bronze Age (up to Late Helladic IIIC) contacts
between the Aegean and its neighbours were well established.
Mycenaean pottery, for example, has been found in Sardinia,
Southern Italy and Sicily,, Asia Minor (at the settlement of
Milawatta (modern Miletus), high-quality Palace style and Mycenaean
ceramics have been recovered.), Cyprus, Syria-Palestine and Egypt
(Especially Tell el Amarna ). The circulation of goods and produce
between centres are attested in Linear B records, though evidence
of direct exchange is not.
The economic organization of the Mycenaean kingdoms known from the
texts seems to have been bipartite: a first group worked in the
orbit of the palace, while another was self-employed. This reflects
the societal structure seen above. But there was nothing to prevent
a person working for the palace from running his own
The economy was supervised by scribes, who made note of incoming
and outgoing products, assigned work, and were in charge of the
distribution of rations. The du-ma-te
seems to have been a
sort of supervising quartermaster.
The territory of the Mycenaean kingdoms of Pylos and Knossos was
divided into two parts: the ki-ti-me-na
, the palace land,
and the ke-ke-me-na
, the communal land, cultivated by
those the texts call ka-ma-na-e-we
, undoubtedly the
. The palace lands are those attested in the texts.
One part makes up the te-me-no
of the wa-ka-na
and of the ra-wa-ge-ta
, as seen above. The other part was
granted as a perquisite to members of the palace administration.
These lands might be worked by slaves or by free men to whom the
land had been leased.
Agricultural production in these kingdoms reflected the traditional
"Mediterranean trilogy": grain, olives, and grapes. The grains
cultivated were wheat
planted for the production of olive oil. This was not only a
foodstuff, it was much used as a body oil and in perfume
cultivated, and several varieties of wine were produced. Besides
was grown for linen
clothing and sesame for its oil, and trees were
planted, such as the fig
Livestock consisted primarily of sheep and goats. Cows and pigs
were less common. Horses were kept chiefly for the pulling of
chariots in battle.
Gold earring, circa 1600 BCE, Louvre
The organization of artisanal labor is especially well known in the
case of the palace. The archives of Pylos show a specialized
workforce, each worker belonging to a precise category and assigned
to a specific place in the stages of production, notably in
The textile industry was one of the principal sectors of the
Mycenaean economy. The tablets of Knossos reveal the entire chain
of production, from the flocks of sheep to the stocking of the
palace storerooms with the finished product, through the shearing
and the sorting of the wool in the workshops, as well as working
conditions in those workshops. The palace of Pylos employed around
550 textile workers. At Knossos there were some 900. Fifteen
different textile specialties have been identified. Next to wool,
flax was the fiber most used.
The metallurgical industry is well attested at Pylos, where 400
workers were employed. It is known from the sources that metal was
distributed to them, that they might carry out the required work:
on average, 3.5 kilograms
) of bronze per smith. On the other hand, it
is not known how they were paid — they are mysteriously absent in
the ration distribution lists. At Knossos, several tablets testify
to the making of swords, but with no mention of the true industry
The industry of perfumery is attested as well. Tablets describe the
making of perfumed oil. It is known, too, from the archaeology that
the workers attached to the palace included other kinds of
artisans: goldsmiths, ivory-carvers, stonecarvers, and potters, for
example. Olive oil was also made there. Certain areas of endeavor
were turned toward export.
Commerce remains curiously absent from the written sources. Thus,
once the perfumed oil of Pylos has been stored in its little jars,
the inscriptions do not reveal what became of it. Large stirrup
jars that once contained oil have been found at Thebes, in Boeotia.
They carry inscriptions in Linear B indicating their place of
origin, western Crete. However, Cretan tablets breathe not a word
about the exportation of oil. There is little information about the
distribution route of textiles. It is known that the Minoans
exported fine fabrics to Egypt; the Mycenaeans no doubt did the
same. Indeed, it is probable that they borrowed knowledge of
navigational matters from the Minoans, as is evidenced by the fact
that their maritime commerce did not take off until after the
founding of the Minoan civilization. Despite the lack of sources,
it is probable that certain products, notably fabrics and oil, even
metal objects, were meant to be sold outside the kingdom, for they
were made in quantities too great to be consumed solely at
Archaeology can, however, shed some light on the matter of the
exportation of Mycenaean products outside of Greece. A number of vases
have been found in the Aegean, in Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt and also
farther west in Sicily, even in Central
Europe and as far away as Great Britain.
