Mycenaean Cities, Culture, Religion, Life and Maybe Human Sacrifices (1650 and 1200 B.C.)

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Mycenaean Woman
Mycenae (50 kilometers southwest of Corinth) is an ancient city, whose name means "rich in gold,” that was the center of the Mycenaean civilization. Founded in 1500 A.D., making a 1000 years older than Golden Age Greece, it is laid are on a small knoll next to a barren hill and features ruins of great fortess that includes a Lion's Gate constructed of huge stones piled on top of one another and a grey mound of rock which is said to bear the marks of the Cyclops, a mythological beast that is Mycenaean in origin.

The massive walls of Mycenae surround palatial administrative complex, houses, sanctuaries, storerooms and royal courts with colorful frescoes and sculpted stone. Visitors to the citadel pass through the Lion Gate and reach the an ancient grave circle, where ancient Mycenaean rulers were laid to rest.

According to legend the 10-foot-thick walls that surround Mycenae and the nearby cities of Tirin and Midea were built by a tribe of men that descended from the Cyclops. When you see the size of the stones you'll understand why people believed this. The Lion Gate is composed of 10-foot-high posts with 15-foot-long lintels placed on top of them. Around the gate you can see ruts left by ancient chariots. At the center of the palace is the royal audience hall, the only room in the palace whose function has been ascertained.

According to UNESCO: “The archaeological sites of Mycenae and Tiryns, located in the Regional unit of Argolis in the North-East Peloponnese, are the imposing ruins of the two greatest cities of the Mycenaean civilization, which dominated the eastern Mediterranean world from the 15th to the 12th century B.C. and played a vital role in the development of classical Greek culture. These two cities are indissolubly linked to the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey , which have influenced European art and literature for more than three millennia. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website =]

“The citadel of Mycenae, with its strategic position for the control of the Argolid Plain, is the kingdom of the mythical Agamemnon and the most important and richest palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. Its name was given to one of the greatest civilizations of Greek prehistory, the Mycenaean civilization, while the myths related to its history, its rulers and their family members (such as Klytaimnestra, Ifigeneia, Elektra, Orestes) have inspired poets, writers and artists over many centuries, from the ancient to the contemporary times. Significant stages in monumental architecture are still visible in the property, such as the massive defensive walls, the corbelled tholos tombs and the Lions Gate. =

Mycenae most famous native son is Agamemnon, the Greek commander who lead the attack against Troy and returned from his conquest only to be murdered by his wife Clytemnestra. It is not clear whether he was a real person or fictional character. Inside the walls of Mycenae is the royal palace where Agamemnon reportedly lived and was murdered as well as courtier houses, sanctuaries and important buildings.

The discovery of “Agamemnon's beehive tomb on a nearby hill was one of the great finds of Greek archeology and most of the treasures found inside it are now displayed in the Athens Museum. Thirteen other royal tombs and 12 tombs of normal citizens were uncovered in the same area. Several kilometers away from Mycenaea are the remains of a Mycenaean acropolis in Midea and the ruins of Heria built on an outcropping on Mt. Evvia.

Websites on Ancient Greece: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World ; BBC Ancient Greeks; Canadian Museum of History; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; ;; British Museum; Illustrated Greek History, Dr. Janice Siegel, Department of Classics, Hampden–Sydney College, Virginia ; The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization ; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive ;; Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Ancient City of Athens; The Internet Classics Archive ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources; Ancient Greek Sites on the Web from Medea ; Greek History Course from Reed; Classics FAQ MIT; 11th Brittanica: History of Ancient Greece ;Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy;Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Mycenaean ruins
Tirin (20 km south of Mycenaea) is a ancient city with cyclodean walls that predates Mycenae. The largest boulders in the wall weigh 13 tons, so big it is said only descendants of the Cyclops were strong enough to lift them into place. In the middle of the acropolis is a ruined palace with a royal throne room. Below it are a series of secret cisterns, or tunnels, that are among the most interesting archeological achievements of the period.

