Abstract: The Bronze Age History of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos


To date, the palace at Pylos is the best-preserved Mycenaean palace in all of Bronze Age Greece.  Its floor plan is nearly complete; well-built walls and plaster floors clearly define interior rooms and the circulation therein.  Where walls are missing (and they are a few), regular gaps in the glister floors outline their original footprints.  When discovered in 1939 and then systematically excavated in the 1950s and 60s, many of the palace’s rooms still contained their original contents, which included brightly colored frescoes, pottery, sculpture, bronze tools and Linear B-inscribed clay tablets.  Because of its extraordinary preservation and the abundance of recovered artifacts, the Pylos palace has become the chief site for the study of Mycenae palaces (ca. 1400-1200 BCE)

Archaeological investigations by the Minnesota Archaeological Researches in the Western Peloponnese (MARWP) – Pylos Project from 1990 – 1999 shed new light on the building history at Pylos.  Evident are multiple phases of building construction.  For instance, the Main Building underwent at least three remodelings.  It is also became obvious that the entire palace experienced several modifications and each alteration, repair or replacement was done in a different construction style.

In general, the history of Mycenaean palaces, particularly their architectural form, is perplexing because they are relatively short-lived phenomena with no obvious and clearly defined development.  However, untangling the myriad remodelings, repairs and additions at Pylos reveals a much longer building history than originally thought and points to an architectural sequence unlike any other palace. Surprisingly, in its early phases that palace builders adopted building methods and design concepts from their island neighbor to the south, Crete, particularly the use of cut stone masonry.  The construction of ashlar and orthostate masonry finds no mainland parallels and at this time, the buildings at Pylos seem to be more Minoan in character than Mycenaean.

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