In a general way, the circulation of
Mycenaean goods is traceable thanks to nodules
of the modern label. They consisted of small balls of clay, molded
with the fingers around a lanyard (probably of leather) with which
they were attached to the object. The nodule displayed the imprint
of a seal and an ideogram representing the object. Other
information was sometimes added: quality, origin, destination,
Fifty-six nodules found at Thebes in 1982 carry an ideogram
representing an ox. Thanks to them, the itinerary of these bovines
can be reconstructed. From all over Boeotia, even from Euboea, they
were taken to Thebes to be sacrificed. The nodules served to prove
that they were not stolen animals and to prove their origin. Once
the animals arrived at their destination, the nodules were removed
and gathered to create a book-keeping tablet. The nodules were used
for all sorts of objects and explain how Mycenaean book-keeping
could have been so rigorous. The scribe did not have to count the
objects themselves, he could base his tables upon the
The religious element is difficult to identify in Mycenaean
civilization, especially as regards archaeological sites, where it
remains problematic to pick out a place of worship with certainty.
John Chadwick points out that at least six centuries lie between
the earliest settling of proto-Greek speakers in Hellas and the
earliest Linear B inscriptions, during which concepts and practices
will have fused with indigenous beliefs, and— if cultural
influences in material culture reflect influences in religious
beliefs— with Minoan religion. As for these texts, the few lists of
offerings that give names of gods as recipients of goods reveal
nothing about religious practices, and there is no surviving
literature. John Chadwick rejected a confusion of Minoan and
Mycenaean religion derived from archaeological correlations and
cautioned against "the attempt to uncover the prehistory of
classical Greek religion by conjecturing its origins and guessing
the meaning of its myths" above all through treacherous
etymologies. Moses I. Finley detected very few authentic Mycenaean
reflections in the eighth-century Homeric world, in spite of its
The Mycenaean pantheon already included numerous divinities that
can be found in Classical Greece. Poseidon seems to have occupied a
place of privilege, notably in the texts of Knossos. He was
probably at this period a chthonic
connected with earthquakes. Also to be found are a collection of
"Ladies" like the Lady of the Labyrinth at Knossos in Crete, who
calls to mind the myth of the Minoan labyrinth, in keeping with the
presence of a figure named Daedalus. There is also a "Sea Goddess"
named Diwia. Other divinities who can be found in later periods
have been identified, such as the couple Zeus–Hera, Ares, Hermes,
Athena, Artemis, Dionysus and Erinya
Notably absent are Apollo, Aphrodite, Demeter (divinities of
Eastern origin), Hephaestus, and Herakles.
No great temple has been identified for the Mycenaean epoch: the
familiar free-standing temple containing a cult image in its
with an open-air altar before it, was a
later development. Certain buildings found in citadels having a
central room, the megaron
oblong shape surrounded by small rooms may have served as places of
worship. Aside from that, the existence of a domestic cult may be
supposed. Some shrines have been located, as at Phylakopi
on Melos, where have been found a
considerable number of statuettes undoubtedly fashioned to serve as
offerings, and it can be supposed from their archaeological strata
that sites such as Delphi, Dodona, Delos, and Eleusis were already
important shrines, and in Crete several Minoan shrines show
continuity into LM III, a period of Minoan-Mycenaean culture.
The principal Mycenaean towns were well fortified. The town could be
situated on an acropolis as in Athens or Tiryns, against a
large hill as in Mycenae, or on the
coastal plain, like Gla or Pylos.
