The destruction of the Mycenaean palaces and the Sea-peoples

The destruction of the Mycenaean palaces and the Sea-peoples

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I am reading about the destruction of the Mycenaean palaces lately and there are a couple of theories to explain their destruction.

One of those theories supposes that the Sea people, who raided the Hittite Kingdom and Egypt, also raided Mycenae.

The wiki-entry for "Sea-Peoples" identifies them with inhabitants of Greece. As far as I know, Greece went straight into the dark ages and the Sea-people were one of the theories to explain this. Now at the same time, some think that the Sea-people were from Greece. How does this fit together? What am I missing?

Robert Drews wrote The End of the Bronze Age, and he presents a number of theories about what ended the Bronze Age. The most likely result was the destruction of every known city (except for Memphis and Thebes) by military conquest by the Sea Peoples. Several of the cities were destroyed repeatedly, so it appears that the city burners would return to ensure the destruction of the cities.

The name Sea Peoples comes from a French translation of some Egyptian hieroglyphics. The tribes mentioned as being part of the Sea Peoples include names from what is now called the Baltic Sea and Afghanistan. One of the swords that became popular at this time - the Naue Type 2 - was developed in the Baltic area. Military tactics during the Bronze Age centered around chariots and large levies of infantry. The chariots were a sign of wealth. In 2 Chronicles, Solomon had 1400 chariots. After the end of the Bronze Age, javelins, greaves and iron blades became common while chariots mostly vanished from the battlefield. It is likely that a military force with new tactics that the existing powers were incapable of countering was able to destroy all existing armies (Genghis Khan basically did this also). Some written tablets in Ugarit were found in the 19th Century in the type of oven used for baking tablets before being sent off. It mentioned the Sea Peoples arriving in port with 30-40 ships. The city was destroyed before the tablets were dried and able to be sent off requesting military assistance. Other tablets in the oven were mentioning prices for things that were not consistent with drought or famine (for example, a tunic cost 3 ewes).

The Sea Peoples had destroyed every city (going clockwise) from what is now Greece, through Turkey, through the Levant and Mesopotamia all the way to Gaza. The Egyptians waged several battles with them in 1208 BC and 1176 BC. The last known battle with the Sea Peoples was that one in 1176 BC. By then, they had engaged in at least 30 years of continuous warfare during an era when the life expectancy of a person was less than that. As far as we know, there weren't any Bronze Age cities north or west of Greece. The Sea Peoples killed everyone who could read or write, and in several cases, returned to re-destroy cities that were being rebuilt. As a result, there was no one left to record what their names were, so instead, we named the entire Bronze Age "pre-mycenean" based on Mycenea - the city that was built near the old ruins. That the Sea Peoples never settled near any cities they destroyed indicates that they were a raiding force and not a migratory one.

From the stelae that the Egyptians built to commemorate their pyrrhic victory over the Sea Peoples, they showed stacks of arms and penises. The Egyptians had a habit of cutting off penises of uncircumcised defeated warriors and cutting off the hands of the circumcised (or maybe I have that backwards). The records of what they accumulated at the 2 recorded battles showed a mix of hands and sex organs. Which is far more consistant with a collection of disparate tribes than of a single invading force. Tribes in those days tended to be cut or not as a whole. Not something one could mix and match (see story of Dinah in Genesis 34). If you watch Heritage: Civilization And the Jews (it is in the first episode), you'll see the stela that mentioned Israel being destroyed about 1200 BC.

Archeological excavations show that the destruction was consistent with a sudden attack and inconsistent with natural disasters (earthquake, fires, drought and so on) because of how folks tended to hide valuables inside walls. If the destruction was long-term, such as drought, folks would uncover and remove their valuables. If the destruction was sudden like an earthquake, there would be attempts to excavate the valuables. If the destruction was sudden military conquest, the valuables would remain inside walls for centuries.

The theory I formerly heard was that demi-barbarian Dorian greeks from the north overran their literate Mycenaean brethern to the south. The surviving displaced Mycenaeans then took to their boats and moved south into the levant and Egypt, where they became known as Philistines and Sea Peoples respectively. Sort of a domino effect.

For instance, I believe you can see this theory in the appropriate entry in Colin McEvedy's New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History.

These days I believe this Dorian Invasion theory is no longer held in such high esteem. However, the Philistines and Sea Peoples are still believed to have been at least partly Greek. Other explanations for the upheval of the times perhaps don't tie everything up in a neat bow like the invasion theory did, but then again, real life isn't often very neat.

I was taught while working on my Classics degree that the sea people were Philistines/rogue Phoeniki. I'm sorry but I don't have an answer regarding the Mycenaean palaces, as I focused much more on Crete and the Minoans.

Hypotheses Regarding the Sea Peoples’ Invasions

The identity of the Sea Peoples as well as the reason for their raids have been subject of speculations for decades. None of the numerous existing models is completely convincing, however. A search for a single cause of the destruction may in any case fall short.


Previous explanations have failed

T he Sea Peoples are among the most discussed, most complex and most difficult topics in archaeology. Numerous multidisciplinary conferences have been devoted exclusively to this subject. The following theses are still being discussed:

  1. An overly long drought deprived Bronze Age societies of their economic and nutritional basis and triggered migrations. (Carpenter 1966)
  2. The Trojan War marks the beginning of a chain reaction. The Sea Peoples were veterans of the battle of Troy and refugees from collapsing Greece in search of new settlement areas. (Hello & Simpson 1971)
  3. The agriculture of the Mycenaean civilization was oriented almost exclusively towards grains and was therefore extremely vulnerable to bad harvests. Destruction or a series of crop failures provoked raids on neighboring regions and triggered an escalation. (Betancourt 1976)
  4. The Sea Peoples came from Central Europe. They destroyed the Mycenaean civilization in Greece and subsequently ravaged Troy, Hattuša and the places in the Eastern Mediterranean mentioned by Ramesses III. (Schachermeyr 1982)
  5. The first attacks of the Sea Peoples took place under Merneptah, followed by the Trojan War and the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization. Finally, a second Sea Peoples’ invasion caused the destruction of Hatti. (Taylour 1983)
  6. The Sea Peoples came from the Adriatic Sea and Central Europe. Within an interval of about one generation, they brought first the Aegean and later the Levant under their control. (Bouzek 1985)
  7. The Sea Peoples were a loose confederation of scattered pirates and corsairs that had formed after the collapse of the great civilizations. (Sandars 1985)
  8. The end of the Bronze Age began with earthquakes that, with some delay, destroyed central trading settlements in Egypt, Syria and Greece over hundreds of kilometers. At the same time, wandering Sea Peoples threatened coastal towns in the Eastern Mediterranean. To fend them off, Greek kingdoms built their great fortresses and, because of huge expenses, went bankrupt. As a result, social unrest erupted and triggered the collapse of long-distance trade as well as famine. (Helck 1987)
  9. A sequence of earthquakes at the end of the LH IIIB period extended from Pylos to Kastanas in Macedonia all the way to Troy. (Kilian 1988)
  10. A change in warfare technology caused the disruptions. Before the crisis years, military conflicts had been fought with battalions of chariots. Later, the focus was on mobile infantry units. (Drews 1993)

The most recent attempt by U.S.-based archaeologist Eric H. Cline to provide an overview of the events also resulted in raising more questions than providing answers.


The crisis years comprised three wars

Possibly, the end of the Bronze Age could not be explained because one important factor had been missing – the Luwians. Much as the function of a three-legged kitchen stool cannot really be understood if one leg is missing, the end of the Bronze Age remains incomprehensible if only the Hittites and Mycenaeans are taken into account without the Luwians.

During the period between 1200 and 1180 BCE, archaeological excavations from Greece to Asia Minor to Egypt reveal the same findings, and that is destruction. However, this does not mean that the agent of destruction was always the same.

Over twenty years ago, a chronological reconstruction of the political and economic development in the countries around the Eastern Mediterranean during the 13th century BCE was proposed. It causally links three wars comprised of reciprocal attacks. First, the so-called Sea Peoples’ invasions took place, during which the navy of allied Luwian petty states from the Aegean region advanced to the southeast. The Luwians who had emanated from the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea were then attacked a few years later by allied Greek forces – and this is memorialized in the tradition of the so-called Trojan War. And finally, a civil war – without any external influences – broke out in Greece. This model explains the information transmitted in excavation results, contemporary documents and later traditions. The three phases of this Zeroth World War are described separately in the following sections.


It has often been remarked that the more we learn the less we know and this certainly applies to our understanding of the end of the Late Bronze Age and the role of the Sea Peoples. lt is one thing to call attention to all the problems raised by past historical reconstructions, but quite another to create a new reconstruction to replace those found wanting.

Clearly what is needed is a new way of looking at “The Crisis Years” and the Bronze Age/Iron Age transition in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean.