According to UNESCO: “Tiryns, situated 20 km north-east of Mycenae on a low hill near the inlet of the Argolic Gulf, is another excellent example of the Mycenaean civilization. The fortification of the hill, completed at the end of the 13th century B.C. surrounds the citadel with a total perimeter of approximately 750 meters. The impressive walls, built of stones even larger than those of Mycenae, are up to 8 meters thick and 13 meters high. They can rightly be regarded as a creation that goes beyond the human scale, as reveals the word “cyclopean” – built by Cyclops, the mythical giants from Lycia – which was attributed to them in the Homeric epics. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website =]

“The Mycenaean civilisation, as exemplified by Mycenae and Tiryns, had a profound effect on the development of classical Greek architecture and urban design, and consequently also on contemporary cultural forms. The architecture and design of Mycenae and Tiryns, such as the Lion Gate and the Treasury of Atreus and the walls of Tiryns, are outstanding examples of human creative genius. Both sites illustrate in a unique manner the achievements of Mycenaean civilization in arts, architecture and technology, which laid the foundations for the evolution of later European cultures.” =


So-called Palace of Nestor at Pylos, Plan of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos, Greece, Description: 1-Entrance, 2-Court, 3-Anchamber, 4-Megaron(main hall), 5-Storerooms with olive oil, 6-Storerooms with wine, 7-Archives, 8-Propylon, 9-Bath, 10-Small megaron

Pylos is an ancient Mycenaean site, discovered in 1939, that is said to have been where King Nestor of the Iliad was from. It is also where the Linear B tablets were found. When these tablets were translated they revealed that the Greek language evolved out of the Mycenaean language. The small Archeological museum there houses Mycenaean pottery, lovely Hellenistic glass vases; and two small bronze figures of youths.

Pylos is located of southwestern coast of the Peloponnese in Greece in a region known today as Messenia. Homer spoke of 'sandy Pylos,' in his epic “The Odyssey.” Archaeological sites include the famed Palace of Nestor, a large administrative center that was destroyed in 1180 B.C., about the same time as Homer’s Troy. The palace at Pylos was first excavated by Carl Blegen of the University of Cincinnati. On his first day of digging in 1939 he discovered a large cache of tablets written in the script known as Linear B, later deciphered as the earliest written form of Greek.

The Palace of Nestor was originally a sprawling two-story compound that covered a 164-by-104-foot area. Situated on a strategic ridge with views of Navarino Bay and the heart of the kingdom to the north, it was destroyed by a fire in 1200 B.C., heralding the collapse of the Mycenaean culture. The fire also baked and preserved some clay tablets with writing that led to the decipherment of Linear B.

Archeologist at the site have also found jars of herb-scented olive oil, kraters with honeyed wine and 2,853 wine cups in a single room, which has led scholars to believe that the Mycenaeans were pretty hard core partiers or they smashed these cups after each toast. In another room archeologist found the bones of 10 cattle, which have provided enough meat for 6,000 people, far more than lived around the citadel. The presence of outdoor banqueting courtyards and storerooms and pantries filled with a variety of foodstuffs and gear such as ladles, mixing bowls, wine storage jars appears to indicate that place was a huge banqueting hall that could accommodate thousands of people form all over the kingdom at one time. Status could have beeen determined by where people sat---based in the kinds of foodstuffs found in each place--- with low status people sitting n courtyards and the elite sitting with the king in a special room called the megaron.

Iklaina Site at Pylos


In 1954, famed Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos round what he believed to be were the ruins of a palace near the small town of Iklaina. Professor Michael Cosmopoulos from University of Missouri - St. Louis has been excavating the site since 1998. Amanda Summer wrote in Odyssey magazine: ““Initially Cosmopoulos had anticipated the mound might be hiding a tholos tomb, as segments of ancient walls were still vis ible on the surface, a portion of which seemed to extend into the rising slope. What he found instead was a giant "Cyclopean" wall with offsets typical of Mycenaean architecture; massive blocks of stone roughly cut but rectangular in shape, placed in horizontal rows, similar to architectural features found at Tiryns, the palace of Nestor, Mycenae, and Gla. This wall formed a terrace, on which once stood an impressive building complex. [Source: Amanda Summer, Odyssey, September, October 2012 ]

Cosmopoulos refrains from calling the structure a palace. Instead he refers to it as a 'seat of power' and believes it was a district capital in Nestor's domain. Within the site he found “multiple storage rooms for foodstuffs, plaster offering tables, a rich pottery assemblage and was decorated with elaborate figural frescoes painted in blue and red, which are stylistically reminiscent of Minoan frescoes found on the islands ofThira and Keos.