Besides the citadels
, there are also
isolated forts that undoubtedly served to militarily control
territory. Mycenaean walls were often made in a fashion called
, which means
that they were constructed of large, unworked boulders up to eight
meters (26 ft) thick, loosely fitted without the clay mortar of the
day. Different types of entrances or exits can be seen: monumental
gates, access ramps, hidden doors, and vaulted galleries for
escaping in case of a siege. Fear of attack meant that the chosen
site must have a cistern
at its disposal.
The Mycenaean sites are composed of different types of residences.
The smallest are rectangular in form and measure between 5 and 20
(16–66 ft) on a side. These were
the houses of the lowest classes. They could have one or several
rooms; the latter become more widespread in more recent periods. On
a more developed level are found larger residences, measuring about
20 to 35 meters (66 to 115 ft) on a side, made up of many
rooms and central courtyards. Their layout resembles that of a
palace. It is not, however, certain that these were indeed the
residences of the Mycenaean aristocrats; another theory is that
they were palace annexes, being often situated next to them.
examples of the Mycenaean palace are seen in the excavations at
Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos.
these were administrative centers is shown by the records found
there. From an architectural point of view, they were the heirs of
the Minoan palaces and also of other palaces built on the Greek
mainland during the Middle Age. They were ranged around a group of
courtyards each opening upon several rooms of different dimensions,
such as storerooms and workshops, as well as reception halls and
living quarters. The heart of the palace was the megaron
. This was the throne room, laid out around a
circular hearth surrounded by four columns, the throne generally
being found on the right-hand side upon entering the room.
staircases found in the palace of Pylos indicate
palaces had had two stories.
Located on the top floor were
probably the private quarters of the royal family and some
storerooms. These palaces have yielded a wealth of artifacts and
recent find is a Mycenaean palace near the village of Xirokampi, in
As of early 2009, the excavation is at its
first stages and artifacts uncovered so far include clay vessels
and figurines, frescoes and three Linear B
tablets. Preliminary findings indicate that one the tablets
contains an inventory of about 500 daggers and another is an
inventory for textiles. The discovery was announced
at the Athens Archaeological Society
on April 28, 2009.
to an often held view, some Mycenaean representative buildings
already featured roofs made of fired tiles, as in Gla and Midea.
Mycenaean Revival architecture
a building for the National Bank was built at Nafplio in Mycenaean
Art and craftwork
Mycenaeans made a great deal of pottery. Archaeologists have found
a great quantity of pottery from the Mycenaean age, of widely
diverse styles—stirrup jars, pitchers, kraters, chalices sometimes
called "champagne coupes" after their shape, etc. The vessels vary
in size. Their conformations remained quite consistent throughout
the Mycenaean period, up through LHIIIB, when production increased
considerably, notably in Argolis whence came great numbers exported
outside Greece. The products destined for export were generally
more luxurious and featured heavily worked painted decorations
incorporating mythic, warrior, or animal motifs. Another type of
vessel, in metal (normally bronze), has been found in sizeable
quantities at Mycenaean sites. The forms of these were rather
tripods, basins, or lamps. A few examples of vessels in faiance and
ivory are also known.
Figures and Figurines
The Mycenaean period has not yielded sculpture of any great size.
