Mr. Schorr is a student of the ancient East Mediterranean and Near East, and a doctoral candidate (MA, ABD) in preclassical Aegean archaeology. Since 1969 he has proofread and performed research on the later volumes in the Ages in Chaos series, with special emphasis on the present tome. In 1974 (under a nom de plume ) he wrote an article in the journal Pensée, showing instances of archaeological discoveries from Greece, Anatolia and North Syria which lend support to Velikovsky’s revision of ancient history (I. Isaacson, “Applying the Revised Chronology”, Pensée, IVR IX , pp. 5ff). The following supplement is an updated portion of that article.
The Entrance to the Citadel
Both literary accounts and archaeological discoveries indicate that the ancient city of Mycenae in the Peloponnese of Greece was the political and cultural center of the Late Bronze Age (or “Late Helladic [LH]”) Greece. For this reason one calls that period, its culture and its material remains “Mycenaean. ” Since Mycenae is the type-site for LH Greece, its history and its relics will be of chief concern in this essay.
According to tradition, the city’s founder was the legendary hero Perseus, and the later Greeks attributed its fortifications of tremendous stones to mythical giants, the one-eyed Cyclopes. It was for Eurystheus, a later king of Mycenae, that Heracles performed his twelve labors. One of the city’s last heroic kings was Agamemnon, commander of the pan-Hellenic expedition against Troy. Upon his return from that long war, his queen and her paramour murdered him in the palace, for which crime his children, Orestes and Electra, took their terrible revenge.(1)
First excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870’s, in one of the earliest systematic campaigns at a Late Helladic (LH) center, Mycenae is one of the most thoroughly excavated and studied places in the world. For over a century now, German, Greek and British prehistorians have revealed a wealth of archaeological information, as well as costly and beautiful artifacts. Work still continues there on a yearly basis.
Since the absolute dates for Mycenae and the entire East Mediterranean Late Bronze Age come directly from Egypt,(2) if Immanuel Velikovsky’s revised chronology is valid, one should expect, that numerous 500 to 700-year problems trouble those who deal with Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age—which is the topic of the present essay.
In the present volume, Velikovsky treated the Lion Gate of Mycenae (Fig. 1, A), and brought out how, and why, late nineteenth-century art historians and excavators, who studied the stone carving and the gateway it surmounts, originally ascribed them to the eighth century B.C.; he also showed how adherents to Egyptian chronology pushed the date back by half a millennium to ca. 1250 B.C. The debate over those 500 years, long ago resolved in favor of the Egyptian time scale, still presents problems for modern archaeologists. Thus, John Boardman, who does accept a thirteenth-century attribution for the gate, recently concluded that “more than five hundred years were to pass before Greek sculptors could [again] command an idiom which would satisfy these aspirations in sculpture and architecture.” (3)
The Lion Gate was the main entrance-way of Mycenae. Between the Gate and the building known as the Granary (Fig. 1, C), A. J. B. Wace dug a test trench in 1920. The location was ideal for two reasons. First, being near the gate and along the main street into the city, the spot collected all tangible evidence of those who passed along the route.(4) Second, the area was a perfect sedimentation trap, enclosed by three walls, with the fourth side open to the steeply sloping ground of the citadel, so that it also collected the material that constantly rolled or washed down from above. Since that trench provides the best stratigraphical section of the site, and “is the main basis for trying to date the fall of Mycenae,” (5) the findings are of particular interest to us. Wace differentiated thirteen layers, which had collected between the fortification wall, the gate, and the Granary, all constructed in the middle of the Late Helladic (LH) III B period (ca. 1250 B.C.).(6) The bottom ten layers belonged exclusively to the period of construction until late in the pottery phase known as LH III C (set at 1250 - 1100/1050 B.C.), at most 150-200 years.(7) On the average, then, each of those layers represented ca. 15-20 years.
The eleventh layer from the bottom, in addition to “eleventh-century” LH III C pottery, contained a significant number of fragments of Orientalizing ware (i.e., seventh to sixth century B.C.). That layer, which, by the accepted scheme, must represent the passage of ca. 500 years, was only about 1/6 the total thickness of the ten layers beneath it, which represent only 150 to 200 years. It was, in fact, thinner than one of the earlier layers representing ca. 15-20 years.