Bronze Age Palaces

The thread leading to the current use of the terms came from the study of the palaces of the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, which flourished in the Late Bronze Age in the Aegean region. [1] By the time 1965 had arrived, the palace economy was being applied widely over all the Aegean and Near and Middle Eastern civilizations of the Late Bronze Age. [1] As early as the Middle Bronze Age, roughly the first half of the 2nd millennium BC, the eastern Mediterranean was dominated by a civilization named Minoan by its discoverer, Sir Arthur Evans, excavating the Palace of Knossos, which he termed the Palace of Minos. [1]

The last holdout and epitome of the palace system was Mycenaean Greece which was completely destroyed during the Bronze Age collapse and the following Greek Dark Ages. [1] The palace economies in Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Levant were waning in the late Bronze Age, being replaced by primitive market economies led by private merchants or officials who owned private businesses on the side. [1]

This was an anachronistic inference from the Late Bronze Age palaces. [2] Emily Catherine Egan, a doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, studied the floor of the Throne Room at the Palace of Nestor, one of the best-preserved palaces of Mycenaean Greece, a civilization from the late Bronze Age. [3] Radio-carbon dating and tree-ring calibration techniques have helped to further refine the dates so that the Early Bronze Age now begins c. 3500 BCE and the Late Bronze Age c. 1700 BCE. An alternative to this series of divisions, created by Platon, instead focuses on the events occurring in and around the major Minoan "palaces". [4] In 1900 Arthur (later Sir Arthur) Evans, 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. [5]

"Bronze age palace and grave goods discovered at the archaeological site of La Almoloya in Pliego, Murcia." [6] The Palace of Pylos is one of the most important archeological sites dating from the Bronze Age due to the preservation of hundreds of clay tablets that were found at the site. [7] The brightly patterned floors of an ancient Greek palace were painted to mimic patchworks of textiles and stone masonry -- an innovative way that Bronze Age artists decorated palatial rooms, a new study finds. [3] The fire which destroyed the palace was also a key factor in preserving some of the most important artifacts ever discovered that date from the Bronze Age period. [7] Formation of the Palaces (5A) - The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age Please note, due to essential maintenance online purchasing will not be possible between 03:00 and 12:00 BST on Sunday 6th May. [2] Referred to as the Palace of Nestor, named after the elderly king who ruled during the Trojan War, it was an important military, economic and religious center during the Bronze Age. [7]

The evolution of palatial structures, if that is what they were, began on Crete in the Middle Minoan (MM) period of the Middle Bronze Age. [1] Nothing is known about the economy beyond what can be deduced from the archaeology or inferred by drawing risky parallels to the information presented in Late Bronze Age documents, which can be read. [1] The term 'redistribution' has been used with a range of meanings in the context of the Aegean Bronze Age and so obscures rather than illuminates the emergence and functioning of political economies. [1]

The Minoan civilization flourished in the Middle Bronze Age on the island of Crete located in the eastern Mediterranean from c. 2000 BCE until c. 1500 BCE. With their unique art and architecture, and the spread of their ideas through contact with other cultures across the Aegean, the Minoans made a significant contribution to the development of Western European civilization as it is known today. [4] The Bronze Age civilization of Crete has been called Minoan, after the legendary King Minos of Knossos, which was the chief city of the island throughout early times. [5] The art of the Minoan civilization of Bronze Age Crete (2000-1500 BCE) displays a love of animal. [4]

Mycenaean civilization - flourished in the Late Bronze Age and controlled parts of the Peloponnesus and Aegean islands. [8] Aegean civilizations, 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. [5] 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. [5] Apart from these Cyclopean walls, virtually nothing was known about the Aegean Bronze Age before the middle of the 19th century, when in 1876 a German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, discovered unplundered royal shaft graves at Mycenae. [5] 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. [5] 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. [5] Drake BL. The influence of climatic change on the Late Bronze Age Collapse and the Greek Dark Ages. [9] S1 is dated by 24 U-Th dates with an averaged precision of 넦 yrs (2σ), providing one of the most robust paleoclimate records from the eastern Mediterranean for the end of the Late Bronze Age (LBA). [10] In the eastern Mediterranean, there has been intense discussion about the impact of climate change on the fall of the Akkadian Empire and the end of the Late Bronze Age (LBA) occurring at

3200 yrs BP respectively. [10] Foxhall L. Bronze to iron: Agricultural systems and political structures in late Bronze Age and early Iron Age Greece. [9] B: Stable oxygen isotope results covering the Late Bronze Age (LBA) and Early Iron Age (EIA). [9] Centrality, "capitals’ and prehistoric cultures: a comparative study of late Bronze Age Crete and Cyprus. [2] 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. [5] Because Bronze Age Crete and Greece were not explored at the time, this important find lay fallow for a century. [5] 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. [5] There is little evidence for Bronze Age 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. [5] 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. [5] Manning SW, Weninger B. A light in the dark: archaeological wiggle matching and the absolute chronology of the close of the Aegean Late Bronze Age. [9] Aug. 9, 2016 - An archaeological expedition has discovered one of the richest graves from the Late Bronze Age ever found on the island of Cyprus. [6] In Messenia a Late Bronze Age beehive, or tholos, tomb was cut into the older mound as though that particular burial place were special. [5] In this paper we favor the use of δ 18 O over δ 13 C for making interpretations about past hydro-climatic variability, although we use the δ 13 C signal to better understand the δ 18 O. 3.1 Climate during the Bronze Age and from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine period [9] The record from Mavri Trypa suggests that it was in the postpalatial period that arid conditions developed, and that it is only after the Bronze Age, in the Protogeometric period, that very arid conditions were established ( Fig 4 ). [9] The record covers large parts of the Greek Bronze Age, during which the Peloponnese saw the development of interconnected and complex societies and the intensification of agriculture, although with strong regional variability. [9] Egyptians - important trading partners of the Mycenaean Greeks and one of the "large" states during the Bronze Age. [8] 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. [5] Schliemann’s discoveries led to intensive exploration of Bronze Age and earlier sites on the Greek mainland. [5] When Crete eventually became independent of Turkish rule in 1898, attention was turned to Bronze Age sites there. [5] Comments on Climate, Intra-regional Variations, Chronology, the 2200 B.C. Horizon of Change in the East Mediterranean Region, and Socio-political Change on Crete The early/middle bronze age transition in the ancient near east: chronology, c14, and climate change. [10] Modern political views and the emergence of early complex societies in the Bronze Age Mediterranean. [2] 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. [5] The Oxford handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca 3000-1000 BC). [9] The transition from Neolithic to Bronze Age in the Aegean was marked by changes in pottery and other aspects of material culture. [5] 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. [5] 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, brown, and black --on a light surface. [5] 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. [5] The Bronze Age of the Cyclades is known as Cycladic, that of the mainland as Helladic, from Hellas, the Greek name for Greece. [5] The Bronze Age in central Greece and Thessaly may have begun later still. [5] 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. [5] The Bronze Age in the Peloponnese appears to have begun later under the influence of settlers from the islands. [5] It was Evans who coined the term Minoan in reference to this legendary Bronze Age king. [4] 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. [5] This pottery has many features in common with that of the succeeding Middle Bronze Age thus there may be ethnic affinities. [5] The Bronze Age settlement had other rea­sons for its existence it was a well‐located international trad­ing center, on the sea lane to Cyprus and the Middle East. [11] The site was the cradle of the "El Argar" civilisation which lived in the south-eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula during the Bronze Age. [6] The same team had previously made important discoveries at the La Bastida site, another dig site in Murcia from the Bronze Age. [6] The art of making stone vases flourished in the Cyclades from the beginning of the Bronze Age. [5] At the end of the century, a British expedition excavated the important Bronze Age town of Phylakopi on Melos. [5] 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. [5] A prince's tomb in the subsoil contains the largest amount of grave goods from the Bronze Age existing in the Iberian Peninsula. [6] Cretans in the Early Bronze Age buried their dead in communal tombs. [5]

They carefully selected wood and other materials to assemble a stonecutting pendulum that, if Blackwell is right, resembles contraptions once used to build majestic Bronze Age palaces. [12] The term palace economy was coined by archaeologists and historians studying the Mycenaean and Minoan civilisations that is, Bronze Age Greece and Crete. [13] These combined the decorations of the Cretan palaces with the old megaron form to make the typical Mycenean palace, which we have found not only at Mycenae but also at many other Late Bronze Age sites around Greece like Tiryns (TEER-ins) and Pylos (PIE-lows). [14] These distinctive cuts appeared during a century of palace construction, from nearly 3,300 years ago until the ancient Greek society collapsed along with a handful of other Bronze Age civilizations. [12] The great palace of Knossos in Crete would have looked positively labyrinthine to someone who lived in a typical Bronze Age one-room hut. [13] "Ruins of Bronze Age fortress and palaces, now just a few stone walls, made ugly by litter, trash, and infrastructure." [15] A set of syllabic symbols, derived from the writing system of Minoan Crete, used in the Mycenaean palaces of the Late Bronze Age to write an early form of Greek. [16]

After World War II, Blegen went on to discover a grid of rooms and courtyards that rivals Mycenae in size and is now the best-preserved Bronze Age palace on the Greek mainland, not to mention a significant tourist attraction. [17] The palace was built in the Bronze Age by the Mycenaeansthe heroes described in Homer's epic poemsand was first excavated in the 1930s. [17]

The early Mycenaeans (c. 1600-1400 BC): During the course of the Middle Bronze Age, Greece was gradually transformed: population rose, productivity increased, trade with the outside expanded, and warrior-chiefs evolved into monarchs. [18] Hundreds of Bronze Age settlements have been found in mainland and island Greece, and knowledge of the early stage of the Mycenaean civilization is revealed chiefly through graves and the offerings interred with the bodies. [18] The Mycenaean era was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece and is characterised by palatial city-states, works of art and writing. [19] Mycenaean Greece collapsed at the end of the Bronze Age and the most popular theory concerning its demise places the blame of the mysterious "people of the sea’ (or Sea Peoples). [19]

Double-handled loggers’ saws have been excavated at sites from the Late Bronze Age Minoan society on Crete. [12] The Middle Bronze Age was a period of great wealth and strong self-government of individual city-states. [20] New types of weapons made in the Middle Bronze Age were the duckbill axe, the narrow, chisel-shaped axe, and a leaf-shaped dagger with a wooden handle and a stone pommel. [20] Despite their great defenses, many of the cities in Canaan were destroyed in the turmoil following the Egyptian expulsion of the Hyksos in the mid-16th century BCE. This event led to the collapse of the Middle Bronze Age social system in Canaan. [20] From Syria to Egypt, people in the Middle Bronze Age buried their dead with elaborate rituals which shared many common traits. [20] It is likely that by the end of the middle Bronze Age, the two peoples had merged into a single people. [18] During the early Bronze Age, some towns in Greece had stone fortification walls and monumental buildings. [18] In the early Bronze Age (c. 3000-2000 BC), the Near East had already progressed to that higher level of organization of the natural and social environment termed "civilization." [18] Bronze Age cultures outside the main river valley civilizations therefore tended to consist of largely Neolithic farming populations ruled over by a small but wealthy ruling class, who lived in comparatively luxurious and often fortified centres. [21]