The statuary of the period consists for the most part of small
terracotta figurines found at almost every Mycenaean site in
mainland Greece, in tombs, in settlement debris, and occasionally
in cult contexts (Tiryns, Agios Konstantinos on Methana). The
majority of these figurines are female and anthropomorphic or
zoomorphic. The female figurines can be subdivided into three
groups which were popular at different periods: the earliest are
the Phi-type: these look like the letter phi and their arms give
the upper body of the figurine a rounded shape. The Psi-type looks
like the letter psi: these have outstretched upraised arms. The
latest (12th century BC) are the Tau-type: these figurines look
like the Greek letter tau: with folded(?) arms at right angles to
the body. Most figurines wear a large 'polos' hat. They are painted
with stripes or zigzags in the same manner as the contemporary
pottery and presumably made by the same potters. Their purpose is
uncertain, but they may have served as both votive objects and
toys: some are found in children's graves but the vast majority of
fragments are from domestic rubbish deposits. The presence of
numbers of these figurines on sites where worship took place in the
Archaic and Classical periods (c 200 below the sanctuary of Athena
at Delphi, others at the temple of Aphaia on Aegina, at the
sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas above Epidauros and at Amyklae near
Sparta, for example), suggests both that many were indeed religious
in nature, perhaps as votives, but also that later places of
worship may well have first been used in the Mycenaean
Larger male, female or bovine terracotta wheelmade figures are much
rarer. An important group was found in the Temple at Mycenae
together with coiled clay snakes, while others have been found at
Tiryns and in the East and West Shrines at Phylakopi on the island
The painting of the Mycenaean age was much influenced by that of
the Minoan age. Fragments of wall paintings have been found in or
around the palaces (Pylos, Mycenae, Tiryns) and in domestic
contexts (Zygouries) while the largest complete wall painting
depicting three female figures, probably goddesses, was found in
the so-called Cult Centre at Mycenae. Various themes are
represented: hunting, bull leaping (tauromachy), battle scenes,
processions etc. Some scenes may be part of mythological
narratives, but if so their meaning eludes us. Other frescoes
include geometric or stylised motifs, also used on painted pottery
Mycenaean swords and cups
Military items have been found among the treasures of the Mycenaean
age. The most impressive work is that of the Dendra panoply
, a complete suit of Mycenaean
armor. The cuirass is made up of bronze plates sewn to a leather
garment. The weight of this armor must have hindered the mobility
of a warrior, and it is for this reason it is supposed that it was
worn by a warrior riding in a chariot.
The typical Mycenaean helmet
use from the seventeenth to the tenth centuries BC, was made of cut
segments of boar's tusk sewn to a leather or cloth backing.
is illustrated in ivory relief plaques found in the shaft graves of the seventeenth and sixteenth
centuries BC and in wall paintings of that era from Akrotiri on Thera (Santorini) and of the thirteenth century BC in the so-called
Palace of Nestor at Pylos.
boar's tusk plates from the helmets themselves have been found at
many sites, including Mycenae, Prosymna,
Thermon and Elateia, as well as in southern Italy.
This is the
type of helmet which is described by Homer
several hundred years later.
Two types of shields were used: the "figure eight" or "fiddle"
shield, and a rectangular type, the "tower" shield, rounded on the
top. They were made of wood and leather, and were of such a large
size that a warrior could completely cower behind his shield.
Offensive arms were made of bronze. Spears and javelins have been
found, and also an assortment of swords of different sizes,
designed for striking with the point and with the edge. Daggers and
arrows, attesting to the existence of archery, compose the
remainder of the armament found from this period.
The usual form of burial in the Late Helladic was inhumation. The
dead were almost always buried in cemeteries outside the
residential zones and only exceptionally within the settlements
(the most famous burials in Grave Circle A originally lay outside
the citadel and were only brought within it when the citadel wall
was extended c 1250 BC).
Dagger blade with intricate gold
dolphin decoration, found in the Prosymna grave site, circa 1500
The earliest Mycenaean burials were mostly in individual graves in
the form of a pit or a stone lined cist and offerings were limited
to pottery and occasional items of jewellery. A large cemetery with
burials of this kind spread around the northern and western slopes
of the citadel at Mycenae. Groups of pit or cist graves containing
elite members of the community were sometimes covered by a tumulus
(mound) in the manner established since the Middle Helladic period.
It has been argued that this form dates back to the oldest periods
of Indo-European settlement in Greece, and that its roots are to be
found in the Balkan cultures of the third millennium BC
, and even the
but an indigenous
development is more likely. Pit and cist graves remained in use for
single burials throughout the Mycenaean period alongside more
elaborate family graves(see below).
The shaft graves at Mycenae within the two grave circles (A+B)
belong to the same period and seem to represent an alternative
manner of grouping elite or royal burials - and isolating them from
those of the majority. Circle B is the earlier of the two groups,
already in use in the MH period, and contains lavish grave goods -
gold and silver, jewellery, weapons and pottery. Circle A,
excavated by Heinrich Schliemann
enclosed fewer but extraordinarily well provided graves.
