Aegean civilizations


Aegean civilizations
The Bronze Age civilizations that arose and flourished с 3000–1000 BC in the region bordering the Aegean Sea.

They included Crete, the Cyclades, the Greek mainland south from Thessaly, including the Peloponnese, and Macedonia, Thrace, and western Anatolia. The most significant were the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. The term also sometimes refers to Neolithic civilizations in the same region с 7000–3000 BC.

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Introduction
 the Stone and Bronze Age civilizations that arose and flourished in the area of the Aegean Sea in the periods, respectively, about 7000–3000 BC and about 3000–1000 BC.

      The area consists of Crete, the Cyclades and some other islands, and the Greek mainland, including the Peloponnese, central Greece, and Thessaly. The first high civilization on European soil, with stately palaces, fine craftsmanship, and writing, developed on the island of Crete. Later, the peoples of the mainland adapted the Cretan civilization to form their own, much as the Romans adapted the civilization of later Greece. The Bronze Age civilization of Crete has been called Minoan (Minoan civilization), after the legendary King Minos of Knossos, which was the chief city of the island throughout early times. The Bronze Age of the Cyclades is known as Cycladic, that of the mainland as Helladic, from Hellas, the Greek name for Greece. Early, middle, and late stages have been defined in each of these, with further subdivisions according to recognizable changes in the style of pottery and other products that are associated with each separate culture. The civilization that arose on the mainland under Cretan influence in the 16th century BC is called Mycenaean after Mycenae, which appears to have been one of its most important centres. The term Mycenaean is also sometimes used for the civilizations of the Aegean area as a whole from about 1400 BC onward.

Dating of the Aegean Bronze Age
      The dates that are suggested here are approximate and conventional. In a general way, they are based on correlations with Egypt (Egypt, ancient), where, from the beginning of the Early Dynastic period (c. 2925 BC onward), a historical chronology can be established with a leeway of a few centuries and can be fixed within reasonably narrow limits after about 2000 BC. Bronze Age pottery from the Aegean has been found in Egypt in contexts that are datable, and many Egyptian objects have been recovered on the island of Crete.

      Two important landmarks are fragments of Cretan pottery from the town at Kahun in the Fayyūm, built for workers engaged in the construction of a pyramid for the pharaoh Sesostris II (ruled 1897–78), and a large quantity of Mycenaean pottery from the mainland found at Tell el-Amarna (Amarna, Tell el-), site of Akhenaton's capital, and imported during his reign (c. 1350–34). Radiocarbon dates appear consistent with those based on correlations with Egypt. Objects found in 1982 in the Kaş-Ulu Burun shipwreck off the southern coast of Turkey, including the first known gold scarab of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, reveal a tight web of interconnections in the later 14th century among Mycenaean Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Africa.

History of exploration
      The poems of Homer, which reflect an epic tradition that absorbed many changes occurring in warfare and society between the 15th and the 8th century BC, describe warriors employing bronze weapons and objects such as helmets plated with tusks of wild boar that went out of use before the end of the Aegean Bronze Age. Massive Bronze Age defense walls survived at Mycenae and elsewhere on the mainland; they were called Cyclopean because, according to Greek tradition, the Cyclopes had built them. Apart from these Cyclopean walls (cyclopean masonry), virtually nothing was known about the Aegean Bronze Age before the middle of the 19th century, when in 1876 a German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann (Schliemann, Heinrich), discovered unplundered royal shaft graves at Mycenae. He thought that the men buried in them were the Greek heroes of Homer's siege of Troy (Trojan War). There are in fact many likenesses between Homer's descriptions and the armour, weapons, and war imagery found in these graves. The graves, spanning about 1600 to 1450 BC, contained princely gifts from an age when Greece, Crete, and Troy engaged in trade. Schliemann's discoveries led to intensive exploration of Bronze Age and earlier sites on the Greek mainland. On the island of Thera in 1866–67, before Schliemann, Ferdinand Fouqué, a French geologist, had already explored settlements of the Shaft Grave Period (Thera) sealed in under a thick shroud of volcanic pumice and ash. He found houses, frescoes, pottery imported from as far as Cyprus, and well-preserved agricultural produce. Because Bronze Age Crete and Greece were not explored at the time, this important find lay fallow for a century.

      Later in the 19th century, Christos Tsountas, a Greek archaeologist, dug cemeteries of earlier phases of the Bronze Age on other Cycladic islands and continued the work begun by Schliemann at Mycenae. At the end of the century, a British expedition excavated the important Bronze Age town of Phylakopi on Melos. When Crete eventually became independent of Turkish rule in 1898, attention was turned to Bronze Age sites there. In 1900 Arthur (later Sir Arthur) Evans (Evans, Sir Arthur), an English archaeologist, began to uncover the palace at Knossos, the largest Bronze Age centre of the island, discovering clay tablets with the first positive evidence for Bronze Age writing in the Aegean. Greek, American, French, and Italian excavators added further knowledge of the Cretan Bronze Age during the years that followed, and American and German expeditions opened new sites on the mainland. Inscribed clay tablets in the script called Linear B, such as those found at Knossos in Crete at the turn of the century, were recovered in Messenia in 1939 by the American archaeologist Carl W. Blegen (Blegen, Carl); others have since come to light at Mycenae and elsewhere on the mainland. The belief that the language of these tablets was a very archaic form of Greek was established in 1952 by the English architect and cryptographer Michael Ventris (Ventris, Michael), working with the linguist John Chadwick, though acceptance of this is not yet universal. In 1962 a large palace, destroyed by fire about 1450 BC at Zákros in eastern Crete, was discovered. In 1967 the Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos (Marinatos, Spyridon) followed up Fouqué's explorations with excavations at modern Akrotíri on the south coast of Thera. He uncovered a whole town buried under the volcanic eruption and so preserved in wonderful detail.

Early Aegean civilizations

Early cultures
 

      Chipped stone tools made by Paleolithic hunters have been found in many parts of mainland Greece, but none are yet recorded from Crete or the other islands. As elsewhere in Europe, the latest Lower Paleolithic industries evolved into Upper Paleolithic ones with diminutive stonework. The excavations of Thomas W. Jacobsen at the Franchthi Cave on the Bay of Argos showed that boats already sailed to the island of Melos north of Crete for obsidian, a volcanic glass invaluable for early tools, by about 13,000–11,000 BC and that the cultivation of hybrid grains, the domestication of animals, and organized community tuna hunts had already begun.

      If radiocarbon dates are to be trusted, agriculture (agriculture, origins of) was being practiced in some parts of the Aegean area as early as the 7th millennium. The first agriculturalists in the Aegean, like those of Anatolia and Palestine, may have been ignorant of the art of making fired clay vases—traces of agricultural settlements without pottery have been identified at several places in Thessaly and at Knossos in Crete. The island of Crete appears to have been uninhabited before this time, and the first agriculturalists must have reached it by sea from western Anatolia or from somewhere more distant. Other immigrants from the east may have brought agricultural techniques and ways of life to the mainland, where they mingled with the Upper Paleolithic hunting peoples. For human habitation the Aegean (Aegean Sea) is one of the most favoured regions of the Mediterranean basin. Immigrants from the coastal areas of Anatolia, Syria, or Palestine would have found the climate and ecology similar to what they had known in their homelands. The olive and vine, sources of oil and wine, the staples of the Mediterranean diet, grow in most parts of the Aegean area and may have been native there. Water, which is a problem in the present century, was probably more abundant in early times when forests were more extensive than they are today.

      Agricultural communities were eventually established in every part of Greece. They made pottery by hand and ground stones (stone-tool industry) to shape edged tools, axes, adzes, and chisels. Wheat, barley, oats, millet, lentils, and peas were among the crops grown, supplementing wild grapes, pears, nuts, and honey. The inhabitants continued to hunt and fish, though they also raised cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. Arrowheads of chipped stone were used on the mainland and in the Cyclades, but none is recorded from Crete, where bone points may have served to tip arrows. Another long-range weapon was the sling, and clay sling pellets were made in Thessaly where suitable beach pebbles were not available. In Crete, clubs were armed with stone heads as in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East in early times. Houses (Western architecture) with rectangular rooms are attested at Knossos in Crete, at Saliagos in the Cyclades, and at Nea Nikomedia in Macedonia. Some Aegean communities, however, may have lived in circular huts of the kind found in predynastic Egypt and in early Syria and Cyprus. By the Middle Neolithic, there existed independent walled acropolis towns with specialized industries like potteries; Sesklo is an important site several acres in extent, with nearly 30 houses, a sophisticated gate, and striking red-and-white pottery. In the Late Neolithic, walled communities with special big houses that had megarons (megaron) (central halls), as at Dhimini, suggest social hierarchies and dominant chiefs.

      Several Thessalian settlements were surrounded by defense walls or ditches. Copper tools—simple, flat axes and knives—were in use before the end of the Neolithic both in Crete and on the mainland.

The Bronze Age
 

The Early Bronze Age (c. 3000–2200)
      The transition from Neolithic to Bronze Age in the Aegean was marked by changes in pottery and other aspects of material culture. These changes may reflect the arrival in Crete and the Cyclades of new people from lands farther east bringing knowledge of metalworking (metalwork) with them. In Crete and the islands, the changes that inaugurated the Bronze Age were more or less contemporary with the beginning of dynastic times in Egypt. The Bronze Age in the Peloponnese appears to have begun later under the influence of settlers from the islands. The Bronze Age in central Greece and Thessaly may have begun later still. Evolved types of metal tools appear to have been current considerably before the end of the Neolithic there.

      Flourishing metal-using cultures were established by the middle of the 3rd millennium in Crete, the Cycladic islands, and the southern part of the mainland. Each of these three cultures had its own distinctive characteristics; however, they had much in common, and their peoples may have spoken the same or similar non-Greek languages. Many place-names throughout the Aegean—notably ones ending in -nt- and -ss-, such as Corinth and Knossos—seem to reflect a time when a group of related languages with probable Anatolian (Anatolian languages) affinities was spoken there before the introduction of Greek. A large number of words came to be adopted into Greek from this earlier language group.

      These Early Bronze Age peoples of the Aegean seem to have employed similar types of metal tools, including axes, adzes, and short daggers, but double axes may have been special to Crete. Tweezers were used for plucking facial hairs, and rectangular stone palettes for grinding face paints with small pestles made of attractive veined stones or Spondylus shell.