It is very important to note that the eleventh layer contained no pottery dated to 1050-700 B.C. If people continued to inhabit, enter, and leave Mycenae between the eleventh century and the seventh, one would expect some evidence of that fact to appear in that trench near the gate, yet none does. Even if the site was abandoned for centuries, one would still expect a layer of “wash,” consisting of ashes and dissolved mud brick from ruined structures on the citadel to lie above the eleventh-century pottery and below that of the seventh,(8) but there was none. Neither was there a seventh-century layer distinguishable from the eleventh-century one, as if centuries of debris and/or wash had been removed before the seventh-century pottery was deposited. One thin layer contained pottery of two styles customarily separated by hundreds of years, yet the trench showed no evidence that those centuries actually transpired.(9)
In the 1920’s, Wace considered the eleventh layer, its seventh-century pottery, to be “the last true Mycenaean stratum,” (i.e., it followed immediately after the tenth layer, and began to form in the twelfth century).(10) Some thirty years later, however, disturbed by the 400-year-later material, he changed his mind, and reduced the age of the entire layer, proposing that its LH III C contents were deposited centuries after they were made.(11) That solution, however, still runs into the same problem as before—unless removed (for no apparent reason), the evidence of centuries’ duration, either as pottery or as wash, should still appear somewhere in the section—if not within the eleventh layer, then beneath it and the tenth. Other scholars(12) do not accept Wace’s redating, but follow his original assessment, that, despite the seventh-century material, the eleventh layer belongs mainly to the twelfth century.
If Mycenaean pottery had not received its absolute dates from Egypt, then, on the basis of that and other stratigraphical sections from Prosymna, Tiryns, Pylos, Athens, Sparta (Therapne), Kythera, Crete (Vrokastro), Chios, Troy, Italy (Taranto), etc.,(13) and also, as we shall presently see, on the basis of style, one might say—as numerous scholars once did—that LH III B-C pottery (1350-1100/1050 B.C. by Egyptian reckoning) immediately preceded the seventh-sixth century Orientalizing ware.
The Grave Circles
Immediately south of the Lion Gate and the Granary, Schliemann discovered a circle (Fig. 1, D), which contained six royal graves.1 In the 1950’s I. Papadimitriou and G. Mylonas discovered a second circle outside of, and to the west of the Lion Gate. That circle (Circle B), containing twenty-four more princely graves, is, for the most part, contemporaneous with Schliemann’s (now called Circle A), beginning a bit before it and discontinued while Circle A was still in use. The two circles have furnished some of the richest and most exciting finds to come from Mycenae, or, in fact, from any prehistoric European site. Since the graves’ contents are mainly contemporaneous with the early Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, archaeologists have assigned them to the seventeenth-sixteenth (or early fifteenth) centuries B.C.2
Seeking the origin of such grave circles, N. G. L. Hammond recently maintained that they came to Mycenae from Albania. Comparing the Mycenaean examples to Albanian grave mounds, he saw “close analogies in the details of the burial customs, the structure of the mortuary chambers, and the contents of the graves.”3 Regarding the construction technique, “the similarities indeed are remarkably close.”4 The weapons from the Albanian graves also display “astonishing similarities” to those from the Mycenaean Grave Circles.5 After considering several factors, Hammond concluded that “the answer can only be that the tumulus-burials of Albania . . . are the antecedents” of the Mycenaean burials.6
There is a very serious drawback, however. F. Prendi, the excavator of the Albanian graves, at first claimed that, typologically, those burials belong no earlier than the eleventh century B.C.; he has continued to assign them 500-600 years later than does Hammond.7 A. M. Snodgrass agreed that “at first sight Hammond’s dating . . . seems a natural one,” because the earliest Albanian pottery and weapons do resemble material of, and immediately preceding the early Mycenaean Period.8 Further analysis, however, ran Snodgrass “up against the fundamental difficulty of chronology.”9 Since Albania was extremely conservative throughout antiquity, he felt that there could have been a centuries-long “time-lag” between the creation of goods in Greece and their transmission to Albania, or, alternatively, that they could have arrived in Albania at the time of their manufacture in Greece, and remained in vogue in the north for centuries, without evolving as they had to the south.10