Beginning also in the Late Helladic are to be seen communal tombs
of rectangular form. It is difficult to establish whether the
different forms of burial represent a social hierarchization, as
was formerly thought, with the tholoi
being the tombs of
the elite rulers, the individual tombs those of the leisure class,
and the communal tombs those of the people. Cremations increased in
number over the course of the period, becoming quite numerous in LH
III C. This is perhaps proof of the arrival of a new population in
Greece. The most impressive tombs of the Mycenaean era are the
monumental royal tombs of Mycenae, undoubtedly intended for the
royal family of the city. The most famous is the Tomb of Agamemnon
(the Treasury of Atreus), which is in the form of a tholos
. Nearby are other tombs (known
as "Circle A"), popularly identified with Clytemnestra and
Aigisthos. All contained impressive treasures, exhumed by
Schliemann during the excavation of Mycenae. It has been argued
that different dynasties or factions may have competed through
conspicuous burial, whereby grave circle A represents a new faction
in the ascendancy (at this time, LH I, the relative wealth and
consistency of 'B' burials declines). The Mycenaean "tholoi" may,
again, represent another factional grouping, or a further
formalization in burial practices by the faction previously buried
in A. Nevertheless, there is a demonstrably apparent expansion in
relative size, wealth/cost expenditure, and visibility in the
construction of these graves over this period, coinciding with
increased foreign/trading contacts and the further entrenchment of
the palatial economy.
The timing and interpretation of the end Mycenaean period poses an
array of questions that have yet to be answered.
The end of LH III B1 was marked by some destruction, in particular
at Mycenae. By LH III B2, an augmentation of the Mycenaean systems
of defense can be seen, a sign of increasing insecurity. But this
does not seem to have been a period of crisis, because these levels
have yielded archaeological material that bespeaks a degree of
wealth in no way inferior to that of previous periods. The end of
this period is nevertheless marked by a number of destructions in
the greater part of the Mycenaean sites on mainland Greece.
LH III C saw a decrease in the number of sites in Greece, which
might have been considerable in certain regions (nine-tenths of the
sites in Boeotia disappeared, and two-thirds in Argolis). Yet
certain sites such as Mycenae and Tiryns continued to be inhabited,
and the material culture found there continues to exhibit Mycenaean
traits, such that LH III C is considered to be a level of Mycenaean
civilization. However, a new type of ceramic appeared, called
"barbarian" because it was formerly attributed to foreign invaders,
and there was also a continuing increase in the practice of
Several explanations have been advanced for the causes of the
decline of Mycenaean civilization in this period. Those concerning
(climate change, earthquakes) are considered more
controversial. The two most common theories are population movement
and internal conflict. The first attributes the destruction of
Mycenaean sites to invaders. Sometimes the Dorians
are invoked, sometimes the Sea People
The movements of people occurring from the Balkans to the Middle
East at this period, mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions calling the
invaders by the name of the "Sea People", are quite real. It is
known that these people were responsible for numerous destructions
in Anatolia and the Levant. Mention of a people called
(which recalls the term Achaean
) in an
Egyptian text of the 12th century BC
has caused specialists to suppose that the Mycenaeans had taken
part in these invasions (this is not certain). There is little else
to tell us what happened in the Greek world.
There is the second theory, which has the Mycenaean civilization
falling in the course of internal societal conflicts brought on by
a rejection of the palatial system by the most underprivileged
strata of society, who were impoverished at the end of the Late
Helladic. This hypothesis is sometimes joined with the preceding
one, mingling social divisions with ethnic divisions.