“According to Cosmopoulos, lklaina is mentioned in the clay tablets excavated at the Palace of Nestor.Iit was recorded that the state was divided into two provinces: the Hither and the Further, of which Iklaina is a member. Each region was further divided into districts, Hither into nine and Further into seven. The tablets refer to nine major capitals, and in The Odyssey, Homer also refers to the Nine Cities of Nestor: one of them-Aipymay have sounded similar to the name of the Iklaina site in the Linear B record (Aphy or As- 30). "It would be extraordinary if it turned out that our excavation has brought to light a site recorded in both Greek myths and ancient texts." phy) where it is written as a-pu2.”

Linear B

20120217-Linear_B_script clay tablet.jpg
Linear B script clay tablet
The ancient Mycenaeans had a written language in 1200 B.C., called Linear B, that was discovered on clay tablets at Mycenaean and Minoan sites. Tablets found in 1939 at Pylos by American archaeologist Carl Blegen and deciphered in 1940 by an eighteen-year-old young Englishman named Michael Ventris, who revealed his discovery in a 1952 BBC interview and also revealed that the language was a precursor of Greek and the was oldest written Indo-European language known.

Linear B is an early form of ancient Greek writing used by the palaces during the Mycenaean era of Greece (1600-1100 B.C.). Nicholas Wade wrote in the New York Times: “Linear B tablets were preserved in the fiery destruction of palaces when the soft clay on which they were written was baked into permanent form. Caches of tablets have been found in Knossos, the main palace of Crete, and in Pylos and other mainland palaces. Linear B, a script in which each symbol stands for a syllable, was later succeeded by the familiar Greek alphabet in which each symbol represents a single vowel or consonant.” [Source: Nicholas Wade, New York Times, October 26, 2015]

These where startling revelations when one considers that no one had any idea what language the Mycenaeans spoke, that written Greek didn't reappear until 400 years later in the 5th century B.C. and that the Greek alphabet and the Mycenaean symbols looked as different from one another as Chinese and English. [Source: "The Creators" by Daniel Boorstin,μ]

Blegen found 1,200 clay tablets, which had been preserved in a palace fire in 1200 B.C. He determined that Linear B there was used primarily to record palace inventories and administrative records of thing like olives, wine, chariot wheels, tripods, sheep, oxen, wheat, barely, spices, plots of land, chariots, slaves, horses and taxes to be collected. So far no references to the Trojan War or anyone mentioned in the “ Iliad” have been found in Linear B.

3,500-Year-Old Writing Found in Mainland Greece

In the summer of 2010, a 3,400-year-old tablet with some of the oldest known examples of writing in mainland Europe, was found in an ancient refuse pit in the middle of an olive grove in southwest Greece, near the modern village of Iklaina. John Noble Wilford wrote in the New York Times, “The tablet seems to be a “page” from a bookkeeper’s note pad. Not meant to be saved as a permanent record, it was not baked in a kiln , but ended up in a refuse dump, where a fire hardened the clay for posterity... Had it not been for some inadvertence, the tablet would almost certainly have disintegrated in the rain in a year or two and scattered with the wind as so much illiterate dust.” [Source: John Noble Wilford, New York Times, April 4, 2011]

Amanda Summer wrote in Odyssey magazine: “The fragment appears to be part of a bookkeeper's ledger; one side is a possible personnel list of male names followed by numbers, and the other preserves the heading for what might have been a list of manufactured products. Why is this two by three inch clay slab so important? The existence of a tablet means that Iklaina had scribes, a product of bureaucracy, suggesting a high level of political organization and the need to keep track of commodities. "According to what we had known until now, this tablet should not have been found here, because all known stratified tablets come from the Mycenaean palaces," Cosmopoulos explains. On top of that, most tablets are dated to ca. 1200 B.C. or the period of the Trojan War, but the Iklaina tablet is dated to 1450 to 1350 B.C. Because tablets were used exclusively for recording transactions and property of the Mycenaean governments, this tablet is the earliest known bureaucratic record on the Greek mainland. The location and date of the tablet suggest that the origins of literacy and political states in Greece were earlier and more widespread than what was thought until now.” [Source: Amanda Summer, Odyssey, September, October 2012]

Iklaina tablet

The discoverers and other specialists in Greek history said the tablet should cast light on the political structure and bureaucratic practices near the beginning of the renowned Mycenaean period, 1600 to 1100 B.C. At its height, the culture supported the splendor of palaces at Mycenae and Pylos and inspired the heroic legend of the Trojan War, immortalized in Homer’s Iliad.