Perplexed by the latest items from the Albanian grave mounds, some of which seemed to belong to the twelfth century, as Hammond claimed, while others seemed to be 600 years later, Snodgrass still decided to follow Prendi rather than Hammond. He thus assigned the Albanian graves not to the sixteenth-eleventh centuries, but to ca. 1100-600 B.C.11 More recently, Emily Vermeule, a noted Bronze Age archaeologist and art historian, and J. V. Luce gave credence to Hammond’s case.12 If, however, Prendi and Snodgrass are correct in assigning the earliest Albanian material to ca. 1100 B.C., then, despite “close analogies,” “remarkably close,” indeed “astonishing” similarities (Hammond), those graves obviously cannot be the “antecedents” and models for graves which are 500 years older at Mycenae.13
Over a number of the interments in the two Grave Circles of Mycenae stood twenty-two stone stelae, some plain, others decoratively carved. If they really belong to the seventeenth to sixteenth centuries B.C., several authorities see a 500-year discontinuity before the custom of placing tombstones over graves resumed its vogue in Greece.14 More important than the 500-year problem is the subject matter on some of the sculpted stelae. The scenes of hunting and battle depicted, as well as the general carving technique, remind one very much of Syro-Anatolian relief sculptures—especially those six to seven centuries later in date.15 The ninth century “neo-Hittite” relief of a stag hunt from Malatya in North Syria is strikingly close in iconography to the “sixteenth-century” stele above one of the graves at Mycenae (Figs. 2A and 2B).16
Figure 2B: Mycenaean stele with same motif
The burials inside the two Grave Circles consist of stone-lined shafts. In addition to the bodies of the Mycenaean rulers and their families, the graves contained much wealth in the form of gold masks, inlaid daggers and swords, gold and silver cups and goblets, gold jewelry and foil, etc. Almost immediately after the discovery of such objects in the first Grave Circle, dating controversies arose.
One of the graves produced a gold ring depicting warriors in a chariot hunting a stag with peculiar antlers, which one scholar compared to the ninth century Malatya relief. (Fig. 2B), showing the same subject.17 An authority on Greek art, P. Gardner, judged the golden breastplates, diadems, sword handles, buckles and patterned gold discs from the various graves to be products of the Geometric Age (so-named for the geometrical patterns on its pottery).18 He made that assessment before the chronological sequence for pre-historic Greece received its dates from Egypt, which placed the Shaft Grave period some 500 years before the Geometric Age. He also described animal representations on the gold objects as “identical” in style to the seventh/sixth century examples.19 Other late nineteenth-century authors noted still more similarities between the Shaft Grave artifacts and those of the seventh-sixth centuries B.C.20 Because of those similarities Gardner felt that the Shaft Graves were not far removed in date from the seventh century, but because much of the art was obviously more primitive, he decided to allow some time for development, thus assigning the graves to the twelfth-tenth centuries B.C.,21 which is almost precisely where they would fall under the revised dates for the early Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt.
H.R. Hall of the British Museum was so struck by the resemblance of the artifacts from Grave Circle A to “later” material, that he proclaimed that, “if we are not to throw aside all that we have learnt of the development of early Greek art,” at least some of the objects belong to ca. 900 B.C. or later.22 He proposed, therefore, that the Greeks re-opened graves dating to the early Eighteenth Dynasty after ca. 600 years, but instead of looting or re-using them, they piously deposited later material, His theory for those graves is universally rejected23—although, as we shall presently see, it has resurfaced for other graves at Mycenae. The burials and artifacts of Crave Circle A only span about three generations. If they really belong to the sixteenth (or early fifteenth) century, however, as most authorities now assume,24 then their resemblance to later graves and objects seems all the more remarkable, since hundreds of years were to elapse before similar graves and artifacts supposedly re-appeared.