      Lerna and other settlements on the mainland were eventually surrounded by massive walls with projecting towers, and neighbouring islands like Aigina or Syros in the Cyclades also had towered walls with trap gates. Houses with several rooms were being constructed in most parts of the Aegean by this time, and buildings at Knossos and at Vasilikí in Crete have been identified as the residences of local rulers. The so-called House of Tiles at Lerna, destroyed by fire toward the end of the period, appears to have been an important focus for the community. A massive rectangle two stories high, with a roofed balcony upstairs, the structure takes its name from the baked clay tiles (tile) found in its ruins. These small, flat tiles are thought to have come from a sloping roof and may be the earliest roof tiles known. Similar tiles were recovered from a huge circular structure of the same period at neighbouring Tiryns, of which only a section has been excavated, as it lies deep below the level of the later Mycenaean palace there. It was evidently a public building of some kind.

      Cretans in the Early Bronze Age buried (burial) their dead in communal tombs (tomb). These belonged to clans or extended families and might have remained in use for many generations. Traces of hundreds of burials have been noted in some of them. Caves and rock-shelters, as well as buildings of various kinds, were used as tombs. Circular tombs were characteristic of the Mesara region of southern Crete. They were built above ground, with low massive stone walls perhaps covered with logs and thatch or slabs. Some of the largest tombs, however, with a diameter of 40 feet (12 metres) or more inside, may have been vaulted in mud brick. Annexes with cult rooms were built in front of the entrances of some tombs, and others had chambers for offerings around the sides. When a tomb became full, a new floor was laid above the earlier burials, or parts of the tomb's annex were brought into use as burial chambers. Sometimes the remains of earlier burials were removed to separate buildings or enclosures nearby. Communal tombs at Mochlos on the north coast had rectangular compartments or rooms and flat roofs, such as those in contemporary houses. At Knossos, where the local rock was soft, artificial caves were dug to serve as tombs. Everywhere in Crete the dead were normally trussed into a tightly contracted position, knees to chin. Sometimes the bodies were then squeezed into large storage jars or small clay chests or coffins. There was evidently much ceremonial (death rite) in connection with burial, and, apart from objects of personal use such as seals, jewelry, and weapons left with the dead, vases with offerings were regularly placed inside or outside the tombs.

      In contrast to the Cretans, the people of the Cyclades during the earlier part of the Bronze Age buried their dead in small graves that held a single body or sometimes a pair. The graves were often grouped in family cemeteries, which might be surrounded by a wall. The bodies were placed in them lying on one side in a loosely flexed position. Some Cycladic graves were small stone-built chambers with an entrance, although the standard type consisted of a box ( cist) made with large slabs set on edge and roofed with slabs. There were platforms near the cemeteries in some cases, perhaps for musical performances, dances, or rites.

      Less is known about contemporary burials on the mainland. The graves there normally contained several bodies, which suggests that they belonged to families but not to large units, such as the clans that existed in Crete. Various types of mainland graves of this period are known, including chambers cut in the rock and stone-built tombs, such as those in the Cyclades. Circular cairns (heaps of stones), each covering several burials, on the island of Leucas in western Greece appear to go back to this time.

      Pottery (Greek pottery) was still made by hand throughout the Aegean area. A useful type of vase first attested there at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age was a handled jug with a spout for pouring. Some of the earliest jugs from Crete have round bottoms and yellowish surfaces, as if they were copies of vessels made from gourds. Distinctive spouted bowls of oval shape nicknamed sauceboats (sauceboat) were quite typical of the Early Bronze Age on the mainland and usually have a fine reddish or dark overall wash. Pottery with a similar wash and with the surface often deliberately mottled is found in Crete and is known as Vasilikí ware (Vasílikí ware), after a site with a little “palace” where large amounts of it were recovered. The art of making stone vases flourished in the Cyclades from the beginning of the Bronze Age. The techniques used were simple and included boring with a hollow reed, which twirled an abrasive, either emery from Naxos or sand. The people of the Cyclades used their fine white marble not only for vases but also for remarkable figurines, mostly female but including men, some playing double pipes or seated on chairs with harps. While the majority of these figures are only a few inches high, some females are larger and a few are nearly life-size. Some have traces of painted decoration. These marble figures (Western sculpture) were often placed in graves, and groups of them have been found in sanctuaries, though whether they represented gods and goddesses is uncertain. They were exported to the mainland and Crete and may have been imitated there. Vessels of gold (goldwork) and silver (silverwork) were current in the Aegean by then, and a few have survived, including gold sauceboats of mainland type and gold and silver bowls from the islands. Gold and silver jewelry of this period, mostly from Crete, includes bracelets, necklaces, earrings, headbands, and hair ornaments of various kinds. Some of the finest of this early jewelry was found in communal tombs at Mochlos on the northern coast of Crete. The inspiration for it no doubt came from the east, and much of that from Mochlos, notably hairpins with flower heads, is reminiscent of jewelry from the royal tombs at Ur in Mesopotamia.

      Seals (seal) came into use in the Aegean about the middle of the 4th millennium. Before the invention of locks and keys, seals were employed to stamp wet clay, which was used to secure doors or affix lids to storage jars or other containers. The design impressed by the seal might add the threat of magic to that of detection if the sealing was broken. Many seals resembling those current in Egypt and Syria have been recovered from early tombs in Crete. Some of these early Cretan seals were made of elephant tusk or hippopotamus tooth. Others were made of bone or soft, easily cut stones, such as serpentine and steatite. They were of various shapes, some of animals or birds or their heads, others cylindrical, adapted from Syrian versions of early Mesopotamian cylinder seals. They were engraved with a variety of designs, including abstract patterns and pictures of animals, notably dangerous lions and scorpions or poisonous spiders (rogalidhas) of a species native to Crete. Seals appear to have been in use in the Cyclades and on the mainland during this period, but very few have been recovered there. A stone cylinder seal from Amorgos resembles early Syrian ones. Most Aegean seals of this period, however, even in Crete, may have been made of perishable wood. Clay seal impressions, preserved by fires that destroyed buildings at Lerna, including the palatial House of Tiles, look as if they had been stamped by wooden seals with intricate interlocking designs.

      Pictures of boats (ship) with many oars or paddles were drawn among spirals (waves?) on clay vases of this period in the Cyclades and on the mainland. The boats have a high prow often surmounted by a fish ensign, the stern being low with the keel apparently projecting beyond it. Similar vessels, though with a single mast for a square sail in addition to oars, are represented on early Cretan seals. Ships of this kind would have been capable of voyages to Syria and Egypt, whence skills and fashions were reaching Crete along with imports such as Egyptian stone vases and Syrian daggers.

End of the Early Bronze Age on the mainland (c. 2200–2000)
 The comparative unity of incipient civilization in the Aegean area was eventually shattered by new movements of people into the Cyclades and the southern part of the mainland. Toward the end of the 3rd millennium, many of the settlements on the mainland, such as that at Lerna, were destroyed by fire, and the houses built afterward were of a different type and more primitive. These new houses were long and narrow, only one story high, and apparently gable-roofed. The entrance was at one end, and there was often a small compartment, which might be semicircular (apsidal), at the other. The new houses were evidently built by foreign invaders settling in the places they had destroyed. Some of the previous inhabitants, however, may have survived as hewers of wood and drawers of water. A new formal dark, burnished pottery appeared, as well as a simple ware with a linear pattern on a light ground; sauceboats, however, disappeared. This pottery has many features in common with that of the succeeding Middle Bronze Age; thus there may be ethnic affinities. The site of the House of Tiles appears to have been reserved as sacred or unlucky ground, with a ring of large stones above its burnt ruins.

The Middle Bronze Age on the mainland (c. 2000–1550)
      The mainland was disrupted again about 2000 BC with new levels appearing at sites such as Lerna in the Argolid and Eutresis in Boeotia; there seem to be new burial habits on both coasts. Some scholars see an intrusion from the north of “Indo-Europeans,” but this is a difficult, perplexing topic. Some handmade pottery may have Balkan affinities, and there is string-impressed ware at a few places that resembles in some ways the pottery of the Black Sea region. In any case, the newcomers apparently were pastoralists. Although not wealthy, they may have been one source for the appearance of the horse in Greece, an established fact before the Shaft Grave Period. Many scholars view this wave, which covered most of Greece, as representing “the coming of the Greeks”; others regard the Greek language as a rich amalgam formed within the confines of Greece and not imposed from outside. A new pottery appeared on the mainland: a class of gray burnished ware, wheel-made, with sharp angular shapes copied from those of metal vases. The polished gray surfaces of this “Minyan” ware (Minyan ware) (as it was named by Schliemann after the legendary inhabitants of Orchomenus in central Greece, where he first came upon it) look as if meant to imitate silver; later, some pieces were coloured red or yellow. After some time, “Matt-painted” pottery also appeared, again with simple linear patterns on a light ground. The traditional “long house,” often apsidal, was the preferred architectural form; by the end of the period, some villages were walled.

      The level of cultural attainment seems low, and not much metal circulated at first. The newcomers quickly developed connections with the islands and Crete; they imported Cretan vases, and some local vases show mainland ships. Minyan and Matt-painted pottery has been found in the nearer islands and even as far as Crete and the Anatolian coast. Burials grew from single interments to larger “family” chambers at Eleusis in Attica and on both coasts; in Messenia, in parts of the Argolid, and at Marathon there appeared a novel kind of multiple burial, with individual cists (burial chambers) or pithoi (large earthenware jars), the whole cluster being covered by a single mound. These tumulus burials, which had already appeared earlier at Leucas in the Ionian Sea, may reflect Balkan practice. In Messenia a Late Bronze Age beehive, or tholos, tomb was cut into the older mound as though that particular burial place were special. By the end of the 17th century, the newcomers had taken their full place on a newly emerging international scene and were always to be in a special relation with the Cycladic islands, Crete, and, probably, Troy. Bronze knives and gold ornaments were found with some burials, and, by the time of the Mycenae Shaft Graves in the 16th century, a luxuriant style of native goldwork had been created.