“This is a rare case where archaeology meets ancient texts and Greek myths,” Michael B. Cosmopoulos, director of the excavations, said last week in announcing the discovery. Dr. Cosmopoulos, an archaeologist and professor of Greek studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, said the tablet, only 2 inches by 3 inches, was a surprise. Judging by pottery in the dump in which it was found, the tablet dates to sometime from 1490 to 1390 B.C. Scholars said they had little evidence before that clay tablets were made and used to keep state records so early in Mycenaean history.

Elsewhere, the Minoans on the island of Crete were keeping records as early as 1800 B.C. in an enigmatic script that predates the Mycenaean Linear B. The earliest known writing, also presumably for bookkeeping, evolved around 3200 B.C. in the Sumerian city of Uruk, in Mesopotamia. The first Egyptian writing appeared more or less at the same time.

The Missouri team had investigated the Iklaina site for 11 years, and in the last couple of summers examined the extensive evidence of stone walls of what may have been a palace at a district capital. Some walls are decorated with frescoes showing ladies of the court and ships with dolphins cavorting in water. There are also remains of a drainage and sewer system far ahead of its time.

Archaeologists are only beginning to consider the implications of the discovery. It suggests that political states in ancient Greece originated at least a century and a half earlier than had been documented. Iklaina may have started small and been conquered and annexed by one of the expanding powers, like Pylos, in the same region. Dr. Cosmopoulos suggested the Iklaina palace may have been a district administrative center subject to one of the main capitals: “a two-tiered government, or a sort of quasi-federal system,” he called it.

3,500-Year-Old Tablet and Early Greek Bureaucratic Practices

John Noble Wilford wrote in the New York Times, “Previous excavations had yielded clay writing tablets from 1200 B.C., close to the approximate time of the supposed Trojan War, and some references to Iklaina as an administrative center associated with Pylos. Dr. Cosmopoulos said in an interview that the new findings appeared to show that some 200 years earlier this may have been the seat of an independent chiefdom that had already achieved a degree of literacy and political organization. [Source: John Noble Wilford, New York Times, April 4, 2011]

On one side, the tablet has one readable word, a verb meaning to prepare to manufacture. Along the broken edges are other characters, but not enough for scholars to make out the word or words. On the reverse side, the tablet gives a list of men’s names alongside numbers. Cynthia Shelmerdine at the University of Texas, Austin, was the first to read the writing and assess its importance.

Linear tablet of Pylos

“The fact that we have a tablet like this means that this government had scribes, and scribes are a product of bureaucracy,” Dr. Cosmopoulos said. “And this suggests some degree of political complexity and a growing need to keep track of commodities, property and taxes, all earlier than we once thought.”

Donald C. Haggis, an archaeologist and classics professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the tablet discovery was “really exciting and important because we don’t know much of the dynamics of these palace sites and the early phases of state formation in Greece.” Dr. Haggis, who was familiar with the research but not a member of the team, said that nearly all that had been known of the dynamics of these government centers came from excavations in the final stages of the Mycenaean period. Now the tablet, he said, “tells us this place had an administrative function at an early stage” and the architecture of the palace “reflects authority” and “looks like a place for ritual, communal dining and production of crafts.”

Mycenaean Religion and Tombs

Linear B mentions Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hermes, and Poseidon and tributes of oxen, sheep, goats pigs, wine, perfumed oil and wheat given to the gods. Deities resembling the Madonna and father-holy-ghost- child trilogy of Christianity were present in Mycenae. Some archaeologists believe the Mycenaeans performed animal sacrifices based on charred bones found at an alter. A tablet discovered with a sort of SOS on it seems to indicate that sacrifices were held after some catastrophe. The tablet was sort of a call for help.

The Mycenaeans started burying their dead in deep shaft graves around 1600 B.C. and later built huge beehive tombs and chamber tombs cut into hillsides. The deceased were buried with gold and silver masks of themselves and jewelry, toys, combs, baby bottles, tools, weapons and vessels. Often times several family members were buried in the same tomb.

Mycenaean tombs, dated to the 11th century B.C., found on the island of Euboea, north of Athens, contained cremated remains similar to those described in Homer's “ Iliad” . The bones were carefully wrapped in a piece of fabric and placed in a bronze urn. A huge building — about 60 feet in length — covered the site.