Providing a social and political history of the region in the Late Bronze Age, she focuses on the interactions between this 'provincial' coastal area and the core areas where the Mycenaean palaces were located. [22] As the author acknowledges (7), I make a very similar argument in my PhD dissertation concerning social change in the region during palatial and postpalatial times: A.R. Knodell, Small-World Networks and Mediterranean Dynamics in the Euboean Gulf: An Archaeology of Complexity in Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Greece (PhD Dissertation, Brown University, 2013). 3. [23] The goal is to deliver a historical and explanatory account of social change in this part of Greece during the Late Bronze Age. [23] Middle Bronze fortifications systems were reused in the Late Bronze Age (Hazor, Shechem and Megiddo) without significant changes. [24] Middle Bronze forms continue into the Late Bronze Age, but do change in shape slowly. [24] There is a definite decrease in occupied settlements in the Late Bronze Age from the previous Middle Bronze period. [24] In addition to royal scarabs, many other scarabs of the Late Bronze have expression of luck and goodwill for the bearer, thus suggesting that scarabs were becoming more amuletic in this period than in the previous Middle Bronze Age. [24] Two major types of arrowheads ( ANEP, 805 - inscribed javelin heads) occur in this period: long, slender arrowheads (most of the Late Bronze Age) and small blunt ones (generally thirteenth century). [24] Primary burials lying in a supine fully extended position becomes the more common burial fashion rather than secondary burial characteristic of Middle Bronze II. (Compare Middle Bronze II Gibeon Tomb 15 with Late Bronze Age cemetery at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh.) [24] FIGURINES: Although clay figurines appear first in Middle Bronze II, they main generally rare until towards the end of the Late Bronze Age. [24] There is strong cultural continuity between the Middle and Late Bronze Age. [24] Egyptian and egyptianize stone vessels become common in the Late Bronze Age particularly as the local industry develops at sites like Beth Shan. [24] In sites in Palestine, excavations show a slow but steady egyptianization of the culture as more egyptian or egyptianized artifacts appear in the latter half of the Late Bronze Age, and as egyptian practices (e.g. burial practices) become more the fashion. [24] In sum, this is an interesting book that is relevant for scholars interested in the Late Bronze Age Aegean. [23] Imports from Syria and the Aegean world are together a definable trait of the Late Bronze Age ceramics. [24] It continues to be the more common type of earring in Iron I. A fruit-shaped (pomegrante?) earring is much rarer and restricted, it appears, the the Late Bronze Age: Deir el-Balah Tombs 116,118, Tell el-Farah S Tomb 934, and Beth Shemesh St. IV. [24] In the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, a number of well-built square-shaped houses can be cited: Tell Sera', Tell Masos, Beth Shan, Tell Hesi, Gerar, Tell Aphek and Tell el-Farah (S). [24] "The Imitation of Cypriote Wares in Late Bronze Age Palestine," Palestine in the Bronze and Iron Ages. ed. by Jonathan Tubb. (London, 1985), pp. 154-165. [24] William Foxwell Albright and others have shown how a simplified syllabary of the Middle Bronze Age eventually was exported to the Greek and Roman worlds by the Phoenicians, northern coastal mariners of the Iron Age ( ANEP, 271 - MB dagger (Lachish), 286 - alphabet, 287 - pseudohieroglyphic script (Byblos)). [24] Bronze Age Greek civilizations are split by tradition into the Greek mainland (or Helladic), and the Greek islands (the Cycladic). [25] The Minoan civilization is what archaeologists have named the people who lived on the island of Crete during the early part of the prehistoric Bronze Age of Greece. [25] For some 600 years, the Bronze Age Minoan civilization thrived on the island of Crete. [25]

Eric Cline's book, titled "1177 BC" shines some light on the history of the Bronze Age civilization and its demise. [26] Something similar is happening today to the archaeologists who try to understand the reasons of the collapse of the Mediterranean civilization of the end of the second millennium BCE the end of the Bronze Age. [26] It has a climate and culture different from that of other Bronze Age Mediterranean communities that arose both before and after. [25] Eric Cline wrote an excellent book on the end of the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean region but, unfortunately, it doesn't arrive to a definite conclusion about the reasons of the collapse. [26] It is important to note that there are scant archaeological remains in the first part of the Late Bronze Age. [24] Other unusual knives can be cited exclusively from the Late Bronze Age. [24] Jewelry styles increase prodigiously in the Late Bronze Age. [24] A second important point about the Late Bronze Age concerns the egyptianization of this indigenous culture. [24] A major innovation in the Late Bronze Age is that the entire blade and handle are cast together. [24] As Albright and others may have rightly noted, Palestine proper remained generally loyal to Egypt throughout the Late Bronze Age, while Upper Retenu, modern Syria, did not. [24] At the end of the Bronze Age, long bone spindles and wands associated with bone whorls are found at a few sites: Lachish Fosse Temple III, Megiddo Tombs. [24] Other shapes from the end of the Bronze Age include bowls, imitation of imported Aegean forms, lentoid flask (LB tomb at Beth Shemesh, Fosse Temple III Lachish) or amphoriskos, and small ceramic forms including goblets (Deir el-Balah Tombs 114, 118) or juglets. [24] More common in Middle Bronze Age tombs, though, are joints from goats, sheep and cattle. [24] The site was occupied at least as early as the Middle Bronze Age. [27] GATES: Gate systems follow the same general plan as those from the Middle Bronze Age. [24] In addition to locally made vessels and Aegean imports, one finds Egyptian forms especially at the very end of the Bronze Age. [24] It has been suggested that technology drove the Cretan economy to blossom, transforming the Neolithic society into a Bronze Age existence and development. [25] At this point, we can conclude that, most likely, there never were a combination of parallel stressors that brought down the Bronze Age Civilization. [26] Even though we cannot arrive to a definitive conclusion, the story of the Bronze Age civilization is part of the fascination we feel for the subject of civilization collapse. [26] BANGLES: Towards the end of the Bronze Age, bronze anklets are found on some adult female skeletons. [24] A different type of incense burner, a lamp with pedestal, is found in Bronze Age level and may be depicted in the hands of an Asiatic on the walls of the Temple of Medinet Habu ( ANEP, 346). [24] The Canaanites, or Bronze Age inhabitants, made a number of lasting contributions to ancient and modern society, such as specialized storage jars for the transportation of oil and wine, and musical instruments like the castenet. [24]

Finley in the late 1950s did not refer to his system as a palace economy. [1] Grahame Clark (1961) wrote of a "palace economy introduced from Crete [1] That the Minoans, as Evans called them in the absence of knowledge of their real name or names, may have had a palace economy is pure speculation. [1] Sir Arthur Evans would refer to the palace economy, meaning the economy of the palace of Knossos. [1] The discovery of Linear A and Linear B tablets, listing commodities in the archive areas of the Palace of Knossos, suggests a highly organised bureaucracy and a system of record keeping that controlled all incoming and outgoing products. [1] A palace economy is a specific type of redistribution system in which the economic activities of the civilization are conducted on or near the premises of central administration complexes, the palaces of absolute monarchs. [1] Much later, the New Testament describes a population of early Christian communities giving all they had to the patriarch, who would return what they needed to live as there is no palace as such, this was similar to the equally ancient concept of a gift economy. [1] Like the other archaeologists of the time, he never envisioned the palace economy as anything more than the day-to-day economics of the palace, although Ventris and Chadwick did remark on the "similarities in the size and organization of the royal palaces" of Nuzi, Alalakh and Ugarit. [1] The term palace economy began as a label for the economic activities of individual palaces. [1] " Chester Starr (1961) said "Artisans and peasants were largeley embraced in a palace economy under royal control, [1] This implying that the palace economy model might be simplistic foreshadowed the current trend. [1] Following British agent John Crawfurd's Siam mission in 1822, his journal describes a "palace economy" that he attributes to rapacity. [1] From highest to lowest, they were bound to the palace economy by indissoluble bonds of involuntary servitude or patronage. [1] Mycenaean ships were sent out from the palace complexes laden with ceramics, oils, perfumes and other goods precisely as though they were exports for sale, rather than gift-giving. [1] Palace of Nestor (Pylos). 1-Entrance. 2-Court. 3-Anchamber. 4-Megaron (main hall). 5-Storerooms with olive oil. 6-Storerooms with wine. 7-Archives. 8-Propylon. 9-Bath. 10-Small megaron. [1] His mission was delayed at the port of Pak Nam until he had given a satisfactory account of gifts to the palace, ending with interrogation into minute details with regards to a gift horse, which Crawfurd considered "but a good specimen of the indelicacy and rapacity which we afterwards found so characteristic of the Siamese Court and its officers, upon every question of a similar nature." [1] In ancient palace systems, the producers were typically part of the working capital. [1]

Economics of religion in the Mycenaean world: resources dedicated to religion in the Mycenaean palace economy (1st ed.). [1]

The influence of climate on the Mycenaean world and the destruction of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos can, for the first time, be assessed through the investigation of a local high-resolution δ 18 O record that is the most precisely dated paleoclimate record from the eastern Mediterranean for the end of the LBA. [9] The δ 18 O record shows generally wetter conditions at the time when the Palace of Nestor at Pylos was destroyed, but a brief period of drier conditions around 3200 yrs BP may have disrupted the Mycenaean agricultural system that at the time was likely operating close to its limit. [10]

For the first time, there are indications that climate may be one mechanism behind the process that led to the failure of the Mycenaean way of life in Pylos and there is strong evidence that developing aridity following the destruction of the Palace made it difficult for social elites to re-form and for the palatial system to be re-established. [9] The new climate evidence from the Greek mainland, while not directly supporting a climate explanation for the destruction of the Palace, suggests that drier local conditions was one of several factors contributing to its demise. [9] There is evidence for a dry phase extending for approximately two decades around 3200±30 yrs BP, which can be firmly placed in the LH IIIB period, i.e. before the destruction of the palace. [9] This dry period can be firmly placed in the LH IIIB period and, given the new data from Mavri Trypa, occurs, taking the age uncertainties in to account, two to eight decades before the palace is destroyed. [9] Before the Palace is destroyed, the Mavri Trypa record shows evidence for a drier period around 3200 yrs BP that lasted

20 years. [9] This dry period was slight in comparison to what would come 100 years later, both in terms of magnitude and duration, but it nevertheless would have been felt in the agriculturally dominant palace economy. [9] The sub-periods of the LBA (Late Helladic (LH) I to LH IIIC) and the Protogeometric (PG) are shown together with the suggested period when the Palace of Nestor at Pylos was destroyed based on information from. [9] Our data provide the climate background to the destruction of the nearby Mycenaean Palace of Nestor at Pylos at the transition from Late Helladic (LH) IIIB to LH IIIC,

