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Monumental Construction at Mycenae: Implications of Late Bronze Age Stone Working

February 11, 2018 @ 3:00 pm EST

Sabin Hall
3413 North Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211 United States

AIA Society: Milwaukee

This presentation highlights the technology and tool types that masons and sculptors employed at Mycenae to produce several of the most well-known monuments in the Aegean Bronze Age. Analysis of preserved tool marks on the Lion Gate relief, Treasury of Atreus, and the Tomb of Klytemnestra reveal multiple phases of construction, specific artisan choices, and variable stone-cutting techniques.

Particular attention is given to Mycenaean drilling and sawing technology, including a discussion of the sophisticated pendulum saw. Use of this machine is deduced from cuttings on the three monuments referenced above as well as other masonry/architectural features found throughout the Mycenae and Tiryns citadels. Here, I discuss the mechanics and operation of the pendulum saw following modern experiments with a reconstructed device. The degree to which monumental stone-working projects at Mycenae were controlled/managed by state-level authorities is also probed. My analysis of Mycenaean tool patterns reveals that palatial centers managed metal resources at the end of the Bronze Age, including finished products like tools. A natural question stemming from this observation is whether or not masons at Mycenae experienced some autonomy. Or did the state micromanage them and their projects—as the disbursement of work implements might imply?


Nicholas Blackwell is the Schrader Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Classical Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. With a Ph.D. in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology from Bryn Mawr College, he has been a research fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, the Assistant Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), and a Postdoctoral Teaching Scholar in the Department of History at NC State University. His research addresses the archaeology and material culture of Greece and Cyprus, particularly during the Bronze and Early Iron Ages. Dr. Blackwell’s doctoral and postdoctoral focus on metal tools, technology, craftsmanship, stone-cutting techniques, and metallurgy highlight his desire to better understand intercultural relations and connections across the Aegean, eastern Mediterranean and Near East during the latter half of the second millennium BC. Dr. Blackwell’s articles and book reviews have appeared in Antiquity, the American Journal of Archaeology, the Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, and the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. He is currently working on a book project entitled: Before Daedalus: Tools and Elite Stone Working in the Mycenaean World.

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February 11, 2018
3:00 pm EST
Event Category:


Adrienne Frie


Sabin Hall
3413 North Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211 United States
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