According to the Canadian Museum of History: “Their religious beliefs seem to have been very similar to those of other ancient civilizations of the time and share in two important characteristics- polytheism and syncretism. Polytheism is a belief in many gods and syncretism reflects a willingness to add foreign gods into the belief system-even if the new additions don't exactly fit. When the Mycenaeans first arrived in the Aegean they likely believed in a pantheon of gods headed by a supreme Sky God common to most Indo-European peoples. His name was Dyeus which in Greek became Zeus. Following contact with the Minoans and their earth goddesses, these goddesses were incorporated into the pantheon and that is likely the path followed by Hera, Artemis and Aphrodite.” [Source: Canadian Museum of History ]

Mycenaean stirrup vase
Mycenaean Divinities (God, Alternative Name, Mycenaean Greek Place Found
Zeus (Jupiter), Di-u-ja (Month-name Diwioios), Knossos
Hera (Juno), E-ra, Pylos
Poseidon (Neptune), Po-se-do-o and Also the Cult-title E-ne-si-da-o-ne ('Earth-shaker'), Knossos
Ares (Mars), Knossos
Apollo, Pa-ja-wo [= Paian ], Knossos
Hermes (Mercury), Hermes Araios (Ram) Py,, Knossos
Athena (Minerva), A-ta-na Po-ti-ni-ja (Potnia), Knossos
Dionysos (Bacchus), Di-wo-ni-so-jo, Pylos
Eileithyeia, E-re-u-ti-ja, Knossos
Erinyes (Furies), Knossos
Anemoi (the Winds), A-ne-moi, Pylos
Iphimedeia (Iphigeneia, Homeric Person), Knossos
Daedalus, (a place called "Daidaleion"), Knossos
and many other lesser local divine names, esp. Potnia [Source: John Adams, California State University, Northridge (CSUN), “Classics 315: Greek and Roman Mythology class]

Did the Mycenaeans Practice Human Sacrifice?

Three-thousand-year-old bones of a teenager found in 2016 on Mount Lykaion — a mountain where animal offerings to Zeus were made, in Arcadia in the Peloponnese area of Greece — appear to indicate that human sacrifice was practiced there in the time of the Mycenaeans but some scholars say some caution is in line on how the discovery should be interpreted. The upper part of the teenager’s skull was missing, while the body was laid among two lines of stones on an east-west axis, with stone slabs covering the pelvis. [Source:Mazin Sidahmed and agencies, The Guardian, August 10, 2016 ^^^]

skeleton of a teenager

The bones were found in the heart of the 30-meter (100-foot) broad ash altar, next to a man-made stone platform. Mount Lykaion was once worshipped as the birthplace of Zeus. Several ancient literary sources mention rumors that human sacrifice took place at the altar. The skeleton of the teenager amid a mound of ashes built up over a millennium from sacrificed animals. According to legend, a boy was sacrificed with the animals and all the meat was cooked and eaten together. Whoever ate the human part would become a wolf for nine years. [Source: Nicholas Paphitis, Associated Press Wed, August 10, 2016]

Mazin Sidahmed wrote in The Guardian: “Mount Lykaion was associated with human sacrifice by many ancient writers, including Plato, and while it may be too early to speculate on how the teenager died, the location adds a strong connection. “It nearly seems to good to be true,” said Dr Jan N Bremmer, professor emeritus of religious studies at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, and an editor of The Strange World of Human Sacrifice. Bremmer said that until now, most studies of human sacrifice in ancient Greece had concluded that it was probably fiction. While the ancient Israelites, Romans and Egyptians engaged in human sacrifice for religious purposes, 20th-century archaeologists had thought that the practice was not common among the Greeks. Bremmer remained somewhat skeptical about the finding and questioned whether the location influenced the interpretation. ^^^

“David Gilman Romano, professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona, who participated in the dig on Mount Lykaion said classical writers linked the remote peak with human sacrifice. According to legend, a young boy would be sacrificed with animals, before the human and animal meat was cooked and eaten. “Several ancient literary sources mention rumours that human sacrifice took place at the altar [of Zeus, located on the mountain’s southern peak] but up until a few weeks ago there has been no trace whatsoever of human bones discovered at the site,” said Romano. “Whether it’s a sacrifice or not, this is a sacrificial altar ... so it’s not a place where you would bury an individual,” he said. “It’s not a cemetery.” ^^^

“He noted that the fact that the upper part of the skull was missing, while the body was laid among two lines of stones on an east-west axis, with stone slabs covering the pelvis was also interesting. Bremmer said scholars tend to be fascinated by the prospect of human sacrifice in ancient Greece because it seems like a contradiction. “On the one hand there’s this picture of Greece as the cradle of civilisation, the birthplace of democracy, of philosophy, of rational thinking – but on the other hand we have these cruel cruel myths,” he said. ^^^