3150� years before present (before AD 1950, hereafter yrs BP) and the subsequent period. [10] Where does the new paleoclimate data from Mavri Trypa, with its current age-depth model and uncertainties, leave us in relation to the possible influence of climate on the destruction of the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor at Pylos and to the broader question of why it was not rebuilt in the LH IIIC period? The drought recorded at 3200 yrs BP clearly precedes the destruction of the Palace. [9] The new evidence from Mavri Trypa makes it possible for the first time to situate the trajectory of events following the destruction of the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor at Pylos within a period of developing aridity throughout LH IIIC and the early part of the EIA. [9]

At the time of the destruction of the Palace there is a very short period of enriched δ 18 O values (mainly defined by one measurement point) this fluctuation, however, is not evident in the δ 13 C ( S2 Fig ). [9] Some time after the beginning of the period of the Early Palaces in Crete, Phylakopi was defended by a massive wall. [5] 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. [5] The archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans was first alerted to the possible presence of an ancient civilization on Crete by surviving carved seal stones worn as charms by native Cretans in the early 20th century CE. Excavating at Knossos from 1900 to 1905 CE, Evans discovered extensive ruins which confirmed the ancient accounts, both literary and mythological, of a sophisticated Cretan culture and possible site of the legendary labyrinth and palace of King Minos. [4] 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. [5] Palaces and settlements show evidence of fire and destruction c. 1450 BCE, but not at Knossos (which was destroyed perhaps a century later). [4]

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. [5] Knossos (pronounced Kuh-nuh-SOS) is the ancient Minoan palace and surrounding city on the island of Crete, sung of. [4] The archaeology of prehistoric Crete is dominated by the Minoan "palaces": monumental court-centered building compounds, which first appeared in the early second millennium bce. [2] Labyrinth -like palace complexes, vivid frescoes depicting scenes such as bull-leaping and processions, fine gold jewellery, elegant stone vases, and pottery with vibrant decorations of marine life are all particular features of Minoan Crete. [4] Crete advanced rapidly along the path of civilization during the period of the Early Palaces, while the mainland relapsed into comparative agricultural stagnation. [5] The first high civilization on European soil, with stately palaces, fine craftsmanship, and writing, developed on the island of Crete. [5] Recent excavations in the is­land of Crete on a palace site that has been emerging for two years reveal that the structure, before its destruction in about 1500 B.C., contained about 150 rooms. [11] Pottery with a similar wash and with the surface often deliberately mottled is found in Crete and is known as Vasilik' ware, after a site with a little "palace" where large amounts of it were recovered. [5] 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. [5] She found that the floors of the palace, located in the present-day Greek town of Pylos, were made of plaster, and were often painted with grids of bright patterns or marine animals. [3] The tablets were found within what was the archival center of the palace and were written in a language that was originally referred to Linear B. After closer examination, this language was later found to be an early form of the Greek language, and the tablets offer many details about the history of the palace and the people who resided there. [7] Reaching up to four stories high and spreading over several thousand square metres, the complexity of these palaces, the sport of bull-leaping, the worship of bulls as indicated by the presence throughout of sacred bulls' horns and depictions of double axes (or labrys ) in stone and fresco may all have combined to give birth to the legend of Theseus and the labyrinth-dwelling Minotaur so popular in later classical Greek mythology. [4] 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. [5] Throughout the LH IIIB period the increase in the size and number of sites in the area surrounding the Palace is a good indicator of population growth in Messinia ( S1 File ). [9] 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. [5] There is a general agreement among historians that the palaces were independent from each other up to 1700 BCE, and thereafter they came under the sway of Knossos, as evidenced by a greater uniformity in architecture and the use of Linear A writing across various palace sites. [4] 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. [5] Arthur Evans' uncovering of the 1-hectare (10,000 sq. m. or about 2.5 acres) palace at Knossos startled the Classical world at the beginning of the twentieth century ce, with both its scale and early date (Fig. 6.1). [2] 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. [5] 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. [5] The suggestion of social turbulence and larger scale socioeconomic problems is hinted at both in the Linear B tablets and other evidence from the Palace storage was increased and access to the Palace was restricted shortly before the destruction ( S5 File ). [9] Several factors, among them rapid climate change, have been discussed as triggers for the sudden destruction of the palaces and the inability of Mycenaean society to recover. [9] The new data from Mavri Trypa also provides an opportunity to investigate the climate backdrop to the question of why the Mycenaean elite did not re-form and why the Palace was not rebuilt. [9] The creative decorations show how ancient Mycenaean artists used floors -- together with painted ceilings and walls -- to impress palace visitors, Egan said. [3] The Palace functioned as the central administrative center of ancient Messinia and played a crucial role in the economy, but it did not maintain control over every aspect. [9] The destruction of the Palace of Nestor is thought to have occurred

3150-3130 yrs BP ( Fig 4 ). [9] Gradually developing aridity after 3150 yrs BP, i.e. subsequent to the destruction, probably reduced crop yields and helped to erode the basis for the reinstitution of a central authority and the Palace itself. [10]

The first palaces were constructed around 2000 BCE and, following destructive earthquakes and fires, rebuilt again c. 1700 BCE. These second palaces survived until their final destruction between 1500 BCE and 1450 BCE, once again by either earthquake, fire, or possibly invasion (or a combination of all three). [4] Many signs of political and social collapse are visible in Pylos and Messinia as a whole after the destruction of the Palace. [9] Archaeological background to the Palace of Nestor at Pylos and the area around Pylos. [9] We are thus able to rather precisely compare our paleoclimate data with the timing of the destruction of the Palace of Nestor and the end of the LBA in the Peloponnese. [9] The collection may have been made during the 17th century, after the destruction of the older palaces. [5] 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. [5] This includes 600 clay tablets which were baked by the fire and therefore survived the destruction of the palace. [7] 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. [5] 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. [5] In 1962 a large palace, destroyed by fire about 1450 bc at Zákros in eastern Crete, was discovered. [5] The finding of the palace came as a surprise to scholars because of its unlikely location on the sea in a remote and wild area of gorges in Sitea, on easternmost Crete. [11] Evidently the centralized administrative system controlled by the Palace could survive such a relatively short-term dry period and remain in control. [9] Wright J. Changes in form and function of the palace at Pylos. [9] It is believed that the Palace of Pylos was built to replace an older fortified palace located atop the now-leveled Ano Englianos Hill near Navarino Bay. [7] The Palace of Pylos has much to offer in the way of archeological discovery, as many of its key structures survived, including the royal apartments, as well as a large bathroom facility which includes a tub. [7] "At Pylos, however, the range of represented patterns suggests that the floor in the great hall of the palace was deliberately designed to represent both of these materials simultaneously, creating a new, clever way to impress visitors while simultaneously instructing them on where to look and how to move within the space." [3]

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. [5] Sir Arthur Evans, who recon­structed the palace at Knossos, found gold foil that he correctly surmised was used to cover works of art. [11] Surface water was carried away by covered drains, and skillfully jointed clay water pipes were found in the palace at Knossos. [5] 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. [5] The palaces at Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia were restored with greater splendour than before. [5] Large areas of the palaces, especially at Knossos, were possibly reserved for cult. [5] 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. [5] 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. [5]

Minoan palaces exerted some kind of localised control, in particular, in the gathering & storage of surplus materials. [4] As already mentioned, too, bulls are prominent in Minoan art, and their horns are an architectural feature of palace walls and a general decorative element in jewellery, frescoes, and pottery decoration. [4] Minoan artists, especially fresco painters, took their skills to the royal palaces of Egypt & the Levant. [4]

The relationship between the palaces and the power structure within them or over the island as a whole is not clear due to a lack of archaeological and literary evidence. [4] Blegen had the good fortune of finding many important archeological artifacts at the site, and, despite being burned, large portions of the palace remained well preserved, offering many important insights into the history and importance of the site. [7] A watercolor reconstruction of the painted floor of the Throne Room in the Palace of Nestor, by Piet de Jong. [3] 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. [5] 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. [5] The Palace did not, however, maintain control over the production of all staple goods for example Linear B tablets indicate that there were local, independent small-scale producers of cereal crops. [9] The S1 proxy record sheds new light on the effects of climate on, the large scale social reorganization that occurred

4200 yrs BP, the expansion in the area embraced by Mycenaean civilization

3400 yrs BP, the subsequent destruction of the Mycenaean palaces

3200 yrs BP, and the expansion in the number of rural settlements in the late Roman period. [9] However, we evaluate and investigate principally the chronological fit between variability in climate and the destruction of the Mycenaean Palace at Pylos and the subsequent sociopolitical change that took place at the end of the palatial period on the Greek mainland. [9] Considering the proximity between Mavri Trypa and the Palace of Nestor, the paleoclimate information from this cave is pertinent for evaluating the potential impact of climate on the destruction of that Mycenaean palace and social processes during the subsequent periods. [9] The location of Mavri Trypa Cave in relation to the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor at Pylos and other paleoclimate records mentioned in the text. [9] The Mycenaean Palace of Nestor at Pylos provides a rare case study where textual and archaeological evidence can be combined to offer a more complete picture of the local economy ( S1 File ). [9] One of these was the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor at Pylos, located in present day Messinia in the SW Peloponnese, which controlled large areas of land in that region. [9]

The Mycenaean culture reached its zenith between approximately 3350 and 3150 yrs BP. The destruction of the Mycenaean palaces throughout the Peloponnese occurred at the transition between the Late Helladic (LH) IIIB (

3020 yrs BP). [9] The dry conditions recorded from 3100 yrs BP firmly belong to the LH IIIC period and likely contributed to the inability of the Mycenaean palaces in the Peloponnese to reassert their power. [9]

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. [5]

RANKED SELECTED SOURCES(27 source documents arranged by frequency of occurrence in the above report)

The Archaeological Area of the Mycenaean Palace of Thebes ‘Kadmeio’

Modern Thebes is build right on top of the ancient city. Thebes was one of the most influential ancient cities of Greece. It is inhabited from Neolithic times and its heyday was in the Mycenaean period. Many remains of the ancient city are visible around the modern city, along with few parts of its fortifications build with big boulders on natural rock. Thebes is 45 Km from the capital of modern Boeotia, Livadia.