The Cyclades
      On the island of Cythera (Kíthira), between western Crete and the southern tip of the Peloponnese, a colony of Cretans appears to have replaced a settlement of people from the mainland toward the end of the 3rd millennium. In the 17th or 16th century, Cretan colonies were established at Triánda in Rhodes and at Miletus on the western coast of Anatolia. Later Greek legends seem to refer to colonies from Crete, if not from Knossos, in some of the Aegean islands. Much Cretan pottery found its way to the Cyclades and was also imitated there; but, although the Cycladic people adapted some fashions and ideas from Crete, they retained their own distinctive traditions. Cycladic vases are decorated with flowers, especially lilies and saffron crocus, with swallows, wild goats, and dolphins, and with warriors and strange griffins, in a lively, splashy, and colourful style. Frescoes at Ayía Iríni (Aghia Eirene) on Ceos (Kéa) show blue birds, a town, hunting, a girl picking flowers, myrtle branches, and a copper ingot, and those at Phylakopi on Melos depict women in clothes embroidered with birds, fine textiles, flying fish, and lily blossoms. At Akrotíri on Thera, a town buried under a volcanic eruption about 1500 BC, there are in almost every house fairly well-preserved frescoes displaying wonderful, flat, brightly coloured scenes of boxers, fishermen, antelopes, birds, and blue monkeys. The two most dramatic ones are the “naval” or “miniature” frescoes from the West House, showing themes of war and peace in a seaside-and-country setting with whole towns watching elaborate ships, and the elegantly drawn set in Xeste 3, of girls and women picking saffron crocus, wearing their finest gold and rock crystal jewelry and elegant costumes; they are accompanied by blue monkeys. The Theran paintings are the best surviving Aegean documents for clothing, architecture, ships, armament, and daily life.

The Shaft Grave Period on the mainland (c. 1600–1450)
      There are links between the Thera paintings and such items as earrings, necklaces, and metal vessels found in the royal shaft graves at Mycenae. Thera itself, however, had few valuables like metal; apparently the inhabitants had taken prized objects away. The Shaft Graves, in contrast, were packed with gold, silver, and bronze—almost nomadic in the obvious preference for portable gold and weapons. Two groups of Shaft Graves were discovered at Mycenae in different parts of a large cemetery area. The burials in them seem to have ranged over a period of 150 years, from shortly before about 1600 to the middle of the 15th century. Each group was eventually surrounded by a circular enclosure wall. The circle designated B, with the earliest burials, lay outside the limits of the later Bronze Age defenses, but the other circle, A, enclosing the richest burials in six large graves, was deliberately incorporated within them. The wealthy burials belonged to leading, if not royal, families of the place that would eventually supplant Knossos as the chief centre of the Aegean. Schliemann excavated the graves of Circle A in 1876, but it was not until 1951 that Circle B was noted. These graves are capacious shafts cut in the rock, often with pebble floors and slab roofs. They were used for multiple burials over a course of at least several years, and the remains, including beef bones and oyster shells, give evidence of well-developed funeral rites. Both men and women were buried in the graves, many of which contained several bodies. After the bodies were placed in the graves, the stone-walled burial chambers were roofed with timbers, and the shafts above were filled again. Sometimes the remains of earlier burials seem to have been pushed aside to make room for later ones, but, if so, the shafts must have been laboriously reopened to admit new burials. Large stone slabs with carvings in flat relief had been set above some of the graves. The carvings include spiral designs and pictures of the dead riding in their chariots to war or to the hunt. They have vivid battle imagery—three stallions rearing, spears ground under chariot wheels, and a man falling headfirst from a chariot. In one case, the scene of a warrior driving a chariot over a fallen enemy encased in a shield seems to be reinforced by a scene just below it, a lion chasing a deer. This visual simile may be analogous to lion similes in Homeric epic. According to another interpretation, the dead were taking part in their own funeral games with chariot races as described in Homer. These tombstones provide the earliest evidence for chariots on the mainland.

      A fantastic array of gold and silver cups, jewelry, and dress ornaments had been placed with the dead, especially with those in the graves of Circle A. Golden diadems and elaborate hairpins decked the heads of women. Beads in necklaces were of amethyst, probably from Egypt, and amber, from the Baltic. The men were buried with supplies of bronze weapons (weapon), including great slashing knives and spearheads and two kinds of rapier-like swords, a mainland version and a Cretan version. Several swords are ornamented with gold-plated hilts and pommels of polished stone, ivory, or gold; some have gold predators at the hilt gripping the blades in their mouths. The blades may be ornamented with running horses, flying griffins, shields in the shape of a figure eight, or even lilies running down from hilt to tip. The tremendous influence from Crete on these graves is visible in the metal cups, faience “sacral knots” (i.e., representations of a Cretan ritual object in the shape of a scarf with a looped knot and fringed ends), dolphin-appliquéd ostrich eggs, conch shells associated with ritual summoning, gold triple shrine facades, images of bulls with double axes between their horns, and imported pottery painted with plants. Beside them is an equal wealth of local art such as formal gold cups, gold worked in breathless surface patterns of lions, bulls, and plants, and dozens of lions twisted as ornament. There probably is a local iconography in the gold seals of duels, lion combat, chariot hunting, and a wounded lion trying to pull an arrow from his shoulder. Traveling artists may account for some of the similarities to Cycladic and Cretan art, but local armourers may also have wrought local metal into drinking cups. Covering the faces of some of the men were gold portrait masks showing them with beards and mustaches. In this they are like an amethyst “portrait” gem in Circle B of a bearded mature man. (Later studies of faces also seem to reserve the beard and mustache for important or powerful elders, although fashions change; servants and soldiers are normally beardless). Women's costume cannot be known from the remains, but it may have had the same range of tunic, apron, and veil as in the Theran paintings, and the jewelry is impressive.

      Some bronze dagger blades were inlaid with remarkable pictures or designs in other metals, chiefly gold and silver and electrum (a mixture of gold and silver) in various shades. Black niello was used as a background for these pictures or to heighten the incised detail. The most famous of the Shaft Grave daggers shows men armed with bows, spears, and great body shields, hunting a pride of lions; another has catlike animals chasing wild fowl among papyrus flowers beside a silver stream. This technique of “painting in metals” appears to have originated in Syria, although the workmanship and style of the pictures on the Mycenae daggers look novel. Whereas other daggers and some metal cups with inlaid designs of this kind have been found on the mainland, none has yet been recovered in Crete. But many of the treasures from the Shaft Graves are imports from Crete.

      The Shaft Graves had so many metal vases, including huge bronze cauldrons (one marked with Linear signs), that clay vases were not much needed. Yet, the contemporary chamber tombs at Mycenae and many other sites have wonderful pottery that is both imported from Crete and made with local taste with spirals, ferns, and double axes. In this development one can observe the formation of a new Mycenaean Greek culture, as it assimilated styles from Crete and yet insisted on more traditional local habits. It is this tentative fusion of two cultural “languages of art,” already in touch for two or three centuries, that gave a special impetus to the new Mycenaean world, rendering it flexible, receptive, and adventurous. The pottery, superior in technique, colour, and design, was attractive to other cultures and widely used as commercial containers for oils. Because it has been found in almost all coastal districts from Syria to Sardinia, it is a real aid to dating.

      Along with the rich chamber tombs at Mycenae, certain families, perhaps princely, began building tholos, or beehive, tombs as early as the Shaft Grave Period, perhaps first in Messenia in the 16th century and then in many places in Greece by the middle of the 15th century. The tholos tomb has three parts: a narrow entranceway, or dromos, often lined with fieldstones and later with cut stones; a deep doorway, or stomion, covered over with one to three lintel blocks; and a circular chamber with a high vaulted or corbeled roof, the thalamos. When the facades are finely dressed with cut stones or recessed vertical panels, one may think of a Cretan connection; indeed, one of the tholos tombs at Peristeria has two Cretan “masons' marks,” a branch and a double ax, cut into the facade to the left of the doorway. The influence of Crete on the southwest Peloponnese is marked. Perhaps a traditional memory of this connection is preserved in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, which tells of the god kidnapping the crew of a ship trading from Knossos to Pylos to serve his new sanctuary at Delphi. Excavations at Delphi yielded a snout of a marble lion rhyton (libation vessel), matched best by a complete example at Knossos. The tholos tomb is always covered by a mound of earth, often kept in place by a peripheral stone ring, or krepis. Some tholoi were built on the surface of the land, but most were built in a deep pit excavated into the slope of a hillside. The stones that were overlapped in rings to form the vault in the corbeled system were laid with a narrower face inside, which locked each ring in place. The lintel blocks, often huge in size and weight, were dragged across the hill and dropped onto the corbel rings at the proper height; either a single huge block or two or three slabs next to each other provided the needed depth. Various systems were used to ease the weight on the lintel, such as narrow stone bars or an open relieving triangle sealed by a thin-cut screening stone. The whole vault was sealed with a keystone.

      Most tholos tombs have collapsed, often when the lintel cracked and gave way, and their contents have largely been looted. Occasionally the robbers overlooked a pit sunk in the floor, like the rich burial at Vapheio near Sparta; sometimes a whole tomb survived unplundered, like the one at Dendra near Mycenae or that at Rutsi-Myrsinochorion in Messenia. Of the nine tholos tombs at Mycenae, two, the Treasury of Atreus (Atreus, Treasury of) and the Tomb of Clytemnestra, have splendidly dressed facades with engaged half columns in two tiers and coloured exotic stones; they may have been built early in the 14th century, although arguments are made for a 13th-century construction. The elaborate design of the facade may have been imitated from the impressive north facade of the inner court at the Cretan palace of Phaistos. The imagery might imply a continuing presence of the dead kings inside the tomb. Such tombs sometimes mark the gate or main road to a town, as classical tombs did, as though they were “ancestral watchers” or guardians. Tholos tombs were built from the 15th to the 13th century and imply a hierarchical command of labour, of the kind the palace exerted later, according to the Linear B documents. Possibly the capstone was not put in place until the dynast died. These structures could not be built quickly but were prepared with foresight.

      While stone-built tholos tombs became the standard resting places for kings and princes in all parts of the mainland to which the Mycenaean civilization penetrated, the mass of the population changed from a custom of burial in single graves, whether in mounds or cemeteries or inside settlements, to the use of family vaults. In some regions, such as Messenia and the frontier area of Thessaly, families built small tholos tombs for themselves. The most common type of Mycenaean family tomb, however, was a rock-cut chamber with a dromos leading down to the entrance. The entrance was blocked with stones and the passage filled with earth after each burial. The rock-cut tomb may have been developed in Messenia during the 16th century under Cretan influence, like the tholos tomb. In the Knossos region of Crete, rock-cut tombs had been in use for communal burials for many centuries before this. Whatever its origin, the idea of family burial in rock-cut tombs soon spread to Mycenae and other parts of the mainland. Some rock-cut tombs in Messenia and elsewhere were carved in the shape of the beehive vaults of tholos tombs. A few large rock-cut tombs, including some of this shape, were used for royal or princely burials.

Period of the Early Palaces in Crete (c. 2000–1700)
 Crete does not seem to have been affected by the movements of people into the Cyclades and the mainland at the end of the 3rd millennium, but important changes were taking place there. Great palaces (palace) of a distinctive type built around large rectangular open courts seem to have been constructed within a comparatively short time at the leading centres of Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia. The art of writing is first attested for certain in Crete at the beginning of this Palatial Period. These developments in Crete appear to have been the result of local evolution.