“The mountaintop in the Peloponnese region is the earliest known site where Zeus was worshipped and even without the possible human sacrifice element it was a place of slaughter. From at least the 16th century BC until around 300 B.C., tens of thousands of animals were killed there in the god’s honour. Human presence at the site goes back more than 5,000 years. There is no sign yet that the cult is as old as that but it is unclear why people should otherwise choose to settle on the barren, exposed summit. Pottery found with the human remains dates them to the 11th century BC, right at the end of the Mycenaean era, whose heroes were immortalised in Greek myth and Homer’s epics, and several of whose palaces have been excavated. So far, only about 7 percent of the altar on Lykaion has been excavated. “We have a number of years of future excavation to go,” Romano said. “We don’t know if we are going to find more human burials or not.” ^^^

Mycenaean Human Sacrifice Text?

skull from Kydonia

The following is said to be a document recording a human sacrifice at Pylos: “In the month of Plowistos. Pylos sacrifice sat PA-KI-JA-NA and brings gifts and leads victims:
For the Mistress (Potnia): one gold cup, one woman
For Mnasa: one gold bowl, one woman
For Posidaeia [Poseidon'swife]: one gold bowl, one woman
For the Thrice-Hero: one gold cup
For the Lord of the House: one gold cup [Source: Michael Ventris & John Chadwick, “Documents in Mycenaean Greek” second ed. (Cambridge 1973), Document #172 (from Pylos), page 463]

Pylos brings sacrifices at the Shrine of Poseidon, and the City leads and brings gifts, and leads victims: For Gwoia (and) Komawenteia: one gold cup, two women
Pylos sacrifices at the shrines of Perse and Iphimedeia and Diwia [Mrs.Zeus] and brings gifts and leads victims:
For Perse: one gold bowl, one woman
For Iphimedeia: one gold bowl
For Diwia: one gold bowl, one woman
For Hermes Areia: one gold cup, one man

Pylos sacrifices at the Shrine of Zeus and brings gifts and leads victims:
For ZEUS: one gold bowl, one man
For HERA: one gold bowl, one woman
For DRIMIOS, son of Zeus: one gold bowl
[.... (the tablet breaks off) .....]
TOTAL: 4 cups, 8 bowls, 2 men, 8 women

Insights in Mycenaean Life from Iklaina

Bathtub from the Palace of Nestor

Amanda Summer wrote in Odyssey magazine: “In addition to the imposing Cyclopean building complex, Cosmopoulos has identified a large town sprawling to the north, consisting of multiple small dwellings. Between 1400 and I 350 B.C. the site was destroyed and the new rulers built their settlement directly on top of the old town with a different orientation, in a display of superiority in the establishment of a new authority. Cosmopoulos believes this is evidence the site was annexed at that time by the Palace of Nestor, now a major power in the area. The new construction included a mega ron- a great hall of a Mycenaean house containing a central hearth surrounded by four pillars. It is uncl ear if the megaron was used for administrative purposes, or was simply a wealthy house, but Cosmopoulos hopes further excavation in the area will establish its function. [Source: Amanda Summer, Odyssey, September, October 2012 ]

“The ancient inhabitants were advanced enough to have running water, evidenced by an extensive drainage system and clay pipes, originating from a series of rooms that were used as industrial installations.Large deposits of flaxseed were uncovered in those rooms, so it's probable that flax production was a major industry at the site. Ancient Iklaina may have also supported metalworking, as the Linear B tablets from Pylas mention a-pu2 as a metallurgical center. At least nine smiths and up to 225 workmen may have worked at the site, some of whom received bronze from the palace, and numerous metal objects such as bronze nails, saws and rings have been found, as well as a unique head of a bronze male figurine.

“A significant building, aligned along one side with an upright rectangular stone known as a "stele", was uncovered in the final weeks of the 20 II season. At some Bronze Age sites such markers indicate a sacred space, but in this case, Cosmopoulos believes the building may have been unfinished and the post was a construction marker. "We've never seen anything like it," Cosmopoulos says. The team has uncovered no artifacts in the interior of the structure, but Cosmopoulos believes its size and formal construction may indicate it was used for a special function. The 20 II season also marked the discovery of what may be the first known Mycenaean open-air shrine. This pit, containing evidence of fire along with plaster offering tables, fragments of frescoes, a folded lead sheet, numerous burned bones from very young animals and scores of drinking vessels, opens up new avenues for the study of Mycenaean religion. In 2009 workers excavated the skeleton of a young female, about twelve, who had been buried alongside a wall near the Cyclopean.terrace. Why she was buried alone is uncertain, but Cosmopoulos believes there are more burials to be found nearby.”