Some of the most important historical sites in Thebes is the Mycenaean palace, the Isminion temple devoted to Apollo and the Cadmian Gates.

The Mycenaean Palace, or Kadmeion, dates from the 13th century BC and is located almost centrally on the acropolis. The palace was decorated with frescoes and clay tablets in Linear B and amphorae have been found. The palace was destroyed by fire in around 1200 BC.

At the centre of the acropolis of Kadmeia, in the heart of the modern city, there are the ruins of a building that, for its time, was magnificent. It is known as the Kadmeio, a large independent construction with many rooms and corridors designed for work and storage. These housed some of the most important workshops in the city’s Mycenaean palace, producing miniatures and items and jewellery from lapis lazuli, agate, quartz and gold, materials that came from as close as Thebes to as far away as Afghanistan. The same building housed a variety of other items, including large stirrup jars, which came to Thebes from Crete, full of oil.

The Treasure Room

The palace’s treasure room, or treasury occupies the north-east corner of the central complex of the Mycenaean palace of Thebes, which extends above the city’s central square. Excavations have uncovered the north and east walls of the room, which were built with large stone blocks to a height of 2.20m. It was at this height that the brick roof of the building began. The site was given its name because it was here that they stored precious items and jewellery of gold, lapis lazuli, agate and ivory, as well as a unique hoard of imported cylinder seals of Assyrian, Hittite, Hurrian, and Cypriot origin. A thick wall separated the ‘Treasury’ from the ‘Room with the Jars’, which took its name from the clay jars that were found there. It is under modern Antigone Street. The tablets and seals in Linear B that were found in these two spaces show that a significant part of the administration of the Mycenaean palace at Thebes was run from here.

Sections of the Mycenaean palace

The Armoury

Many of the important functions of the Mycenaean palace at Thebes were housed in the building complex known as the Armoury, which was located in the east section of the acropolis and constituted a section of the central palace complex. (Modern Pelopidou Street) From the complicated system of foundation walls which have been excavated at this site, it seems that the complex had at least one large rectangular chamber, as well as smaller rooms amongst a network of narrow corridors. The rooms in the complex were used as storage for weapons, riding tackle, and copper tools and dishes. They were used to guard objects made of ivory, for weighing various raw materials, but also for keeping the archives of the economic activity of the palace on clay tablets.

Wool processing workshop – Archive section

The workshop for processing wool consists of a unit of three rooms, which were discovered in the centre of modern Thebes, and were possibly a section of the west side of the Mycenaean palace complex.

Only a small part of the north room has been excavated, and no significant finds have been made. By contrast, numerous storage jars were found in the central room, along with a clay basin placed before the brick wall that separated it from the south room. These have only been partially excavated, as the rest continues under the embankments of the surrounding roads, which cannot be disturbed. The finds produced include a great deal of pottery, many sherds of large stirrup jars, fragments of frescoes, and many intact vases. The most significant finds, however, are sixteen tablets in Linear B (Of series), which were discovered in the east section and which, it is believed, fell there from somewhere higher up. On the basis of the evidence of the tablets found inside the room, as well as some constructions found on its floor, it is believed that this room was used for the storage and washing of wool, its possible processing with aromatic oils, and its combing, as well as the recording of its delivery to various destinations and recipients in and outside Thebes.

Palace accommodation at 3 Eurydikis St (S. Theodoros Residence)

The data from both the older and more recent excavations on the summit of Kadmeia demonstrate that, during the 13th century BC, there was a densely built, wealthy neighbourhood in this area of Mycenaean Thebes. Whatever the case, the position of the recently discovered building on the highest point of the walled acropolis, the layout of the spaces, its size, and the type of archaeological remains, the frescoes decorating the walls, and the rare finds show that, despite its highly piecemeal preservation in the limited area of the excavation, it had an especially important function as part of the central administration of the palace during this period on Kadmeia.

Site for delivery and recording of goods, and cyclopean defences (Christodoulos, Liangas and Stamatis residences)

The architectural remains of yet another important palace structure from Mycenaean Thebes have been excavated on the east side of Kadmeia, preciously within a section of the Mycenaean wall that had been found on that site. A network of walls shows that there were various apartments and rooms, the use of which, however, remains unknown.

North of the complex, four rectangular rooms have been excavated. They are separated by partition walls and communicate via openings between themselves and the road that ran to the south [16] outside them. These rooms belonged to a free-standing building which was separated from the rest of the complex by the above mentioned road, and was most probably a check point for the various goods which came into the acropolis. This must also have been the point where on the entrance gates to the acropolis must have been located.

A great deal of pottery was found in the building, including cups, skyfoi, jugs, pithamphoriskoi, stirrup jars, and many smaller finds. Sixty clay seals came from the most western room, the inscriptions on which record the delivery from South Euboea to Thebes of various animals (sheep and goats/cattle and pigs), the meat from which was destined to be used at some great ritual symposium, which would take place inside the acropolis. Inside the same room, a rare oval stone vase was found.

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In 1870 a German businessman named Heinrich Schliemann sold his billion-deutschemark enterprise in indigo, by correspondence acquired a Greek wife who was guaranteed to be acquainted with the Homeric poems, and set off for northwestern Turkey to find Troy. He put his shovel in the ancient mound of Hissarlik and there it was.

A few years later, religiously following instructions in the Iliad, he went to the area where Troy's destroyers were said to have come from, and dug up "golden Mycenae" and “wall-girt Tiryns”, home of King Agamemnon and his forces.

Almost 150 years later, archaeologists have verified Schliemann’s controversial claims: warrior kingdoms all across the Greek peninsula, of which the most important are Mycenae, Tiryns, Pylos and Thebes, have been located. We call their civilization Mycenaean.

Southern curtain wall of Tiryns: Mycenaean curtain-walls were built as two megalithic "skins" filed with rubble and earth. At 8 meters or more thick, they were impregnable. Joseph Maran

The Mycenaeans were sailors, soldiers, raiders and traders who among other things conquered Minoan Crete in around 1,490 B.C.E. and overran its colonies in the eastern Aegean and in Anatolia (Turkey). They fought with the great eastern kingdoms of the Mediterranean and their goods reached as far away as Scandinavia, Egypt, Canaan (Israel, Syria, Lebanon) and Iraq.

In the 12th century B.C.E. they joined the wave of marauders known as the Sea Peoples, who settled in Canaan and became known as the Philistines.

Yet the flourishing early Grecian warrior culture came to an abrupt end in the early 12th century B.C.E. (around 1190/80 B.C.E.). A wave of destruction overwhelmed the major centers of the Greek mainland, including Tiryns and Mycenae.

Much the same happened to palaces throughout Turkey, Cyprus, Canaan and Mesopotamia. Egypt alone weathered the storm, defeating an invading armada of Sea Peoples that landed in the Nile Delta in the early 12th century B.C.E., but it too was buffeted.

Fatal flaw in the quake theory

Archaeology has shown that in Mycenae, life in some centers continued for a time. But the palace fortresses with their massive Cyclopean walls (thus called because the ancient Greeks thought only the giant Cyclops could move the huge stones) were never properly rebuilt, and with them went the warrior lords and their courts, the administration, and the scribes.

Turkey and Greece both periodically suffer from devastating earthquakes as the African and Eurasian plates move. From the 1980s, archaeologists embraced the theory that the monumental citadels were shattered by massive earthquakes that shook the eastern Mediterranean coast. The Trojan horse, which helped the Greeks capture Troy in the Iliad, was even postulated to be a poetic metaphor for an earthquake rather than a machine of war. (The logic was simple: Poseidon was the Greek god of earthquakes, and was usually represented by a horse.)

The scientists measured seismic activity in the region and assessed how earthquakes would likely affect two Mycenaean palaces in the eastern Peloponnese: Tiryns and Midea.

At both, excavators had previously found skeletons that they interpreted as victims of an earthquake. Now they believe these were bodies laid in pits that were cut into the destruction deposit, Maran tells Haaretz.

Other evidence supporting the earthquake theory were undulating walls (warped into S-shapes), Maran explains to Haaretz – but such distortions could equally have been caused by pressures within the ground or uneven subsidence.

To test the reasonability of quake destroying the palaces, the scientists placed ten mobile seismometers including on top of Tiryn's curtain walls - the hallmark walls of the Mycenaeans. Over nine months, they recorded every slight vibration in the soil in Greece. They then used the data to assess how quakes of varying intensities would have affected Tiryns and Midea.

Altogether the researchers compiled a set of 25 earthquake scenarios, involving events along the subducting African plate, the Gulf of Corinth and at local faults closer to Tiryns.

No question: based on their simulations of ground motion, local geological faults in the Argive basin could have badly damaged Tiryns and Midea, they wrote. But that evidently isn't what happened.

In Tiryns, the data indicated that the flimsily built homes in the lower town would have suffered much more damage from quake than the massive stone buildings in the upper city. But no quake evidence was found in the lower city.

Not only was the Lower Town built of inferior stuff: “Our study of the subsurface conditions showed that the Lower Town would suffer more severe shaking in case of an earthquake than the acropolis,” Hinzen explains.

They conclude that the fatal damage to the palace had not been caused by earthquake.

To be sure, some earthquake-type damage is evident in the Mycenaean palaces, but excavations have showed that the cracks were repaired and life continued.

However, in 1190/80 the heavily fortified palaces were destroyed once and for all. If it wasn't seismic shock that caused them to crumble, or divine lightning bolts – it had to be the human hand, be it through invasion, war between states or internal uprising.

Scapegoating the Sea Peoples?

A different school of thought blames the general collapse of the Bronze Age societies on the Sea Peoples. A relief in Ramses mortuary temple at Medinet Habu, Luxor, indicates as much.

Medinet Habu reliefs portray the Battle of the Delta, a great struggle between the Egyptians and the Sea Peoples at the mouth of the Nile at around 1177 B.C.E. Signs of fiery destruction discernable in the Mycenaean palaces led excavators to suspect that the palaces had been torn down by marauding invaders.

More recent research has suggested that the seafaring population did not consist of foreign invaders, but homeless migrants seeking new land in the chaos that followed a climate-induced collapse.