      Crete advanced rapidly along the path of civilization during the period of the Early Palaces, while the mainland relapsed into comparative agricultural stagnation. The art of seal engraving made great strides in Crete. Hard stones, such as jasper and rock crystal, began to be employed for some of the finer seals. A new and much-favoured shape, which may have been adopted from Anatolia, was the signet with a stalk. Anatolian seals found their way to Crete, and impressions of them have been identified in a great deposit of clay sealings from the early palace at Phaistos (Phaestus). Cretan seal designs now included elegant abstract patterns of spirals and concentric circles neatly made with the drill as well as lifelike pictures of animals, birds, and insects, together with mythical beasts such as sphinxes and griffins adapted from Egyptian or Oriental models. Attractive hard stones, such as gabbro, were used by the Cretan vase makers, although they still used the softer chlorites and serpentines. Some of the fine stone vases from communal tombs in the Mesara region and at Mochlos may date from this period, rather than earlier, in the light of discoveries since 1950 in the early palace at Phaistos.

      The fast potter's wheel began to come into use in Crete about the same time as in the Cyclades and on the mainland. Meanwhile, a revolution in the style of Cretan pottery was taking place. During the Early Bronze Age most of the finer vases everywhere in the Aegean area had been decorated with designs in dark, rather shiny paint—shades of red (red-figure pottery), brown, and black (black-figure pottery)—on a light surface. Toward the end of that period in Crete, however, there was a change to a “light-on-dark” style of decoration; the vases were given an overall wash of the shiny paint previously used for decoration, and designs were applied to this dark surface in white. This new light-on-dark fashion was also adopted, to some extent, in the Cyclades and on the mainland, but in Crete it was developed much further, and, from the beginning of the Palatial Period, decoration in white was regularly supplemented with red to create a striking polychrome effect. This kind of pottery, which flourished in Crete throughout the time of the first palaces and later (c. 2200 to 1600), is known as Kamáres ware from a sacred cave of that name on Mount Ida, where vases with fine polychrome decoration were recovered at the end of the 19th century. Most of the smaller vases in Crete, notably the drinking cups, now copy metal ones in their shapes and often in their molded or impressed decoration, and the exquisite “eggshell” ware, made in the workshops of the great palaces, with walls as thin as those of metal vases and shiny black surfaces adorned with abstract flowerlike designs in a combination of white, red, and orange, is among the finest pottery ever produced in Greek lands. The imitations in clay suggest that vessels of precious metal—gold and silver—were in general use in the palaces of Crete by this time. A silver, two-handled goblet of this period was recovered from a tomb at Gourniá in eastern Crete. Silver occurs in the Cyclades, and it was being mined during the Bronze Age near Laurium in Attica on the mainland.

      There were many contacts between Crete and the rest of the Levant during this period. Scarabs and stone vessels from Egypt reached Crete and were imitated there. Cretan Kamáres ware was exported to Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt, where it has been found in tombs and on town sites. Letters recovered from the ruins of the city of Mari on the Euphrates, destroyed by Hammurabi about 1760, refer to objects of Cretan workmanship. It seems that Cretan metalworkers were already preeminent in the civilized world of the time. The daggers they made were of types ultimately derived from Syria, but they were exported to Cyprus in exchange, perhaps, for copper, although supplies existed in Crete. Westward, they may have reached Italy, where native copper daggers are of Cretan shapes and flint imitations of them seem to have been made. It was during this period that tin-bronze (tinware) began to come into more general use in the Aegean, replacing copper or bronze made by adding arsenic, a process which was effective but dangerous for the craftsman who undertook it. Tin may have reached the Aegean first from Iran through Syria, although Etruria on the western coast of Italy was another possible source.

      Burial in Crete was still normally in communal tombs, and many of the Early Bronze Age ones continued in use, but cemeteries of burials in storage jars are also in evidence at this time. No royal tombs of this period have been identified, however, and kings and queens may have been laid to rest, like their subjects, in the tombs of their clans or possibly even buried ceremonially at sea. A large rectangular building with many rooms or compartments in the cemetery area just outside the city at Mallia might have been the tomb of the royal clan there. The local inhabitants plundered it during the 19th century, and its modern name—Chrysolakkos (“Gold Hole”)—suggests what they found. A gold cup and jewelry, including elaborate earrings and pendants, acquired by the British Museum in 1892 and allegedly from a Mycenaean tomb on the island of Aegina near Athens have been thought to be plunder from Chrysolakkos, although recent excavations on Aegina have indicated a wealthy and warlike community that could equally have produced these jewels. They are marked by an unusual style: one earring has a two-headed snake surrounding a pair of leashed hounds over squatting monkeys, with owls and discs hanging on soldered chains. The collection may have been made during the 17th century, after the destruction of the older palaces. French excavations there in the 1920s led to the recovery of similar jewelry, notably a gold dress-pin with flower head and a pendant in the form of a pair of bees (or wasps) facing each other over a disc, which may be meant for a honey cake. This pendant shows that the Cretan jewelers were masters of the art of hard soldering and could use it to fix wire (filigree) or minute globules of gold (granulation) to a background.

      Life in the Cyclades seems to have continued much as it had in the Early Bronze Age. Yet, apart from signs scratched or painted on pottery from Phylakopi in Melos, there is little evidence of acquaintance with writing or the use of seals. Some time after the beginning of the period of the Early Palaces in Crete, Phylakopi was defended by a massive wall. Cretan Kamáres ware was exported to the islands of Melos, Ceos, and Aegina and to Lerna and a few other coastal sites on the mainland, and mainland Minyan ware found its way to the islands and to Crete. The trade may partly reflect the trade in Melian obsidian, which may still have been in demand for cheap knives and razors, although metal ones were already in use in the Aegean area from the Early Bronze Age onward. Chamber tombs cut in the rock at Phylakopi appear to go back to this period, but burial in slab-lined cists continued elsewhere in the islands. At some point the fortified settlement at Khalandrianí on Syrus was destroyed by fire and abandoned, but Aegina, Ceos, and other fortified island towns flourished.

Period of the Late Palaces in Crete (c. 1700–1450)
 Various disasters occurred in Crete about the turn of the 18th and 17th centuries BC. The palaces at Knossos and Mallia were damaged, while that at Phaistos and a building that may have been the residence of a local ruler in a large settlement at Monastiráki west of Mount Ida were destroyed by fire. The palace at Phaistos had been so violently burned that an enormous layer of almost impenetrable vitrified mud brick formed an underpinning for the new palace built on top of it; it is a vivid testimony to massive destruction. What caused these destructions is uncertain. Accident, internal warfare, or foreign invasion are among possible agents. The damage at Knossos might have been caused by one of the many earthquakes that afflict the area. It has been suggested that Crete was first conquered by Greeks during this period or by people from Anatolia speaking another Indo-European language called Luwian and related to Hittite. There is, however, no strong evidence for an invasion of Crete at this time.

      The two or three centuries following these disasters were indeed the most flourishing of the Aegean Bronze Age, during which Cretan civilization reached its zenith. The palaces (Western architecture) at Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia were restored with greater splendour than before.

      From the dimensions of the new and entirely rebuilt palace at Phaistos, it has been possible to calculate the unit of length used by the Cretan architects: a foot only a fraction shorter than the standard English foot. In plan, the later palaces were basically the same as the earlier ones, with agglomerations of rooms clustering around long, rectangular central courts oriented roughly from north to south either for ritual or for catching the best of the winter sun. Many parts of these palaces were two or three stories high. A section on the eastern side of that at Knossos, built into a cutting in a steep slope below the level of the central court and housing the royal living quarters, may have had five stories. Large areas of the palaces, especially at Knossos, were possibly reserved for cult. It is difficult to explain otherwise the beautiful ceremonial steps at Phaistos leading up to a blank wall; although there is no entrance, a personage could make a sudden appearance from the side and speak or show something to an assembly in the open space in front. The palaces often had a conjunction of grand facades and storage quarters, perhaps for the first fruits of the harvest to be blessed in passing.

      Wide, paved squares flanked the palaces, and around them spread extensive towns, which by this time if not earlier seem to have been unwalled. Unfortunately, a complete town around a palace has never yet been excavated, and the comparative wealth or population is not known. Cobbled streets with raised central paths of smooth squared blocks for the convenience of pedestrians ran through the towns. Surface water was carried away by covered drains, and skillfully jointed clay water pipes were found in the palace at Knossos.

      The only settlement of this period that has been entirely excavated is a small town at Gourniá in eastern Crete. This was built on the slopes of a ridge overlooking the sea, on top of which stood a little “palace” with a small open court in the centre and a public square beside it on the sheltered landward side. Down the ridge from the palace toward the sea was a small shrine facing the end of a path that led to it from the main street. Even in a small town such as that at Gourniá, many of the houses were evidently two stories high, and houses with three stories are depicted on faience inlays from the palace at Knossos assignable to the 17th century BC.

      Palaikastro in eastern Crete is another important town with blocks of houses marked by coloured stone foundations, narrow streets with drains, and pottery of exceptional quality. Another town of great potential interest is Arkhanes near Knossos, where palace facades, early tholos tombs and later shaft-grave burials, and shrines have been discovered scattered through the countryside. Pyrgos, a controlling villa, and Kommos, a commercial town with fine architecture, roads, and ship sheds, also are indicative of power and wealth; the road and watchtower system is beginning to be better known.

      In palaces as well as houses, the lower parts of walls were still normally built of rough fieldstones held together with mud, the upper stories being continued in mud brick. Carefully squared and fitted blocks of limestone, however, were employed for some important facades. Now, as earlier, walls were often tied together with a framework of timbers set vertically and horizontally and joined by crossbeams running through them. There was also an extensive use of timber for columns and pillars and for the rafters supporting upper floors and roofs, which, it seems, were usually flat. Pictures of wooden columns show them with a characteristic downward taper, which may reflect an original custom of placing tree trunks upside down. The lower parts of the walls inside the palaces and great houses were often clothed with large slabs of attractively veined gypsum, a soft crystalline stone that outcrops in the region of Knossos and Phaistos. Gypsum was also much employed for pavements, but a hard lime plaster was more commonly used for coating walls and floors. Plastered walls were decorated with brightly coloured pictures (painting, Western), which may be an innovation of this period, since they are not yet attested for certain earlier in Crete. These pictures are described as frescoes (fresco painting) because they were normally painted while the plaster was still damp. Lines impressed with string in the wet plaster helped to guide the artists. White, red-brown, or blue were usually chosen as a background, while yellow and black were among the other basic colours used. Many of these pictures, especially those from the palace at Knossos, were concerned with religion; they show elaborately dressed goddesses, together with sacred dances and ceremonies, such as bull leaping, which appears to have had a religious or magical basis. Yet scenes such as a frieze of partridges and hoopoes adorning a room in what seems to have been an inn for strangers opposite the palace at Knossos look entirely secular. Monkeys, imported from Egypt, are depicted more than once, along with native wild goats and extraordinarily lifelike flowers—rose, ivy, saffron crocus, lily, and papyrus—but often imaginary hybrids. Some frescoes may represent permanent magic gardens. The pictures ranged in scale from those with life-size figures, which might occupy most of the wall surface, to panels and friezes, including a class of miniatures with figures of men and women two to three inches (five to seven centimetres) high. Parts of some wall pictures at Knossos were in relief, and plaster reliefs of this kind are occasionally found elsewhere in Crete. Floors and ceilings might also carry painted decoration.