Mycenaeans Used Grills and Non-Stick Pans To Make Souvlaki and Bread

In 2014, researchers reported that ancient Mycenaeans used ceramic portable grill pits to make souvlaki and non-stick pans and griddel made of clay to make bread more than 3,000 years ago, It wasn’t clear how these types of pans were used, said Julie Hruby of Dartmouth College, presenting her research at the Archaeological Institute of America’s annual meeting. “We don’t have any recipes,” she told LiveScience. “What we do have are tablets that talk about provisions for feasts, so we have some idea of what the ingredients might have been, but in terms of understanding how people cooked, the cooking pots are really our best bet.” [Source:Megan Gannon, Live Science, January 08, 2014 ~~]

boar tusk helmet

Megan Gannon wrote in Live Science: “The souvlaki trays were rectangular ceramic pans that sat underneath skewers of meat. Scientists weren’t sure whether these trays would have been placed directly over a fire, catching fat drippings from the meat, or if the pans would have held hot coals like a portable barbeque pit. The round griddles, meanwhile, had one smooth side and one side covered with tiny holes, and archaeologists have debated which side would have been facing up during cooking. To solve these culinary mysteries, Hruby and ceramicist Connie Podleski, of the Oregon College of Art and Craft, mixed American clays to mimic Mycenaean clay and created two griddles and two souvlaki trays in the ancient style. With their replica coarsewares, they tried to cook meat and bread. ~~

“Hruby and Podleski found that the souvlaki trays were too thick to transfer heat when placed over a fire pit, resulting in a pretty raw meal; placing the coals inside the tray was a much more effective cooking method. “We should probably envision these as portable cooking devices — perhaps used during Mycenaean picnics,” Hruby said. As for the griddles, bread was more likely to stick when it was cooked on the smooth side of the pan. The holes, however, seemed to be an ancient non-sticking technology, ensuring that oil spread quite evenly over the griddle. ~~

“Lowly cooking pots were often overlooked, or even thrown out, during early excavations at Mycenaean sites in the 20th century, but researchers are starting to pay more attention to these vessels to glean a full picture of ancient lifestyles. As for who was using the souvlaki trays and griddles, Hruby says it was likely chefs cooking for the Mycenaean ruling class.“They’re coming from elite structures, but I doubt very much that the elites were doing their own cooking,” Hruby told LiveScience. “There are cooks mentioned in the Linear B [a Mycenaean syllabic script] record who have that as a profession — that’s their job — so we should envision professional cooks using these.” ~~

Mycenaean Art and Architecture

Mycenaean ceramics, painted with distinctive shiny red and black images, was crafted into storage jars and ceremonial vessels. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “During the Mycenaean period, the Greek mainland enjoyed an era of prosperity centered in such strongholds as Mycenae, Tiryns, Thebes, and Athens. Local workshops produced utilitarian objects of pottery and bronze, as well as luxury items, such as carved gems, jewelry, vases in precious metals, and glass ornaments. Contact with Minoan Crete played a decisive role in the shaping and development of Mycenaean culture, especially in the arts. \^/ [Source: Colette Hemingway, Independent Scholar, Seán Hemingway, Department of Greek and Roman Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2003, \^/]

Architecturally the Mycenaeans were known for their fortified cities which were surrounded by walls with such large stone the some Greeks thought giants like the Cyclops were needed to build them. Mycenaean palaces were built around great central halls called megarons. Strangely one Mycenaean city — Pylos — had virtually no fortifications Mycenae had no temples, the palaces has modest shrines. The Mycenaeans built roads graded for wagons and chariots.

The Mycenaeans built large palaces with specialized rooms for food storage, repairing chariots, making ceramics, keeping archives and writing records on stone tablets. Many of the walls were plastered and some were decorated with frescoes.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, The Louvre, The British Museum except Iklaina and Iklaina tablet, Iklaina Archeological Project, teenager skeleton from The Guardian and skull from Archaeology wiki

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World ; BBC Ancient Greeks ; Canadian Museum of History ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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