Geologist G. Schweppe preparing seismic stations for deployment in Mycenae excavation dog Dida is helping Klaus-Gunter Hinzen

Core samples from Cyprus and Syria show the 13th century B.C.E. was marked by intense cooling, little rainfall and prolonged drought. In Anatolia, shortly before 1200 B.C.E., grain was running short, as shown by a letter from the Hittite king begging the Egyptian pharaoh to send corn because famine had struck his kingdom: “There is famine in our house. We will all die of hunger. May you know it!"

Climate change may have struck Greece as well. Grain found in Tiryns showed that the grain size had decreased. Mycenaean Linear B inscriptions found in Pylos (in the western Peloponnese) also complains about the extreme shortage of bronze in the 1,200s B.C.E.

Goods for trading may have run short in some places, but elsewhere, such as at Tiryns, business evidently went on as usual, at least for a while.

“In Tiryns, there is clear evidence that the palaces had intense trade connections with other parts of the East Mediterranean until their very end. So it is highly unlikely that their destruction was linked to a shortage of metal," Maran explains.

Nonetheless, the disruption of important resources could have pitched the warrior kingdoms against each other.

In the end, it was probably a combination of factors that ended the Bronze Age and plunged the world into a maelstrom. Wars ruined long-distance trading, bad harvests and famine caused widespread unrest, and the highly complex administrative systems of the Mycenaeans, Hittites, Mesopotamians and Syrian trading cities collapsed.

The Greek songs of the wars abroad and the tales of trouble at home in the Iliad and the Odyssey hint at the violence that struck the Mycenaean palaces. Greeks fleeing the catastrophes that brought down Mycenaean civilization kept memories of the disastrous years alive. And eventually these memories found their way to the compositions of the Greek bard Homer, who sang about the heroes of the Trojan War.

Further information

If you would like to experience more of the Phoenician world than you found in this article, the book Phoenicians: Lebanon’s Epic Heritage is recommended. It is deeply researched but also a highly readable exploration.

Going beyond the few traditionally-cited facts, this authoritative work also draws from interviews with leading archaeologists and historians on-site in the lands and islands where the Phoenicians lived and left clues regarding their secretive society.

Mycenaean warriors and the Sea-Peoples

This entry was posted on December 20, 2013 by Josho Brouwers .

Recently, Jesper van den Berg posed two related questions on our Facebook page. The first was on the reconstruction of Mycenaean warriors in my book Henchmen of Ares, which were specifically contrasted with reconstructions offered by Andrea Salimbeti. The second question concerned the so-called “Sea-Peoples”, known from Egyptian monuments, and whether or not these included Aegean warriors.

Reconstructing Aegean warriors

The main problem regarding Aegean warriors concerns the use of metal armour and shields in the period prior to the fall of the Mycenaean palaces around 1200 BC. Some people take the Homeric epics as historical documents that contain useful information about the period around 1200 BC and extrapolate from that. In the Iliad, warriors wear metal body-armour, greaves and helmets with “nodding crests”, and they invariably possess large shields.

But do the Homeric epics reflect the world of the Mycenaean Bronze Age? There are undoubtedly elements that date back to that period, as I explain in Henchmen of Ares. A war between Greeks (Mycenaeans) in the north-west of Asia Minor is plausible, and there are some Hittite sources – again, referred to in the book – that show unrest in a region known as Wilusa, which can most probably be identified with the Greek Ilion (Troy). Even some of the political geography in Greece dates back to the Bronze Age: Mycenae was a small town in the Archaic and Classical periods, so the kingdom of Agamemnon must have been something passed on orally from one generation to the next.

As always, however, the devil is in the details. When we look at the actual social structure, we find little that is very similar to the bureaucratic structures of the Mycenaean kingdoms. The palaces of the kings look more like large farmhouses. Odysseus’ palace in Ithaca has geese waddling about and a dung heap near the entrance, where the hero’s old dog recognizes his disguised master before expiring. In no way does it resemble a Mycenaean palace. There are no archives, no scribes, no officials to deal with storage and the production of vast amounts of, for example, oil or wine. It resembles more closely the structures known archaeologically from the eighth and seventh centuries BC.

Homer probably lived around 700 BC and it comes as no surprise that most of the physical artefacts and structures in his works resemble those of his own age, including the equipment of his heroes. Metal cuirasses are known from Argos as early as the late eighth century BC, and metal helmets were introduced around that time, too, perhaps from Assyria. The large shields in the Homeric epics all appear to be round and are quite compatible with shields known from Geometric and Archaic Greek pottery. Hans van Wees has even argued that some shields may, in fact, be Argive (hoplite) shields, with a double-grip. The presence of a “Mycenaean” boar’s-tusk helmet in the Iliad might be an heirloom or a find from a tomb that a farmer stumbled upon and that Homer saw at some point.

For the thirteenth century BC, we have no evidence at all of metal body-armour or shields. These are features of the earlier Mycenaean epoch – for example, the bronze lobster cuirass from a tomb at Dendra – or of the period after the fall of the Mycenaean palaces, especially the middle of the twelfth century BC. For the Mycenaean era itself, we have warriors in waisted tunics with spears, short swords, and boar’s-tusk helmets. They are never shown wearing metal armour or using shields. A fresco from Pylos that was once thought to depict a round shield was wrongly reconstructed. This is not to say that metal armour was not used at all, but simply that it doesn’t appear to have been as common as is often thought, and reconstructions showing Mycenaean warriors of ca. 1200 BC universally clad in bronze from head to toe and brandishing shields are probably wrong.

The mysterious “Sea-Peoples”

As regards the “Sea-Peoples”, the designation derives from Egyptian sources. We know that Egypt suffered from attacks by these people, especially during the reign of Ramesses III (r. 1186–1155 BC). The entire eastern Mediterranean was suffering from instability around 1200 BC. In the first half of the twelfth century BC, several civilizations crumbled, including the Mycenaean palace civilization and the Hittite Empire, and some city-states were destroyed, such as Ugarit in Syria. (See also Ancient Warfare IV.4.)

The Sea-Peoples are sometimes thought to have caused the downfall of the Mycenaean palaces. Certainly, human agency was involved, since many of the palaces show signs of burning. But whether the “Sea-Peoples” were responsible for all this, or just a symptom of more widespread unrest, is an open question. It is quite possible that various factors – natural disaster such as famine or epidemic, rebellions, political strife, and so on – conspired to create a situation in which some people decided to turn to the sea. Some scholars have suggested that the Mycenaeans later formed the “Sea-Peoples” or that part of them joined the “Sea-Peoples” on their trek through the eastern Mediterranean.

Some of the names used to denote some groups by the Egyptians are suggestive of particular ethnonyms. The “Sherden”, for example, may be identified with peoples from Sardinia. There are some suggestive figurines – al dated to the ninth or eighth centuries BC in the conventional chronology – that are very similar to Egyptian depictions of these people. The “Meshwesh” were people from Libya. Most interestingly, the “Ekwesh” have been compared to the Achaeans (Greeks) from Homer, who may have been known to the Hittites, as recorded in documents recovered from the archives of their capital at Hattusa, as the “Ahhiyawa”. Similarly, the “Denyen” might be identified with the Danaans, another term used by Homer to denote the Greeks.

What we have, then, is a lot of suggestive data. The Sea-Peoples were either a disruptive force in the eastern Mediterranean after ca. 1200 BC or a symptom of some other problem (or perhaps both). The Sea-Peoples included a variety of different people from different places, probably including Sardinia and Mycenaean Greece. The depictions of warriors on the walls of the mortuary temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu resemble particular peoples, like the Mycenaeans. As a result, it is possible to reconstruct some events in broad strokes, even if the exact causes of the unrest in the eastern Mediterranean remain mysterious (famine? plague? social unrest?), and many of the details are frustratingly vague.

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The destruction of the Mycenaean palaces and the Sea-peoples - History

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Around the year 1200 BCE the Mycenaean civilization shows signs of decline. By 1100 it was extinguished. The palaces were destroyed, and their system of writing, their art, and their way of life were gone. The causes of their decline are not entirely clear. According to Greek legends, they were replaced by half-civilized Dorian invaders from the north. They spoke a different Greek dialect, and were a new wave of Greek migration. Evidence for this may be found in the legend of The Return of the Heraclidae, which recounts how the Dorians joined the Heraclidae, a Greek tribe, in an attack on the Peloponnese.

We get a glimpse of the fall of the Mycenaeans from a tablet found at the palace of Pylos. The palace was destroyed by an invasion from the sea. Most of the tablets recovered there describe preparations for the attack. The first attack involved attacks on the priests but no burning. The scribes had a chance to write about it before the 2nd attack which destroyed the palace.

The enemy grabbed all the priests from everywhere and without reason murdered them secretly by simple drowning. I am calling out to my descendants (for the sake of) history. I am told that the northern strangers continued their (terrible) attack, terrorizing and plundering (until) a short time ago. Py FR 1184 (Michael Ventris translation)

Many of the tablets found at Pylos described preparations for an attack which had obviously been expected from the direction of the sea. Michael Wood in his book In Search of the Trojan War wrote the following:

"One of the most important tablets is entitled: 'Thus the watchers are guarding the coasts' : command of Maleus at Owitono. 50 men of Owitono to go to Oikhalia, command of Nedwatas. 20 men of Kyparssia at Aruwote, 10 Kyparissia men at Aithalewes. command of Tros at Ro'owa: Kadasijo a shareholder, performing feudal service. 110 men from Oikhalia to Aratuwa. Some of the last tablets written at Pylos speak of rowers being drawn from five places to go to Pleuron on the coast. A second list, incomplete, numbers 443 rowers, crews for at least fifteen ships. A much larger list speaks of 700 men as defensive troops gaps on the tablet suggest that when complete, around 1000 men were marked down, the equivalent of a force of 30 ships".

It was all to no avail. The first attackers appear to have targeted the priests but did no burning. This allowed the scribes enough time to describe the attack on their tablets when the second wave of attackers arrived who devastated the palace with fire and beat anyone they could find. The old story that the Dorians came over land from the north and devastated the palaces may well be true, but they may have done it in cooperation with the Sea Peoples' attacks in boats. The only strangers for which we have good evidence are the Sea Peoples and their main goal was to stop the advance of the new philosophy of the jealous male gods, and not to take slaves or even to plunder, which was incidental. The attacks were successful because, like the Hittite empire, we know that the Achaean civilization came to an abrupt end. Only Athens was apparently able to ward off the attacks.

