Abstract: Mycenae Invents Itself


At the end of the Middle Helladic period Mycenae embarked on a journey that led eventually to its ousting Knossos as the center of the Aegean world. Ca. 1700-1650 BCE, Grave Circle B includes rich tomb Gamma whose death mask, of electrum, implies Mycenae's participation in the silver mines at Laurion. The six shaft graves of Grave Circle A (MH III end - LH I; ca. 1650-1600) contain many gold objects and imported Minoan, Baltic, and Anatolian prestige items, whose eclecticism reveals the mentality of a contact period. Mycenae begins striking out on its own in LH II (ca. 1600-1500), adapting the Messenian tholos tomb and use of sealstones. The six early tholoi are located in three areas, in pairs; similarly, sealstones come in pairs, suggesting a chief-lieutenant administration. For this early administration, numerous poros blocks with swallow-tail clamp cuttings suggest buildings. The early gate to Mycenae's citadel was crowned with the Lion Relief, whose iconography still adopts Minoan references to power. Later (LH III A-B early; ca. 1500-1300), Mycenae constructs an impressive fortification wall that encloses a tripartite megaron palace paved with gypsum imported from Knossos. The final three tholoi include the Treasury of Atreus, whose façade is decorated with marble from the southern Peloponnese and the incorporation of two gypsum panels that must be spolia from the recently destroyed Knossos palace. With this destruction, Mycenae had become the premier power in the Aegean—it did not remain so for long.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

A. Wace, Mycenae. An Archaeological Guide.

G.E. Mylonas, Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age.

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