      Their wall paintings (mural) were probably the finest achievements of the Cretan artists, but only battered or fire-discoloured fragments of these have survived. The minor arts are better represented in the archaeological record. Now, if not earlier, hard rock crystal began to be used for making vases and seals, together with the volcanic glass, obsidian. A variety flecked with spots of white pumice, from Yialí (Glass Island), near Cos, was favoured for vases. Other fine stones imported for vase manufacture were Egyptian alabaster (calcite) and green and red marbles (antico rosso and lapis lacedaemonius) from the southern Peloponnese. Antique stone vases from Egypt might be adapted to local tastes by the addition of spouts and handles. Vessels with narrow necks were carved in two pieces that were afterward joined together, an example being a crystal libation vase from Zákros with the handle formed of crystal beads threaded on copper wire. A number of cult vases are carved with pictures in relief, including an octopus, a mountain shrine with birds perched on horns of consecration, altars in an enclosed courtyard, and wild goats and, on other vases, youths engaged in ritual competition, a ritual dance of some kind, and games, such as bull leaping, wrestling, and boxing, which apparently had magical or religious connotations. Soft stones, such as chlorite or serpentine, were used for making these vases, the surfaces of which were often coated with gold leaf, to judge from the scraps that have survived. This economical system of gilding was sometimes applied to seal stones, although solid gold and silver seals also occur. A class of gold signet rings has oval bezels engraved with ritual scenes that may be from the story of a goddess and her consort and include scenes of worship at an altar or a tree, with a shield or sacral knots as attributes, or dancing. Seals (seal) of other shapes, in a wide range of attractive stones, display a variety of designs, including animals, such as lions, bulls, and wild boars. Sometimes a bull is being attacked by a lion, or a wild goat is escaping or standing at bay before a hound. Birds, fish, and butterflies also figure on these seals, and most of the designs appear to be entirely secular in character. A class of gems crudely engraved with pictures of jars and leafy branches may have been rain charms, however.

      There is little evidence for Bronze Age sculpture (Western sculpture) in Crete, apart from a few small stone heads that may have come from statues with wooden bodies or a pair of clay feet perhaps supporting a dressed armature. Some bronze curls from the palace at Knossos appear to have adorned the head of a more than life-size wooden statue of a goddess. Figurines cast in solid bronze, though sometimes marred by casting defects, are often of great beauty. They mostly represent worshipers, both men and women, and were placed as votives in sanctuaries. Statuettes of bull leapers and perhaps of gods and goddesses were made of imported ivory in several pieces cunningly joined together by pins and dowels. faience manufacture was presumably learned from Egypt. Exquisite faience plaques of animals, along with statuettes of goddesses or priestesses and small vases of the same material, appear to be products of the palace workshops at Knossos for shrine or ritual display.

      The Late Palace Period seems to have been rich in metals. Although few gold and silver vessels have survived in Crete, many fine vessels in the Mycenae Shaft Graves may have been made by Cretan skilled workers. Even cooking vessels were now being made of copper or bronze (bronze work), including huge cauldrons in which a sheep or goat could be boiled whole. Among a variety of serviceable bronze tools were axes, adzes, and double-bladed axes such as those of earlier times. The sockets of these were improved toward the end of the period from a circular to an oval shape, which prevented twisting of the haft. New tools current by then included long bronze chisels and immense saws capable of slicing the gypsum required for paving and wall veneer, as well as for cutting timber. Helmets of copper or bronze are depicted on faience inlays from Knossos and on stone relief vases, but plate armour is attested only from the end of the 15th century. For defense, the Cretans of this time, like their Mycenaean and Cycladic contemporaries, appear to have relied on huge rectangular or eight-shaped shields of bull's hide. (Homer's description of the shield of Ajax as being “like a tower” preserves a memory of body shields of this kind.) Weapons included spears and daggers, as well as rapiers with long slender blades and short tangs for affixing wooden hilts. Massive pommels of attractive stones, such as rock crystal, or of gold-plated wood or ivory helped to balance the blades. Toward the end of the period, swords are found with strong, flanged hilts and short blades adapted for cutting as well as thrusting strokes. A remarkable set of weapons, often inlaid, enriched with gold, ivory, and designs, was created at Knossos at one or more brilliant sword workshops (which vanished after about 1400).

      Signs (writing) scratched or painted on clay vases, not only in Crete but on the mainland and in the islands, from about the middle of the 3rd millennium onward may reflect acquaintance with writing among the peoples of the Aegean area. The first positive evidence for the use of writing in the Aegean, however, is found in Crete at the beginning of the Palatial Period—about 2000 or somewhat later. This earliest Cretan writing is known as pictographic or hieroglyphic (hieroglyph) because its signs are pictures of animals or things; the system appears to be of Cretan origin, even if it was inspired by Egypt or Syria. During the period of the Early Palaces and while the Cretan hieroglyphic script was still in use, a simplified linear script was being scratched on clay tablets at Phaistos. A more evolved script with linear signs of this kind is attested in various parts of Crete and was known in the Cyclades during the Late Palace Period. It is known as Linear A (Linear A and Linear B) to distinguish it from the variety of script (Linear B) current both in Crete and on the mainland from the end of the 15th century (see below The Linear B texts (Aegean civilizations)). Most of what has survived of Aegean Bronze Age writing is on clay tablets of the kind used in Syria and Mesopotamia in early times. Ink was, however, used to write Linear A inscriptions around the insides of two clay cups from Knossos, and the bulk of what was written in the Aegean during the Bronze Age may have been in ink on some kind of paper made from papyrus, as in Egypt, or from palm leaves, as later Greek tradition hints. The two standard forms of tablets are the long narrow “palm leaf” for short transactions and the tall rectangular “page,” which often is a summary or inclusive list. The Knossos tablets supply records of transactions involving personnel, cattle, sheep, goats, oils and spices, wool and textiles, weapons (including arrows, swords, and issues of chariots with armour), stored treasures, and religious offerings. They seem to reflect a period when the former palaces of the several districts were no longer standing, or powerful, but when the surrounding lands still produced agricultural goods that were taxed or tithed at Knossos.

The decline of the early Aegean civilizations
 

The eruption of Thera (c. 1500) and the conquest of Crete (c. 1450)
      Cretan civilization reached its highest peak between about 1600 and the later 15th century. An important change of fashion that began about 1600 in Crete was the abandonment of the “light-on-dark” style of vase decoration of Kamáres tradition in favour of a return to “dark-on-light.” The new-style Cretan pottery, with attractive designs of spirals, grasses, ferns, and flowers in shiny black (black-figure pottery) or brown paint, was soon to inspire the development of Mycenaean pottery on the mainland. This flourishing period in Crete, however, ended in a series of disasters. About 1500 the volcano on the island of Thera, long, it seems, quiescent, erupted to bury the settlements there under many feet of pumice and ash. The story of Atlantis, if Plato did not invent it, may reflect some Egyptian record of this eruption, one of the most stupendous of historical times. Knossos was shattered by a succession of earthquakes that preceded or accompanied the eruption, while great waves resulting from it appear to have damaged settlements along the northern coast of Crete. Ash identified as coming from the eruption has been found in coastal sites as far away as Israel and Sardis in Anatolia. The wind may have been blowing from the south or west. Later Greek traditions, such as the story of Deucalion's flood, may enshrine a memory of similar waves that swept the coasts of the mainland at this time. Some Cretan settlements might have been wrecked by the blast from the eruption, although Thera lies about 70 miles (110 kilometres) away from Crete. Whatever the damage caused, it appears to have been soon repaired and not to have disrupted the course of local culture. Damages to pastures and livestock were apparently minimal. Similarly, in the Cyclades there are few signs of any gap in occupation as a result of the eruption. The settlements on Thera, however, lay buried deep in pumice. The largest of these, at Akrotíri, opened by excavations since 1967, offers a unique picture of a Bronze Age town. The walls of its houses stand in places two stories high, with paintings miraculously preserved on them, and the floors with storage jars and other objects are as they were left when the inhabitants escaped from the eruption or from the earthquake that is thought to have preceded it. The wonderful preservation of delicate frescoes and of foodstuffs, from snails to olives to grain, makes Thera a tantalizing closed deposit of Aegean life. Many houses have flagstone floors upstairs, with columns supporting the roof, and rooms with multiple windows. Below there are storage bays filled with jars, looms, medicine chests, and grain and oil stores. There is delightful local pottery with swallows, dolphins, wild goats, and caper and saffron plants. The wall paintings have a garden quality and may often have religious associations or celebrate festivals and seasons, city or country life, and sea voyaging. Only a small part of the town has been excavated. The work has been slowed by the engineering problems of keeping the two- or three-story houses from collapsing and crushing the painted walls and delicate contents sealed from damage for centuries.

      After the eruption, Crete appears to have enjoyed comparative prosperity for a time, while the influence of Cretan civilization continued to spread on the mainland. Alongside vases with plant and flower designs, the Cretan potters began to decorate others in an attractive marine style, with octopuses and other sea creatures. The marine style may have originated at Knossos, but vases with this type of decoration, many of them of a ritual character, were exported all over Crete, as well as to the Cyclades and the mainland. About the middle of the 15th century, however, a generation or so after the eruption of Thera, most of the important sites in central and southern Crete were destroyed by fire. Destruction was not confined to palaces and towns but extended to country houses, farms, and rural shrines. Many settlements were never inhabited again, such as that at Mochlos, where excavators found the remains of numbers of people who had perished in the destruction. The site of the destroyed town at Gourniá was eventually occupied by a scatter of houses, but the palace there was not rebuilt. The large palaces at Mallia and Zákros were also destroyed by fire and afterward abandoned.