In this context it has to be stressed, that the beginning Iron Age
made large numbers of comparatively cheap
weapons accessible. An economic factor, that is also seen as a
root cause of the apparition of the "sea peoples" in Egypt and the
destruction of Ugarit and the
Whatever were the causes, the Mycenaean civilization had definitely
disappeared after LH III C, when the sites of Mycenae and Tirynth
were again destroyed and lost their importance. This end, during
the last years of the 12th century BC, occurs after a slow decline
of the Mycenaean civilization, which lasted many years before dying
out. The beginning of the 11th century
opens a new context, that of the protogeometric, the
beginning of the geometric period, the Greek Dark Ages
- The extent to which Homer attempted to or succeeded in
recreating a "Mycenaean" setting is examined in Moses I. Finley,
The World of Odysseus, 1954, rev. ed. 1978.
- Tandy, p. xii. "Figure 1: Map of Epirus showing the locations
of known sites with Mycenaean remains"; Tandy, p. 2. "The strongest
evidence for Mycenaean presence in Epirus is found in the coastal
zone of the lower Acheron River, which in antiquity emptied into a
bay on the Ionian coast known from ancient sources as Glykys
Limin (Figure 2-A)."
- Aegeobalkan Prehistory - Mycenaean Sites
- Bernstein Linear B in Germany
- Boston University - The Historical Society
- Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion, p. 121; Meyer, E.
RE Suppl. XIV, pp. 813–815.
- See sources cited at Homeric Troy.
- For a fuller synopsis of Mycenaean frescoes, see the relevant
section of Prehistoric Archaeology of the Aegean,
- Translation of the Sins of Madduwatta
- Skeat, T.C., The Dorians in Archeology, (London:
Alexander Moring) 1934.
- Oliver Dickinson, "The Aegean from Bronze Age to Iron Age",
London 2006, 14-15.
- Hans G. Güterbock, "The Hittites and the Aegean World: Part 1.
The Ahhiyawa Problem Reconsidered" American Journal of
Archaeology 87.2 (April 1983), pp. 133–138;
and Machteld J. Mellink, "Part 2. Archaeological Comments on
Ahhiyawa-Achaians in Western Anatolia", pp. 138–141.
- G.L. Huxley, Achaeans and Greeks (1960); see
- Translation of the Tawagalawa Letter
- Hans G. Güterbock, "Hittites and Akhaeans: A New Look"
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
128.2 (June 1984), pp. 114–122. Bibliography.
- Lord William Taylour, Mycenaean Pottery in Italy and Adjacent
Areas (Cambridge 1958)
- Preziosi, D. and Hitchcock L.A. (1999). Aegean Art and
Architecture, p. 195.
- Flinders Petrie, Tell el-Amarna, (London 1894)
- Castleden (2005).
- Chadwick 1976 "Religion", pp 84-102, p. 88.
- Explicitly as expressed in M.P. Nilsson, The
Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and Its Survival in Greek Religion,
- Chadwick 1976:84.
- "Words that are not understood are constantly deformed to give
them meanings. Mere resemblance is of course nearly always
deceptive." (Chadwick 1976:87).
- Finley, The World of Odyusseus1954, rev. ed 1978)
- Wikander, p. 288.
- Shear, p. 134.
- E. B. French 1971 ‘The Development of Mycenaean Terracotta
Figurines’, Annual of the British School of Archaeology at Athens
- See account of their use in K.A. and Diana Wardle 'The Child's
Cache at Assiros, Macedonia', in Sally Crawford and Gillian
Shepherd (Eds): Children, Childhood and Society: Institute for
Archaeology and Antiquity Interdisciplinary Studies Vol I
Archaeopress, Oxford 2007.
- Charbonneaux, J. and Demangel, M. Fouilles de Delphes ii,
fascicule 2-3. Paris 1925. Hägg, R. ‘Official and Popular Cults in
Mycenaean Greece’ in Sanctuaries and Cults in the Aegean Bronze
Age, R. Hägg and N. Marinatos (eds.). Stockholm 1981.
- . W.D. Taylour, E.B. French, K.A. Wardle. Well Built Mycenae
Fasc 10: A.D. Moore, W.D. Taylour, The Temple Complex, Oxbow Books
- E.B. French in Colin Renfrew, The Archaeology of Cult: the
Sanctuary at Phylakopi. British School at Athens Supplementary Vol.
