Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Since the startling discoveries of Heinrich Schliemann in the late 19th century, scholars and the wider public have been fascinated by the relationship of the Homeric epics with the archaeology of Greece and the Mediterranean. For long, scholars attempted to match descriptions in the epics with the archaeological record, and to identify realia of Homer’s heroes, from the ‘golden mask of Agamemnon’ to the ‘Palace of Nestor’. These ideas have come under attack in recent years, which have also seen the development of a range of new approaches to the topic. Inspired by these approaches, I develop an original argument for the archaeology of Homeric poetry, focusing on an 11th century BCE tomb found in Knossos, Crete, which has yielded some of the richest burials in Greece of the time. Although scholarship has discussed different aspects of this discovery, it has failed to appreciate the range of weapons that accompanied the main tomb occupant, which is highly exceptional for Aegean archaeology, but matches the extraordinary equipment carried by the Cretan hero Meriones in the Iliad. Based on this rare correspondence between the archaeological assemblage and the epic poem, and drawing from a broad range of visual, literary, epigraphic and linguistic evidence, I argue that the Knossian tomb offers rare archaeological support for the circulation of early Cretan stories which eventually filtered into the Homeric epics.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Catling, H.W. (1995) “Heroes returned? Subminoan burials from Crete”. In J.B. Carter and S.P. Morris (eds), The Ages of Homer: A Tribute to Emily Townsend Vermeule (Austin) 123-136.