A new social order
      The fact that palaces and country houses, centres of landed estates, were not rebuilt suggests a total overthrow of the existing social order. A number of magnificent stone ritual vases and bronze tools have been recovered from the ruins of the palace at Zákros in excavations since 1962, but virtually no gold or silver objects were found. Indeed, it looks as if the palaces and houses everywhere in Crete had been ransacked before they were destroyed. Of the four great palaces, only that at Knossos may have escaped serious damage at this time, but parts of the city there were wasted by fire. In the early days of Cretan exploration, it was taken for granted that such destruction was the result of war. Since the 1930s, however, it has been suggested that it was in some way caused by the eruption of Thera. The eruption, however, began and ended a generation or more before this horizon of destruction, while evidence of conquerors in Crete immediately after it has been found. The destruction appears to have been their work.

      The conquerors evidently came from the mainland and made their capital at Knossos, but they seem to have established another centre of power at Phaistos, and legend hints at a third centre at Kydonia (modern Khaniá) in western Crete. Vases of shapes already popular on the mainland, such as drinking cups with tall stems, became fashionable at Knossos after the conquest and eventually spread to other parts of the island. A rather stiff, formal “Palace Style” of vase decoration, using motifs derived from the earlier plant and marine styles, may reflect an adaptation of Cretan fashions to mainland tastes. The old clan tombs went out of use in the Knossos region and were replaced by rock-cut tombs. Some of these contain the burials of warriors and their families, accompanied by rich assortments of weapons and jewelry, resembling the military equipment of the Mycenae Shaft Graves and the mainland tholos tombs. There was a cemetery of similar rock-cut tombs, with richly furnished burials (the Tombe dei Nobili), at Phaistos. Tholos tombs sunk in the ground and covered by mounds appear to have been introduced to Crete from the mainland now. One, on the Kefála ridge north of the palace at Knossos, may have been built soon after the conquest. It has masons' marks like the one at Peristéria in Messenia.

The Linear B texts
      Insight into the social order on Crete after the conquest can be gleaned from the Linear B tablets found at Knossos, where Linear B had replaced Linear A by the 14th century Bc. The decipherment in 1952 of the Linear B tablets as Greek by Michael Ventris, working with John Chadwick , has been widely accepted. Still, there are some skeptics who reject it; and, while most of these believe that the language of the tablets will prove to be Greek when (in their view) it is correctly deciphered, a minority think it will not. At the same time, among philologists who do accept the Ventris decipherment, there are a few who regard the language of the tablets as a form of Greek with little or no relation to the Greek (Greek language) of later times, which, in this minority view, was introduced into the Mycenaean world by new peoples of Greek speech at the end of the Bronze Age. The tablets have many personal names and place-names but very little connected descriptive Greek, making them hard to read; nonetheless, they are of enormous potential value. Knossos seems to have been the only Cretan centre with a genuine archive recording income, palace issues of expensive equipment like chariots and bronze corselets, and outlays on gifts to the gods (some of whom were Greek, some traditional Cretan), mainly in the form of donations of oil and cloth. The Knossos records are valuable in allowing reconstruction of farming practices, the wool industry, and military defense, as well as in providing lists of personnel and places scattered around the countryside of Crete that owed or brought sheep and produce to the palace. The bureaucratic apparatus seems to have been well organized and extensive, whereas the rest of Crete in the 14th and 13th centuries, though rebuilt after the earlier disasters and the abandonment of the 15th century and prosperous, does not give evidence of the same degree of control and record keeping. How far the countryside was subservient to Knossos is not known.

The fusion of cultures on Crete
      The last decades of the 15th century and the first part of the 14th century saw a wonderful fusion of Cretan and mainland skills; the fabric and firing of pottery improved, and there were formidable and often elegant and richly ornamented bronze weapons in the warrior graves at Knossos and Phaistos. Sword hilts were sometimes sheathed in gold, and their pommels made of fine stones and ivory. Warriors were armed with large thrusting spears as well as throwing spears, or javelins; boar spears were used for hunting. Shields (armour) were painted on walls as well as hung there, and there were new bronze arrowheads and conical helmets with a plume knob and cheekpieces. The old mainland helmet plated with tusk plaques of the wild boar reached Crete, too. Bronze armour was issued by the palace, with chariots and pairs of horses; the transverse strokes on the cuirass ideogram on the tablets suggest a link with the transverse bronze bands of the armour suit from Dendra near Mycenae from about 1400 BC. There seems to have been a disciplined set of chariot squads, perhaps often composed of men from abroad, patrolling the island. It may be that a memory of this energetic military epoch is preserved in the Iliad, in the passages describing the exploits of the Cretan princes Idomeneus and Meriones. Gold rings from this period have a rich religious iconography of shrines and worshipers, and there are fine sealstones. About 1400 the fused customs or beliefs of the Cretan and Mycenaean worlds appear on the painted limestone sarcophagus from Ayía Triadha, a small palace near Phaistos (Phaestus); depicted on one side are libations on the left and, probably, offerings to a dead man on the right. The other side shows a bull being sacrificed while a man is playing the double pipe. Pairs of women in chariots drawn by wild goats or griffins are represented on the ends. Historically the sarcophagus occupies a dividing line: Knossos was burned again after 1400.

      There seems to be a marked difference in economic power or aesthetic achievement between the earlier (1600–1400) and the later (1400–1200) periods of Minoan, Cycladic, and Mycenaean cultures. Frescoes are duller—more repetitive, coarser in outline, and muddier in colour. The grand swords are no longer made, and rings and seals are simpler. Metal becomes rarer, and blue glass tends to replace lapis lazuli from the east. It is uncertain whether this decline in art reflects a change of governmental forms, a restriction on trade with Egypt and the east, a decrease of creative energy leading to an unimaginative reproduction of traditional patterns in familiar materials, or the loss of palace-controlled Cretan workshops that had supplied the earlier fine standards for the developing Greek world.

The mainland
      While there are many signs of mainland influence in Crete in the period after about 1450, the conquest may have helped to spread Cretan fashions and techniques on the mainland through the medium of captive artisans sold as slaves. The earliest wall paintings on the mainland appear to date from this time and are thoroughly Cretan in style. The Mycenaean civilization of the mainland nevertheless remained very different from that of Crete. Mycenaean pottery is distinguishable from Cretan, and religious customs, such as worship in caves or hilltop sanctuaries, which continued in Crete, do not appear to have taken root on the mainland. The sphere of architecture, however, is continually impressive, as it had been in the older phase of tholos tombs.

      The standard mainland palace of this period, although built with Cretan techniques, differed from the traditional Cretan palace centred around a large, rectangular court. The focal point of a mainland palace, such as that at Pylos (Pílos) in Messenia, was a great hall with the roof supported on four pillars and a vast circular central hearth. The hall was entered through an anteroom with a columned porch beyond it. This complex appears to be an adaptation of the type of longhouse found on the mainland since the end of the 5th millennium. The mainland palaces were painted in a manner derived from Cretan models, with large processional scenes and smaller scenes of men hunting boars or stags, of chariots, duels, and numerous battles; there are heraldic hounds, griffins, lions, sphinxes, and patterns with horses, argonaut shells, spirals, and rosettes. The whole is colourful but more imaginative in idea than expert in execution. After about 1400, a series of small acropolis palaces was built, usually with a simple megaron hall, as at Tiryns, in Late Helladic III A. These palaces developed into almost grandiose complexes by the later 13th century, with lower courses of well-dressed limestone and painted floors, surrounded by workshops and storerooms. The descriptions of palaces in Homer are evidently based on memories of palaces such as these, and what Homer calls the megaron corresponds to the great hall. A small palace with mainland features was built at Phylakopi on Melos in the Cyclades, and a more regular form on massive foundations at Ayía Triadha near Phaistos in Crete. A shrine there whose floor was painted with fish and octopods looks forward to the painted floors of mainland palaces, with dolphins and octopods at Tiryns and octopods and fish at Pylos.

      The palaces on the mainland had a system of keeping records that was similar to the Cretan one. The archive at Pylos, excavated by Blegen in 1939 and again after World War II, is the only extensive one found so far, but Thebes also produced tablets in some numbers, and there were smaller groups at Mycenae and Tiryns. These tablets reflect the same range of interest as those at Knossos: they consist of lists of palace personnel and of persons in outlying towns in professions such as bronzesmith, shepherd, cowherd, or tree cutter. There are lists of landowners, women and children, and priests and “slaves of the god,” as well as records of agricultural income, of the preparation of perfumed oil, and of sacrifices of animals to the gods and offerings of oil and cloth at different parts of the Pylian province. Systems of landownership and tenancy were fairly complicated, and the palace kept a close eye on all dues and exchanges of goods. The archive at Thebes has records of trade with neighbours, in Euboea, or at places like Sicyon in the Peloponnese and of contacts with western Crete; the commercial interests of the Pylos district seem to have been more internal.

      By the late 20th century, only three palace systems—at Tiryns, Mycenae, and Pylos—were well excavated and understood. The Theban palace may yet emerge; workshops, storerooms, and an arsenal have been found in probes under the modern town. Athens and Sparta may have had palaces, now lost; Dendra-Midea in the Argolid had impressive walls; Orchomenos in Boeotia had at least a small megaron with frescoes. Private houses are known both at the palace centres and in nonpalatial places, and some private houses, like those at Mycenae, maintained their own records in Linear B. There is a certain likeness all across Greece in architectural techniques, pottery, frescoes, ivory, and jewelry, but local autonomy and distinct variations in design and workshop styles also are evident. Gifts no doubt were exchanged among the principal centres, and there was at least a partial network of roadways connecting one centre to another; much trading must also have been coastal.

      The Greek mainland in the 14th and 13th centuries was densely populated with towns and villages, and cemeteries confirm the numbers. The state was organized under a king, wanax, with a military leader, rawaketa, and troops with chariot officers attached for patrolling the borders; there also were naval detachments. The people had certain powers and a council. The towns were organized hierarchically under local officials, like the later “kings,” basileis.

Eastward explorations
      From the 15th century, the mainland Greeks explored eastward and replaced the Cretan settlers in such outpost towns as Triánda on Rhodes or Miletus on the coast of Anatolia. There are Hittite records that apparently mention the maneuvers and political meddling of Greeks in coastal states; they refer to them under the name of Ahhíyawa, probably the equivalent to Homer's Achaeans at Troy. These records, from the 15th through the 13th century, are confirmed archaeologically by finds from the cemetery at Panaz Tepe near Phocaea in the north to Müskebi near Halicarnassus in the south. Panaz Tepe has warrior equipment, and apparently the soldiers took native wives, for the Greeks were buried while the Anatolians were cremated in the same small tholos tombs. Mycenaean pottery and imitations of it appeared at Troy itself from the 15th century onward. The renowned “ Trojan War” may sum up a series of relationships and conflicts spanning the entire Bronze Age, since some of the archaic equipment described in the poems is actually found in 15th- and 14th-century Anatolia. There also was extensive trade with the Levantine coast and Cyprus, at least until all trade networks began to be disrupted after the Battle of Kadesh in the 13th century. The exports are far more visible than the reciprocal imports.

