added by archaeologs The chief city of the Mycenaeans of Bronze Age Greece, overlooking the Plain of Argos (Argolid) in the eastern Peloponnese. Inhabited in the Early Helladic period, 2500-1900 BC, it was taken over c 1900 BC by Greek-speaking invaders. After existing as a minor Middle Helladic site, it rose to prominence by the 15th century BC. In the Late Helladic, c 1400-1250 BC, it was surrounded by massive walls of cyclopean masonry, and entered by the monumental Lion Gate. Little remains of the palace on the acropolis, though some houses lower on the slope have survived. Just inside the gate was the Shaft Grave Circle A, with six tombs yielding a great treasure of metalwork of high quality and artistic skill - weapons, drinking vessels, jewelry, face masks - and pottery dating to the 16th century BC. Stelae, carved with chariots, hunting scenes, and spirals in relief, stood over the graves. A second shaft grave circle was found outside the city, slightly earlier in date and less rich. Later members of the royal family were buried in the nine great tholos tombs, which include the magnificent Treasury of Atreus. The city escaped the disasters of the 13th century better than the mainland, but Mycenae fell in c 1200 BC, attributed to the Dorians. Mycenae is famous in Homer as home of Agamemnon, leader of Greek heroes at Troy. It emerged from the Dark Ages as a minor town.
added by archaeologs A major citadel of the Greek Bronze Age situated in the Argolid, in the northeast Peloponnese. It was occupied in the Early Bronze Age, but became powerful in the Middle and Late Bronze Age after, it is believed, an invasion by Greek-speaking peoples. Among the most important monuments of Mycenae are the two circles of shaft graves, one inside and one outside the town walls, with their rich grave goods, dated to the 16th century bc; the walls of Cyclopean masonry, the palace, including a megaron hall and associated houses, belonging to the period after cl400 bc; and the famous Lion Gate, added in the mid-13th century bc. A short distance away from the city are two well preserved tholos tombs, wrongly attributed by Schliemann to Homeric characters and thus labelled the Treasury of Atreus and the Tomb of Clytemnestra; these too belong to the Late Bronze Age (after cl400 bc). The site of Mycenae has lent its name to the Late Bronze Age civilization of mainland Greece, which represents the earliest civilization to arise on the mainland of Europe. Mycenaean culture owes much to the earlier civilization of the Minoans of Crete: it was based, like the Minoan civilization, on a palace-based bureaucracy with a king at its head and in its later phase it was, like the Minoan, literate: the Linear B script found on clay tablets on Mycenaean sites represents an adaptation of the earlier Minoan syllabary (see Linear A) to the writing of the Greek language. In many other ways, the Mycenaean civilization differs from that of the Minoans; it was, for instance very much more warlike, characterized by heavily defended citadels and a strong emphasis on weapons as grave goods. In craft skills and art styles, manifest in many spheres, including architecture, frescopainting, pottery manufacture, metallurgy and jewellery production, the Mycenaeans demonstrate a mixture of Minoan and mainland influence. By cl450 bc the Mycenaeans had taken over Knossos and from this date onwards it is more realistic to think in terms of a combined Minoan-Mycenaean civilization. In this Late Bronze Age heyday of Aegean civilization, its influence spread far outside the Aegean: Mycenean pottery and other goods were traded to the Levant coast of Syria, to Egypt and to the central Mediterranean, perhaps in exchange for raw materials such as metals. After cl200 bc the Mycenaean civilization went into abrupt decline; many sites were abandoned, while others declined drastically in size; the palace bureacracy collapsed and with it went the art of writing and many of the other attributes of civilization, not to be reinstated for several centuries. There have been many studies of both the rise and fall of Mycenaean civilization. Earlier scholars tended to attribute its rise to outside influence or actual invasion, looking to the earlier civilizations of Egypt and Western Asia for sources. More recently the balance has shifted towards explanations based on local development. In a deservedly famous study, The Emergence of Civilization, Colin Renfrew used the systems approach to culture to show how changes in two or more subsystems of culture might interact to produce an accelerating process of change (examples he gave included among others the introduction of the vine and olive in the subsistence subsystem and the development of metallurgy in the technology sub-system). The abrupt end of the civilization has also given rise to many theories. Some favour external catastrophe, whether invasions of new people from outside (the favoured traditional view) or environmental disaster, such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Alternative views of the decline suggest internal collapse, whether based on slow environmental degradation or social revolution. It is in fact likely that the end of Mycenaean civilization was a complex event, that may have involved more than one of these factors. See also Knossos, Pylos, Tiryns.
The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983