The kings of Mycenae always had to fight to retain their positions. They engaged in constant warfare with each other and the long Trojan War may have weakened their power.

The great workshops were the first to disappear. By 1200 there were no more luxurious weapons and vases. The archeological evidence is that after 1200 BC there is a massive reduction in settlement sites. When the Dorians arrived, they found an already weakened civilization, which they looted and pillaged. A dark age descended on Greece.

Jan van der Crabben of the Ancient History Encyclopedia has sent me an interesting letter and I’ve decided to make a blog post out of it. Those of you who don’t know his great web site are in for a treat. It features articles about ancient history and it is global in extent. What’s really crucial about this site is that it is edited and the articles bear the author’s names and are not easily changed by others. In other words it cures the principal problems of Wikipedia.

“The Mycenaean Collapse is part of what is generally known as the ‘Bronze Age Collapse’. Sadly, I don’t remember where, but I read recently in a history publication that archaeologists have found clear evidence of a century-long but steady decline in rainfall during this time. Essentially, the latest findings go, people very slowly had worse and worse harvests and didn’t quite know what was going on until it was too late. This led to population movements, such as the Sea People, but also the Gutians and the Amorites, who moved from less fertile lands into Mesopotamia. The destruction of Urban Centres may then have been caused by these invading migrating populations?”

First, Jan – thanks for reading my blog and a special thanks for this great letter. You have given us a statement of what I intended by the phrase ‘Sea Peoples’ when I laid out what I considered the principal contending causes. This scenario has been popular among scholars in the past but as the years go by it has fewer and fewer adherents – at least as an explanation for the Mycenaean destructions. Louise Schofield probably sums it up best when she says

“It is a tidy theory to try and tie up the troubles in the Mediterranean with those historically documented in Egypt, but there is no tangible evidence that the Sea Peoples ever did stray over to the Aegean. Some destructions in other coastal areas of the Mediterranean have been attributed to the Sea Peoples, but the role they played, even in the Eastern Mediterranean – for example, in the fall of the Hittites – may have been overestimated. It is possible that displaced Mycenaeans, driven from their homes by the wave of destructions around 1200 BC, actually joined the ranks of the Sea Peoples and themselves became piratical raider warriors.”(1) [but see below on this point, RHC]

Also Deger-Jalkotzy says this(2):

“… the Sea Peoples theory is mainly based on archaeological and literary sources from Cyprus, the Near East, and Egypt. Intruder theories have other weaknesses, too, so that they have lost much of their earlier attractiveness.” (2)

[At this point she refers to J.A. Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies, Cambridge University Press, 1988 – I have not seen this source.]

Oliver Dickinson is not convinced of the fighting prowess of these Sea Peoples(3):

“…whether the ‘Sea Peoples,’ who figure so largely in the theory (i.e., Drews (1993) theory of outside intruders(4)), were as extraordinarily effective a fighting force as represented in this and other modern reconstructions.” and
“I would suggest that any historical interpretation that relies on a picture of massive forces of raiders scouring the Aegean, whether by land or sea, owes more to romance than reality.”(4a)

Nor is Jonathan Hall(5) sanguine on the idea of outside invaders. He discusses two variants of the Sea Peoples theory in the course of which he says that if we assume that the defeated Ekwesh mentioned in the famous Karnak inscription (set up in 1208 BC) are really Achaeans and that they lived in ‘Ahhiyawah’ (Achaea) and “that they were responsible for the more widespread catastrophes, then we would also have to assume that the Mycenaean palaces were destroyed by the very people who are supposed to have built them.”

He also refers to Drews (1993) as the definitive purveyor of the idea that these migrants enjoyed or could have enjoyed military superiority over the Mycenaeans.

In short the idea of the Sea Peoples being responsible agents for the destruction of the Mycenaean urban centers no longer enjoys the wide acceptance which it used to do. That there was a group of people who could plausibly be called ‘Sea People’ is not in doubt only that they could have played an active role in the fall of Mycenaean civilization.

Thanks, Jan. I sincerely hope you’ll keep reading the blog and that you’ll write again!

(1) Louise Schofield, The Mycenaeans. Getty Publications, 2007. 178-9.

(2) Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy in “Decline, Destruction, Aftermath”. The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge University Press. 391.

(3) Oliver Dickinson, “The Collapse at the End of the Bronze Age”, in The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean. Oxford University Press, 2010. 489.

(4) Robert Drews, The End of the Bronze Age. Princeton University Press, 1993.

(4a) Oliver Dickinson, The Aegean from Bronze Age to Iron Age Continuity and change between the twelfth and eighth centuries BC. Routledge, 2006, 50.

(5) Jonathan M. Hall, A History of the Archaic Greek World ca. 1200-479 BCE. Blackwell Publishing, 2007. 52.

HIST 101 Lecture Outline (Spring 2021 – Week 4)

Michael Wood, “In Search of the Trojan War” (BBC, 1985):

Episode 1/6: The Age of Heroes (56:31 min. start at 15:50 for Troy at 32:00 for Mycenae 44:00 for Tiryns 47:00 for Troy again):

Cultures, pp. 89-108 (The first Greeks Archaic Greece colonists, hoplites, and citizenship masculinity poetry Sparta)

c. 2000-1500 BCE Minoan civilization flourishes on the island of Crete and on the nearby island of Santorini. The Minoan language had a written script (“Linear A“), which was scratched onto clay tablets, but has not yet been deciphered. Archaeological finds show that the Minoans had a rich culture based on farming, fishing, and on trade with the Near East and Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia, and Greece. Minoan Crete was ruled from five or six palaces, all near the sea, of which the biggest was at Knossos. These palaces were not fortified, implying that there was no internal warfare, and that the Minoans trusted their fleet to defend them against foreign attack. The palaces and great houses were lavishly decorated with frescoes depicting daily life, court life, ritual activities, and the scenes of nature and the sea.

c. 1450-1200 BCE Decline and fall of Minoan civilization, probably beginning with an earthquake, followed by invasion by the Mycenaean Greeks

c.1600-1200 BCE First known Greek-speaking culture: the Mycenaeans, whose script (known as Linear B, used primarily for supply lists for royal armies) has been discovered to be an early form of Greek. There were multiple palaces in Mycenaean Greece, presumably representing multiple kings, including at Mycenae, Pylos, Tiryns, Thebes, and Athens. The mountainous topography of mainland Greece led to the development of multiple small kingdoms (later, city-states) rather than a unified kingdom. The Mycenaeans, unlike the Minoans, were militaristic their royal palaces were fortified, and their art includes images of armor, hunting and warfare (Mycenaean dagger excavated by Heinrich Schliemann at Tiryns), but also images of the natural world (perhaps influenced by Minoan art). No Mycenaean temples or prayers have been found, but private houses had domestic shrines. Around 1250 BCE Mycenaean palaces were re-fortified.

The Trojan War and its aftermath that were the subjects of Homer’s epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey (written c. 750 BCE), may reflect Mycenaean attempts to seize part of Asia Minor, but the poems are not a surviving oral history from Mycenaean times. More likely they reflect conditions during the Dark Age that followed.

c. 1200-750 BCE Dark Age in Greece perhaps beginning with destruction by the Sea Peoples, was part of the widespread late Bronze Age collapse all around the eastern Mediterranean c. 1200 BCE. During the Dark Age, Greece lost c. 90% of its population, and writing (Linear B) disappeared. Most of the surviving population moved from the upland plateaus to the coastal towns.

c. 750-500 BCE Archaic Period: rise of the Greek city-states (poleis), including the establishment of networks of small colonies, each tied to an individual polis, first in the Aegean, then in the Black Sea, and eventually more broadly in the Mediterranean. The rise of Greek sea power and the spread of Greek colonies overseas was made possible by the disruption of Phoenician maritime dominance in the eastern Mediterranean, caused by the Assyrian destruction of the kingdom of Israel c. 722 BCE, followed by the Neo-Babylonian conquest of the kingdom of Judah c. 587 BCE. The poleis needed standing militias to defend themselves, requiring all free men aged 18-60 to be liable for military call-up. The Greeks perfected fighting by infantry soldiers (hoplites), armed with breastplate, helmet, sword, shield, and spear, in trained units, called phalanxes. The need for men to stay in good physical shape and to train for war led to the rise of pan-Hellenic athletic competitions, such as the Olympic games, and a cult of masculinity that valorized the male body and male homosexuality. In Greece’s militaristic society, girls and women were considered of far less value than men. They were given little education and were kept secluded at home. (One celebrated female poet, however, Sappho of Lesbos, wrote of female homosexual love and of Aphrodite, goddess of love.)

The most militaristic polis of all was Sparta, although it sought no colonies, and focused on war in order to control its large number of state-owned slaves (helots), who did all the manual work of the Spartans. Babies considered defective were ordered to be left to die in the mountains boys and girls began physical training at age 7 at age 12 the girls were given a basic education and the boys were sent to military barracks and trained to fight. The boys were required to steal food to teach them self-reliance, and underwent brutal discipline and training. At age 20 they entered the army for a service period of 10 years, after which they were awarded full citizenship.

British Museum, Curator’s Corner: Killing time with Ajax and Achilles (painted on Greek vases) (10:39 min.):

Michael Wood: Art of the Western World – The Classical Ideal (1989, 55:38 min. start at 3:34):

Cultures, pp.108-117 (Miletus and the birth of philosophy Athens and democracy the Persian Wars)

Sources, pp. 47-62 (Hesiod, Works and Days Homer, The Iliad Herodotus, The Persian Wars and Histories Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War)

Miletus, founded in the Mycenaean period, after the Dark Age revived to become a commercial and cultural hub with numerous colonies, especially around the Black Sea. Miletus produced a very distinctive style of pottery (see also here), and a high-quality coinage displaying a lion, and it was the birthplace of Western philosophy – home of the 6th-cent. philosophers Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, who investigated whether there was a rational pattern, or set of universal truths, to the natural world, that humans can learn. They also asked what was the origin of all things (water? ether? air?), and sought to understand the process(es) by which the physical world changes. They pioneered the concept of submitting ideas to critical inspection by others.