The end of the Bronze Age in the Aegean
 From the middle of the 13th century, expensive fortification walls were constructed for the mainland palaces (except Pylos), which give testimony of tremendous skill in fitting large blocks of stone together without bonding, in designing sophisticated gates, and in protecting underground water supplies. At Tiryns the walls are marked by elegant setbacks, and at Mycenae the famous Lion Gate is ornamented with the sculpture of two lions, one on either side of a column. The gateway and walls on the Acropolis of Athens were also impressive, with postern gates and guard posts and roofed, sheltered water supplies, either from local springs or brought in by pipes. These walls may signal frictions between city-states such as marked classical Greece or represent a common fear of attack from enemies unknown to 20th-century investigators. It may be that the cost, in labour and hire, of these fortifications had serious effects on the economy. Yet the 13th-century palaces increased in size and complexity, their walls and floors being repainted. The tomb gifts did not decline in value, suggesting that local wealth was maintained, and, if the two columned tholos tombs at Mycenae, the Treasury of Atreus and the Tomb of Clytemnestra, were really built this late, as some scholars maintain, then dynastic resources were still potent. The palace workshops, controlling the production of blue glass paste jewelry, agate beads, or chariots and harness, also flourished until shortly before the end of the 13th century; these workshops had divine patrons, according to the texts. In the “private sector” outside the palace at Mycenae there was a shrine, apparently devoted to a popular cult that involved a fertility goddess, a sword goddess, and snakes.

Shifts in populations
      Toward the end of the 13th century, the mainland palaces were burned, possibly within a short time of each other; the exception was Thebes in the north, which may have received a destructive blow slightly earlier. Mycenae and Tiryns continued to be inhabited and indeed had very rich and energetic periods of pottery production and trade in the 12th century; Pylos was deserted, however, and Athens was inhabited but not wealthy. New centres, both of refuge and of independence, became conspicuous, such as Lefkandi on the inner shore of Euboea, south of Chalcis. The Cyclades, Crete, and, in the west, the Ionian islands such as Cephallenia experienced an increase in population. New expeditions eastward to Cyprus consisted of small groups who fortified military settlements around the coast. Anatolia may also have received new immigrants, as it had periodically since the 15th century, as far as Tarsus in Cilicia.

      No completely satisfactory explanation for the collapse of the palace systems and the movements of populations has been found. Perhaps one must look toward a combination of factors such as climatic change and drought, harvest failure, starvation, epidemic, civic unrest, and resentment of palace taxes. Contributing factors may also have been the breaking off of trade with the east after the clash of the Hittites and Egyptians at the Battle of Kadesh earlier in the 13th century, the presence of roving piratical bands of both local peoples and immigrants around the coasts of the eastern Mediterranean (known in the Egyptian records as the Peoples of the Sea) who were hired as temporary allies by several states, and general frictions caused by universally failing economies and alliances. At any rate, the stable states of the wealthy later Bronze Age, which had been bound by commercial exchanges and political alliances, gradually or swiftly collapsed into near chaos. By the end of the following Dark Age (lasting perhaps from 1100 to 1000 in some places, or 900 in others), new peoples had arrived and settled, as, for example, the Dorians in southern Greece and Crete and the southern Cyclades as far as Rhodes or the Phrygians in central Anatolia. Notable too is the fact that new late Hittite states had been formed in northern Syria at this time.

New foreign elements
      Even before the end of the Bronze Age, there were occasional signs of new foreign elements in Greece, Crete, the islands, and Cyprus, such as exchanges of pottery and metalwork with Italy, Sardinia, the Balkans, and northern Greece and with regions like Epirus and other northern districts theretofore beyond the margins of the standard Mycenaean world. Dorian tribesmen as well as others may have moved into the weakened states and into the grazing lands to the south. They may have pushed the old inhabitants into flight or into isolated and linguistically separate hilltop areas like Arcadia. Occasionally single burials (burial) appear next to the family chamber tombs (tomb) of traditional Mycenaean practice, along with an increase in cremation burial. Some alien gray pottery, pairs of long dress pins for securing women's untailored blanket garments, and the late introduction of iron and steel are further signs of new elements and evolving changes. Whether some of the “west Greek” elements in the new population were actually novel or had been present in Mycenaean society all along is obscured by the linguistic unity of the palace tablets; it may be that the Greek dialects that seem to have moved into place during the Dark Age, especially the Dorian dialects of the south, had been spoken but not written at an earlier stage by segments of the population.

The people of the Aegean Bronze Age
      The Aegean populations after the Neolithic Period do not conform to a clear ethnic type. The men from small tribal organizations of early times seem to have chosen brides from outside the kin group, at distances from Anatolia to the Balkans and points south. Almost from the start one finds evidence of a variety of people—slender and stout, with round and long skulls, and of tall and medium height. Probably many of the ancient inhabitants of Greece and the islands looked as people in Greece do today—active, muscular, and of moderate height. From the evidence of the wall paintings, though these are often idealized, they seem largely to have had dark hair, dark or gray eyes, fine profiles, and slender figures. Detailed skeletal studies of burials in Grave Circle B at Mycenae have shown tall, rugged skeletons with large hands and feet, some arthritis and gallstones, and recurrent “family traits.” The high average age at death—about 36 years—may reflect fighting careers, for which the men may have been socially selected, fed, and trained. Their generally superior physical condition in comparison to that of “commoners” was perhaps the result of a better diet from childhood onward.

      Clay figurines of about 2000 from Crete show men wearing a narrow codpiece with a belt or loincloth and bare above the waist. This was to remain the basic fashion for Cretan men throughout the Bronze Age. Cretan women wore short-sleeved jackets that left the breasts bare and ankle-length flounced skirts, although shorter skirts to just below the knees are also attested. Marble figurines of men from the Cyclades assigned to the Early Bronze Age have belts and narrow codpieces like those of the Cretans. There is little evidence for dress on the mainland until the time of the Mycenae Shaft Graves in the 16th century. A considerable variety of dress is represented from that time onward throughout the Aegean area, but it is difficult to recognize fashions peculiar to the mainland. Tasseled shorts worn by men shown on the Mycenae lion-hunt dagger are also attested in Crete at the time. A group of Aegean envoys painted on the walls of the tomb of Rekhmire, vizier of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III (ruled 1504–1450), are wearing large codpieces of a type fashionable in Crete in the Shaft Grave Period; thus they may have been Cretan envoys. A second group of envoys painted on the walls of the same tomb at a somewhat later date, however, are wearing kilts without codpieces, as worn by men in paintings at Knossos after the mainland conquest of Crete, about 1450. This might reflect mainland envoys going to Egypt after the conquest and wearing a different type of dress from the Cretans, but kilts of this kind appear to be represented in Crete both before and after the conquest.

      In addition, curious scaly cloaks and long single-piece robes are among a variety of ritual garments in Crete. Linen (textile) was known in Crete by the beginning of the Bronze Age, and fragments of it were recovered from the Mycenae Shaft Graves; however, in Crete, at any rate, clothes were mostly, it seems, made of wool, and wall paintings show them woven with colourful and intricate designs, including pictures of animals and birds and even musical instruments. One of the dyes used was purple crushed from murex shells. Cretan men wore knee boots and sandals with upturned toes. Men with leggings or greaves are represented in wall paintings on the mainland. Caps of various kinds appear on the heads of men, and high, pointed hats and tiaras on those of women and of gods and goddesses or their priests. Clay figurines of the Early Palace Period show Cretan women with elaborate hair arrangements. Women put jewelry in their hair, including strings of beads. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and armlets were displayed by men as well as women. Sealstones were carried on strings around the neck or on the wrist. Cretan men normally left their hair long but were clean-shaven. Beards and mustaches are attested on the mainland in the Shaft Grave Period and later.

      The frescoes (fresco painting) at Thera show a wonderful variety of costumes, including the Minoan bodice-jacket, the flounced skirt or apron worn thigh-length or ankle-length, a one-piece tunic with rich borders, diaphanous veils, and a marvelous profusion of gold earrings, necklaces, collars, bracelets, and anklets, and rock crystal and carnelian beads. The men wear a kilt or a tunic or a loincloth; “peasants” may wear sheepskin cloaks; soldiers have long capes, tower shields, and boar's-tusk helmets.

      The early villages show few signs of economic disparity between families, although at times the presence of big houses in the later Neolithic Period indicates domination by chiefs. The island communities of the 3rd millennium are not yet well known, though signs of maritime trade are conspicuous and the grave gifts of marble idols point to organized religious rites and some wealth. The existence of fortified communities and two-story special houses on the mainland may indicate that communities contributed to their welfare and that they were ruled by a dynast. In Crete two types of early towns are known, a communal one, as at Myrtos, and one dominated by a big house or houses, as at Vasilikí. By the time of the Early Palaces, after 2000, it is clear that some governing power in several provinces was able to call upon extensive labour for the construction of buildings, granaries, and roads. The likenesses among the palaces, moreover, suggests that social systems across Crete were similar, perhaps dictated in form by certain religious behaviours. The palaces combined facilities for agricultural storage and for community displays and festivals, perhaps regulated by trained families and priestesses or priests. The palaces suggest a reciprocal relationship between the inhabitants and the surrounding villages. In mainland Greece, dynasties controlled fortified acropolis centres with outlying towns dependent on princes. This system is recorded extensively in Greek myths with Bronze Age origins, which tell of kings, princesses, and heroes from a few reigning families. During the last phase of Mycenaean culture and presumably during the Dark Age, the power of the old families was dispersed to lower local rulers, basileis, and the systems of councils of elders and village headman were maintained.

      Foreign manufactures reaching the Aegean and especially Crete during the Bronze Age included Cypriot pottery, Mesopotamian and other Oriental cylinder seals, and Egyptian stone vases, ivories, and scarabs, while Cretan and eventually Mycenaean pottery is found in Egypt and elsewhere in the Levant.