18. London 1985
- S. A. Immerwahr, Aegean Painting in the Bronze Age (University
- W. Taylour, “Mycenae, 1968,” Antiquity 43 (1969), pp. 91-97;
idem, “New Light on Mycenaean Religion,” Antiquity 44 (1970), pp.
- Dendra panoply
- Dendra panoply
- Modern reconstruction of the Dendra panoply
- K.A. and Diana Wardle, Cities of Legend, The Mycenaean World
(London 2000) 69-70 and fig. 21
- Mycenaean helmet
- Homer, The Iliad, Book 10, 260-5
- Mycenaean "figure eight" shield, fresco
- Mycenaean "figure eight" shield, drawing
- Mycenaean swords
- Mycenaean Type G sword (Horn Sword)
- Mycenaean dagger
- W. Cavanagh and C. Mee, A Private Place: Death in Prehistoric
Greece [SIMA 125] (Jonsered 1998)
- W.D. Taylour, E.B. French, K.A. Wardle, 'Well Built Mycenae'
Fasc 7, M. Alden The Prehistoric Cemetery: Pre-Mycenaean and Early
Mycenaean Graves, Oxford 2000
- O. Pelon, Tholoi, tumuli et cercles funéraires (Paris
- Hammond, “Tumulus Burial in Albania, the Grave Circles of
Mycenae, and the Indo-Europeans,” Annual of the British School at
Athens, 62 (1967), p. 90.
- Kazimierz Lewartowski, 'Late Helladic simple graves:a study of
Mycenaean burial customs' BAR international series, no 878, Oxford
- Nikolas Papadimitriou, 'Built Chamber Tombs of Middle and Late
Bronze Age Date in Mainland Greece and the Islands', BAR
international series, no 925, Oxford 2001
- See Graziado 1991 for a more comprehensive discussion of these
trends, in addition to a sophisticated study of the grave goods in
- Castleden, Rodney. The Mycenaeans. Routledge, 2005.
- Shear, Ione Mylonas. "Excavations on the Acropolis of Midea:
Results of the Greek–Swedish Excavations under the Direction of
Katie Demakopoulou and Paul Åström". American Journal of
Archaeology, January 2000,
- Tandy, David W. Prehistory and History: Ethnicity, Class
and Political Economy. Black Rose Books Ltd., 2001. ISBN
- Wikander, Orjan. "Archaic Roof Tiles the First Generations".
Hesperia, 59(1):285–290, January-March,
- Podzuweit, Christian (1982). "Die mykenische Welt und Troja". In:
B. Hänsel (ed.), Südosteuropa zwischen 1600 und 1000 v.
- Nur, Amos and Cline, Eric; (2000) "Poseidon's Horses: Plate
Tectonics and Earthquake Storms in the Late Bronze Age Aegean and
Eastern Mediterranean". Journ. of Archaeol. Sc., No. 27, pp. 43–63.
- Robbins, Manuel (2001) Collapse of the Bronze Age: the story of
Greece, Troy, Israel, Egypt and Peoples of the Sea" (Authors Choice
- Weiss, Barry: (1982) "The decline of Late Bronze Age
civilization as a possible response to climatic change" in Climatic
Change ISSN 0165-0009 (Paper) 1573-1480 (Online), Volume 4, Number
2, June 1982, pp. 173–198.
- The Nemea Valley Archaeological Project: Internet
- Tsoungiza C-14 dates
- Gods found in Mycenaean Greece, a table drawn up from
Michael Ventris and John Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean
Greek second edition (Cambridge 1973)
- , Grèce mycénienne : du mythe à l'histoire,
Pascal Darcque, Director of Research, CNRS, in
charge of excavations at Malia, February 2001
- Mycenaean civilization, Metropolitan
Museum of Art
- Prehistoric archaeology of the Aegean, Dartmouth
- Aegean and Balkan Prehistory: Articles, site-reports
and bibliography database concerning the Aegean, Balkans and
- Les citadelles mycéniennes, Louis Godart,
University of Naples
- HERH -
Greek Age of Bronze weapons and warfare
- Mycenaean art