Athens took its name from Athena, goddess of wisdom. Its Acropolis (city high-point) was first settled c. 3000 BCE, and it was a major Mycenaean city. After the Dark Age, between c. 700 and 650 BCE the aristocracy of Athens conquered the surrounding territory (Attica), which led to conflict between the now-expanded number of ordinary Athenians and the wealthy elites. In 594 BCE the city council appointed the aristocrat Solon to resolve this: he made all adult male citizens members of the Assembly (which elected officials), loosened the qualifications for holding office allowed foreign merchants and craftsmen who settled in Athens with their families to become citizens and cancelled the debts of poor farmers who had fallen into debt-slavery. Solon’s efforts failed, and the tyrant Pisitratos seized power c. 560 BCE, and held power for 3 periods until his death in 527 BCE, trying to resolve the city’s problems (including unfair distribution of offices, high taxes, and backlog of court cases) he also had archival copes made of the Iliad and Odyssey. His two sons (Hippias and Hipparchus) succeeded him, but in 510 BCE Hipparchus was murdered (a pair of statues commemorating the Tyrannicides, Harmodius and Aristogeiton, was set up in the Agora [marketplace]), and Hippias was expelled. After a couple of tumultuous years, Cleisthenes, who had been exiled by a rival for helping to force out Hippias, was recalled by the Athenians and re-organized the city’s government as the first western democracy. Citizens (free men of some means, comprising only 5%-10% of the city’s population) were organized by neighborhood (deme) and met in a general assembly (ekklesia). The assembly considered legislation, judged trials, and set policies. Day-to-day governance and yearly magistrate selection were handled by a council (boule) chosen by lot and serving for a single day. Army commanders (strategoi) were elected for one year, but could then be re-elected.

Persia controlled the Ionian coast (the west coast of Anatolia), and the Ionian cities, including Miletus, formed a league to break away from Persian overlordship. Sparta (which had no overseas colonies) refused to send an army overseas to help the Ionians, but in 499 BCE Athens did, and sacked the Persian city of Sardis. In 490 BCE the Persian emperor Darius sent a large Persian army to attack Athens. The ensuing battle of Marathon (26 miles N. of Athens) was a huge victory for Athens (thanks to the tactical leadership of Miltiades), and the Persian army withdrew. Between 490 and 480 BCE the Athenians, expecting the Persians to return in force, built a fleet of 200 triremes (warships with 3 tiers of oars and bronze-sheathed prows). In 480 BCE Darius’s son Xerxes launched a massive attack on Greece by land. The Greek city-states, including Sparta, banded together to resist them. At the coastal pass of Thermopylae, a tiny Spartan rearguard under their king Leonidas held back the entire Persian army for 3 days before they were overcome and killed, but allied Greek victories at Salamis (480: naval battle) and Plataea (479: land battle) forced the Persians to withdraw once more.

Hesiod, Works and Days (c. 735-700 BCE): Describes the “golden age” of humans who were made of gold and lived like gods then the “silver age” of lesser humans, who flouted the gods’ wishes, and so were exterminated then the third race of men, made of bronze, who lived like savages. Then came a race of demi-gods, who fought like heroes, including at Troy. Finally came the present (5th) race of men, who live lives of toil and misery in an age of iron.

Homer, The Iliad (c. 750 BCE): Clash between Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, and Achilles, the Greek hero, over possession of a girl taken as booty during the Trojan War. Achilles sulks in his tent and refuses to fight, until his friend Patroclus is killed by the Trojan prince, Hector. Then Achilles (who was invulnerable to wounds except on his heel) went out to fight Hector, killed him, and dragged Hector’s body around the walls of Troy behind his chariot, by the heels, to dishonor him.

Herodotus of Hallicarnassus (484-423 BCE), The Persian Wars and Histories: In The Persian Wars, Herodotos identifies the custom of abducting high-status women as a major cause of warfare between the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Persians. He says that the Greeks considered it wrong to abduct a woman, but believed that only women who did not resist were abducted. In Histories, he describes the kinds of evidence he uses, including linguistic evidence, religious rituals and images, and interviewing religious authorities (such as the priestesses at Dodona),

Thucydides of Athens (460-400 BCE), The Peloponnesian War: Thucydides recognized immediately the historical significance of the war as the ultimate face-off between Athens and Sparta, and he wrote about it while it was occurring. He also did extensive research through oral interviews and documentary records to analyze what happened and why. Although he invented dramatic scenes and dialogue to depict what he considered to be the genuine points of view of his subjects, he did not (unlike Herodotos) depict events as the result of intervention by the gods. In his introduction, Thucydides also examines evidence for the early history of the Greeks – for example, he sees early Greek history as one in which tribes were constantly migrating, there were no alliances before the Trojan War, and violence was endemic, requiring men of the past to carry arms as a matter of course in everyday life. In his depiction of Pericles’ funeral oration for the war dead, he first describes how the Athenians buried their fallen soldiers, with a common coffin for the dead of each tribe, an empty bier for those whose bodies were not found, the burial of the coffins in the public cemetery in the suburbs, and then a public eulogy. In the eulogy, he has Pericles describe the basic principals by which the Athenians live, beginning with their democratic form of government, which is designed to serve the interests of the many, not the few. He sees Athens as a model for all Greece to follow, and sees honor as the chief prize of life.

The Sea Peoples

Rarely is change so complete. So damaging. So replete.
Maybe when the Neanderthals were killed off? When the Roman Empire collapsed?

When Chinese dynasties died?
Catastrophic change. And none greater than the destruction of the great Mycenaean

Palace states of Greece and the Middle East. Empires of chariots and bronze!
Who did it? The “Sea Peoples?” Let us see. For what followed them, were you and me!
And what followed them was immediate. All that carnage and collapse came within 50years of 1,200 B.C. Greece’s significant city states were sacked and burned. Troy was pillaged and the Great Hittite Empire in Anatolia broken apart and crushed. Hattusa, the Hittite Capital, was destroyed and the land abandoned.

“Hordes!” they were called. “Sea Peoples!” When they descended upon Syria, one cuneiform tablet from Ugarit reported just before that city was destroyed⎯”Behold the enemy’s ship came my cities were burned, and they did evil things in my country … the country is abandoned to itself … the seven ships that came here inflicted much damage upon us.” The attackers looted and pillaged and left. So it must not have been land or larder that they wanted. They were after more precious things, gold and silver, and probably children and women as slaves. They left the fertile plains lying fallow.

There has been much inquiry and furtive speculation as to the cause for the attacks. Was it drought? Migration? New weapons? Or was it a collapse of the world trading order? Perhaps some, or all, of these things. But it was not iron weapons. They were just beginning to show up on the battlefield, and not yet in the number or quality to rival good bronze. What was it, then?

The trading networks established by Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, and enforced by Pharaoh Thutmose III, created several hundred years of relative peace and prosperity. City states became dependent on interconnected trade, and populations grew. Perhaps populations also increased in peripheral “barbaric” areas.

Warfare was then controlled by a palace elite, primarily through the use of a professional corps of fast-moving chariots. The common people, in the modern sense of an infantry, were not significantly engaged in military encounters. The coming cataclysm would change that.

But warfare was different in the mountainous and hilly areas. The barbaric lands. In these less advanced cultures, armies fought on foot with weapons developed for hand-to-hand combat. It took time, but eventually these forces developed tactics to stop the Bronze Age chariot. Then these newly armed, ordinary men became the new face of warfare. Hunting javelins from the hills could stop a horse and, by doing so, the chariot. And the Hill People could ride horses!

They brought with them a new bronze sword that we call the Naue Type II. It was a “cut and thrust” sword, a 28″ long, balanced, slashing sword with two shallow blood letting channels. It had been developed in Europe and carried in the hands of invading armies seeking close combat with an opponent armed only with a short stabbing sword, or the even smaller slashing sickle sword. The impact was revolutionary.

The Dorians swept down through Greece, destroying the Great Palace States of the Homeric Mycenaean Age. They thrust Greece into 400 years of cultural darkness. The Greeks eventually adopted the new weapons. Helmets for their Hoplite infantry, body armor for their soldiers, and the balanced, round shield for close combat. And they formed the famous Greek phalanx. From that collapse eventually rose the great splendor of Athens, Pericles, Plato, and Socrates.

When the “Sea Peoples” swept through Asia Minor and the Levant, they wreaked havoc in Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, and Canaan. They were heading to a final reckoning in Egypt. And the Philistines joined them.

But were not the Philistines already there? Is that not where the name for the land of Palestine comes from? Yes. And they, too, were “Sea Peoples,” invaders from a distant land. But when they arrived in what is now the coast from Tel Aviv to Gaza, they stayed and established five city states, the Philistine “Pentapolis”⎯Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron. Maybe they came in two waves. Genetic analysis now indicates that they arrived around 1,200 B.C., bearing genes from Southern Europe, the Aegean, Sardinia, and Iberia.

Israel and Judea were nascent highland states at the time. They may have taken advantage of the collapse of existing order, and with new weapons and tactics, formed and expanded amidst the general confusion. And often against the Philistines. You know, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, Saul and Solomon. The Philistines were not served well in the Bible. But they certainly got coverage. Archaeology has shown that they had a wonderfully advanced and cultured society.

But this surge of invasion would end in Egypt, where the armies of Ramses III defeated both the Libyans and Philistines in great land battles. Remarkably, he also built a naval force to attack and annihilate an invasion force of the Sea Peoples before they reached land. Mark that 1,179 B.C. Ramses listed some of the invaders by name: Shekelesh (from Sicily?), Sherden (from Sardinia?), Lukka (from Lycia?), Ekwesh (from Achaea?), and Teresh (from Tyrrhenia in Southern Italy?)

There is still great dispute as to who these people were, where they came from, what force drove them forward, and what they wanted. Were they just pirates looking for loot? They never succeeded in successfully attacking Assyria or sacking Babylon. That is why those empires continued to be players in the biblical sagas.

Maybe. Think of it this way. Many of the biblical stories occurred after this destruction. The modern method of infantry-based warfare developed. The use of iron spread. And the Phoenician Alphabet⎯our alphabet⎯was shipped to Greece, Rome, and Britain.

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