      By the 14th and 13th centuries, Mycenaean pottery (Greek pottery) is found densely in the Levant; it is often accompanied by Cypriot pottery as though carried in Cypriot or Syrian ships. Mycenaean pottery not mixed with Cypriot pottery is found in Anatolia from Troy to Tarsus. Because there is almost nothing on the mainland in return, one may suppose that trade was carried on in archaeological invisibles, such as food, textiles, copper ores, and perhaps slaves or war captives (some are attested in the Linear B texts). Mycenaeans may also have exported technology, such as weapon making, or mercenaries. Crete and the mainland had to import tin for bronze, probably from Anatolia, and both used copper ores from Cyprus and other sources. Minoan contact seems to have reached Sicily and Sardinia, and metal ingots may have been brought back from the west. Silver-lead was produced in the Cyclades and Attica. The Kaş Ulu Burun shipwreck shows an extensive trade in glass ingots, often cobalt blue, as well. Ostrich eggs and stone for making vases were among imports to Crete from Egypt, and ivory came from there or from Syria. Amber from the Baltic reached the mainland in some quantity during the Shaft Grave Period and later but is rarely found in Crete. Exports from the Aegean may have included woolen goods, olive oil, and timber, as well as silver. In Crete, at any rate, foreign trade may have been largely under palace control, but a class of private merchants engaged in overseas commerce no doubt existed in the Aegean.

      Ships with a mast and square sail in addition to oars or paddles were used in the Aegean from the Early Bronze Age. On land, goods were no doubt transported by pack animals or on poles slung between bearers; this principle was also adopted for passenger chairs, of which there are clay models. A model of a four-wheeled (wheel) cart from Crete is datable to about 2000 or earlier. The wheels of such carts were evidently solid, and the carts were no doubt drawn by oxen. Horses (horse) may have been ridden in Crete by then, as they seem to be depicted on early Cretan seals. These horses could have come from the east, but a different breed was introduced into the mainland from the north at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, about 2000. The light spoke-wheeled chariot drawn by horses appears to have developed in Syria or northern Mesopotamia early in the 2nd millennium, but it spread rapidly throughout the Middle East because of its usefulness in war. Chariots are depicted on tombstones of the Mycenae Shaft Graves and on Cretan seals before the time of the mainland conquest, about 1450. Apart from warfare, they were used in the Aegean for hunting and probably for travel. During the latter part of the Bronze Age, terraces were built to support roads wide enough for wheeled vehicles both in Crete and on the mainland. Such roads were carried across streams on bridges, examples of which have survived in the region of Mycenae.

      Short daggers of types derived from Syria were in use in the Aegean during the Bronze Age. Long rapiers, evolved from those in Crete, are found on the mainland by the time of the Mycenae Shaft Graves in the 16th century BC.

 The traditional armour of the Shaft Grave Period—a shield shaped in the figure eight or a tower shield, a helmet often reinforced with boars' tusks, a thrusting spear, and a sword (weapon) on a baldric in a tasseled scabbard—appears also in the Thera naval fresco and in the epics behind Homer's Iliad. Charioteers apparently wore a bronze tunic of thonged plates, sketched on the Knossos tablets and found in a chamber tomb at Dendra in the Argolid. Linen greaves appear in frescoes, and bronze greaves in graves. There were bronze wrist guards for archers. Many soldiers may have preferred quilted, padded protection in the summer because of the heat.

      Short swords adapted for cutting as well as thrusting began to appear in the following century and may have been developed in connection with chariot warfare. Bronze armour and small, round shields more serviceable in chariots replaced the old Cretan body shields at approximately the same time. Bows and slings were probably used everywhere in the Aegean area, but, whereas arrowheads of flint and obsidian are found on the mainland, they are virtually unknown in Crete, where arrows may have been tipped with bone or wood until the appearance of bronze arrowheads in the 15th century. Settlements on the mainland and in the Cyclades were defended by walls from the Early Bronze Age onward, and the town at Mallia in Crete appears to have been protected by a wall during the period of the Early Palaces; but, by the time of the Late Palaces, Cretan towns may have been unwalled. Faience inlays of the 17th century from Knossos, however, seem to show an attack on a walled town such as that depicted on a silver-relief vase from the Mycenae Shaft Graves. The attraction of the theme of the city by the sea, with vignettes of war and peace, landscape and water, is also apparent in the Thera naval fresco and the Master Sealing of Chania in western Crete, which shows a youth lording it over the rooftops of a town. Methods of warfare had become highly developed by the end of the Bronze Age, with improved weapons, complex and well-designed fortifications, extensive use of chariots, and warships with rams.

      Little is known about religion in the Cyclades and on the mainland before the period when they came under strong Cretan influence. An open-air sanctuary filled with marble figurines on the island of Kéros (Káros) is assignable to the Early Bronze Age. In Crete during the Early Palace Period, there were many open-air sanctuaries on the tops of hills and mountains. Some of these had small shrines in them, and shrines with one or more rooms and benches for offerings and cult statues are found in the countryside and in the towns in Crete. Parts of the palaces and of large houses there were also set apart for cult. Shrines not unlike Cretan ones existed in settlements in the Cyclades and on the mainland in the Late Bronze Age; however, hilltop sanctuaries are not well attested there, and most of those in Crete appear to have gone out of use after the mainland conquest, about 1450. Caves also were used as sanctuaries in Crete, and cults in some of these persisted until the end of the Bronze Age and later.

      The chief deity everywhere in the Aegean during the Bronze Age was evidently a goddess. Perhaps there were several goddesses with different names and attributes. The extant texts refer to a Potnia (“Lady” or “Mistress”), to whom they give several epithets like “horse” or “grain.” Most mainland palaces have paintings of processions in which people bring gifts to a goddess. On Thera, frescoes (fresco painting) show girls picking saffron crocus and offering it in baskets to a seated goddess. Clay statues of goddesses, often with upraised arms and attributes such as horns of consecration, doves, snakes, or poppies have been found in Crete; these range in date from the 14th to the early 12th century, providing evidence of a strong tradition. A shrine with large clay goddesses, which once were stuccoed and painted, existed at Ayía Iríni on the island of Ceos, and a smaller, later one at Phylakopi on Melos, with both male and female figurines. The shrine at Mycenae seems to have been devoted to powers of grain and the sword. A later shrine at Tiryns had small clay goddesses with upraised arms. Many cult statues may have been made of wood, and mythic traditions of simple wooden logs or planks (xoana) dropping from heaven or being found in thickets have become attached to several later sanctuaries.

      The texts show a more elaborate set of divinities than do the surviving idols, with many later Greek divinities already in place, including Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Artemis, Ares, Hermes, and Dionysus. The Cretan birth goddess Eleuthia and war goddess Eyno were transmitted to the mainland Greeks, and natural forces, like the winds, were occasionally worshiped. There can be no doubt about the continuity of religions and cult from the Late Bronze Age into later Greek times, as well as of the language itself. Some divinities, like the female Zeus and the female Poseidon figures known at Pylos, do not reappear in later times, however. The culture was reshaping itself as it passed from generation to generation.

      The normal gifts to divinities were scented oils, textiles, and, in Greece at least, animal sacrifice of cattle, sheep, and pigs. The burial of a horse or a dog may either signify a sacrifice or simply express the attachment between the animal and its master. Two ideas about the realm of death existed, a rarer one of an overseas Elysian paradise where the dead were restored to a new life of bodily blessed ease and a more common one, transmitted in the epic tradition, of a dark underground realm (Hades) inhabited by weak shades with poor memories. These two ideas, representing the Cretan (Crete) and the Mycenaean tradition (Minoan civilization), were not fused but survived in separate sets of songs and tales.

M. Sinclair F. Hood Emily D. Townsend Vermeule

Additional Reading
General overviews include Emily Vermeule, Greece in the Bronze Age (1964, reissued 1974), the standard work; Hans-Günther Buchholz and Vassos Karageorghis, Prehistoric Greece and Cyprus: An Archaeological Handbook (1973; originally published in German, 1971); Spyridon Marinatos and Max Hirmer, Kreta, Thera, und das mykenische Hellas, 3rd ed. (1976), also available in an English translation of an earlier edition, Crete and Mycenae (1960); William Taylour, The Mycenaeans, rev. ed. (1983); N.K. Sandars, The Sea Peoples: Warriors of the Ancient Mediterranean, 1250–1150 B.C., rev. ed. (1985); and Peter Warren, The Aegean Civilizations (1975, reissued 1989). Ancient Crete is discussed in Arthur Evans, The Palace of Minos, 4 vol. (1921–35, reissued 1964), still basic; Arthur Evans, Mark Cameron, and Sinclair Hood, Knossos Fresco Atlas (1967); Sinclair Hood, The Minoans (1971); and J. Walter Graham, The Palaces of Crete, rev. ed. (1987). John Boardman, The Cretan Collection in Oxford (1961), describes Cretan antiquities in the Ashmolean Museum. The Cycladic civilizations are examined by Jürgen Thimme (ed.), Art and Culture of the Cyclades (also published as Art and Culture of the Cyclades in the Third Millennium B.C., 1977; originally published in German, 1976), an extensive exhibition catalog; Christos G. Doumas, Thera, Pompeii of the Ancient Aegean (1983); and R.L.N. Barber, The Cyclades in the Bronze Age (1987). Ancient civilization on the Greek mainland is the focus of George E. Mylonas, Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age (1966), for the Late Bronze Age and Mycenaean Shaft Grave Circle B; Emily Vermeule, The Art of the Shaft Graves of Mycenae (1975); and J.T. Hooker, Mycenaean Greece (1976). Religion and religious sites are discussed in Martin P. Nilsson, The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and Its Survival in Greek Religion, 2nd rev. ed. (1950, reprinted 1971), still the standard work; and Bogdan Rutkowski, The Cult Places of the Aegean (1986). Information on ancient pottery and seals may be found in Arne Furumark, The Mycenaean Pottery: Analysis and Classification (1941, reissued 1972); Friedrich Matz et al., Corpus der Minoischen und Mykenischen Siegel (1964– ); and John Boardman, Greek Gems and Finger Rings (1970). Michael Ventris and John Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean Greek, 2nd ed. (1973), is essential for information on the writing and decipherment of Linear B, including transcriptions, translations, and commentary on selected tablets. For the Aegean Bronze Age as a background to Homer, see the series Archaeologia Homerica: die Denkmäler und das frühgriechische Epos, ed. by Friedrich Matz and Hans-Günter Buchholz (1967– ). Sinclair Hood, The Arts in Prehistoric Greece (1978, reissued 1988), is the best standard work on this subject. William S. Smith, Interconnections in the Ancient Near-East: A Study of the Relationships Between the Arts of Egypt, the Aegean, and Western Asia (1965).M. Sinclair F. Hood Emily D. Townsend Vermeule

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