It is true that Gardner, Hall and others formed their opinions seventy-five to a hundred years ago, before anyone suspected that a centuries-long Dark Age followed the Mycenaean Period, separating it by an unbridgeable “gap of emptiness”25 from the later objects which they considered to be similar or identical, and sometimes contemporaneous. Their observations on style are, nevertheless, still valid today. What they had “learned of the development of early Greek art”26 had to be unlearned and re-learned. Even after nearly eighty years of re-education since Hall made that remark, the Shaft Grave contents, like the stelae and the circles themselves, still present “extraordinarily difficult” problems for, and “remain puzzling” to scholars today.27
Shaft Grave Art:
The Shaft Grave rulers, to judge by their more robust size than that of their followers, by their weapons and by their favorite scenes of art, were hunters and warriors who began consolidating the rather barbaric villages of Greece into a formidable empire. They brought their people from a comparatively backward Middle Helladic existence into the Late Helladic period, aptly named “the Mycenaean Age.” Their houses, tombs and pottery were at first rather poor, since they preferred to lavish their wealth on precious weapons, bowls, ornaments, etc., which they took with them to their graves. At the start of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt they imported and copied objects and ideas from many regions, but Especially drew from the more sophisticated Minoans of Crete. By the time of the last interments in the Shaft Graves, during Pharaoh Thutmose III’s reign, the Mycenaeans had not only embraced Minoan artistic trends, but had taken over former Minoan colonies throughout the Aegean, and had conquered Crete itself. By the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty and during the Nineteenth, the Greek rulers resided in palaces within fortified city-states, built sumptuous tombs, developed an intricate economic system supporting herders and farmers, merchants, soldiers, poets, scribes and skilled artisans, who produced beautiful poetry, jewelry, sealstones, ivory carvings, etc., which displayed artistic uniformity throughout Greece and her colonies. The Greeks had taken over the East Mediterranean trade routes, importing luxury items from every direction and exporting their own goods throughout the Aegean and Near East.1
One can trace all those developments during the span of the Grave Circles—from their inception towards the end of the Middle Helladic period till the special treatment accorded to Circle A during the Late Helladic III B period. We can relate those events to Egyptian history because of the culture contact—both direct and indirect (e.g., via Crete)—between Greece and Egypt throughout the Mycenaean Age. To illustrate that link during the Shaft Grave period, one need only look to the vases and metal objects flora the two grave circles and from contemporary and only slightly later find-spots throughout the East Mediterranean.
Crete, which had enjoyed direct contact with Egypt for centuries before the Shaft Grave Period, sent many of the objects and provided much of the artistic inspiration found among the contents of the Grave Circles.2 Both Crete and Greece entered the Late Bronze Age at about the same time, which one can firmly link to the beginning of the New Kingdom in Egypt, For example, several swords, daggers and vessels from the Shaft Graves display designs and scenes composed of inlaid gold, silver and niello (a black metallic compound), reminiscent of early New Kingdom Egypt, with some of the hunting scenes of definite Egyptian origin, though possibly acquired via Minoan intermediaries. In Egypt itself an ornamental axe head from the earliest years of the Eighteenth Dynasty depicts an Aegean griffin, and its companion piece, a dagger, shows animals at a “flying gallop” inspired by Aegean art, with the iconography of both weapons very closely related to the inlaid weapons of the Shaft Graves. Frescoes in the tombs of the Theban nobles who served Hatshepsut and Thutmose III portray foreign emissaries whose physiognomy, pigmentation, hair style and dress exactly resemble Aegean portraits of themselves. Those and later frescoes, along with Thutmose III’s bas relief from Karnak, depict metal vessels which correspond in material, shape and decoration to the cups, goblets, pitchers, jars, conical pouring vessels, animal-headed containers and figurines which excavators have found in the rich graves of Mycenaean Greece, the mansions on Santorini, and the palaces and villas of Crete. The archaeologists of Egypt and the Levant have also discovered a number of actual Aegean exports of (and slightly later than) the Shaft Grave Period in contexts which are clearly contemporaneous with Thutmose III.3
Since such firm links between the early Eighteenth Dynasty and the Shaft Graves establish a synchronism, Aegean archaeologists, who lacked a reliable dating system of their own, turned to their colleagues, the Egyptologists, who had employed the pharaonic lists of Manetho and astronomical computations to determine absolute dates for the New Kingdom. Transferring the results of their calculations to the Aegean, they assigned the Grave Circles to the seventeenth-sixteenth/early fifteenth centuries B.C., and strapped Aegean archaeologists with a plethora of problems arising from such early dates. Velikovsky has already shown the highly dubious nature of the assumptions which the Egyptologists made in order to construct their dating system,4 and set forth his case for subtracting over 500 years from the standard chronology of the Eighteenth Dynasty in accordance with Egyptian and Near Eastern circumstances.5
At the Aegean end, an author has recently made the same observation as struck Schliemann and Eduard Meyer in the 1880’s while many of the vessels shown in the Eighteenth Dynasty frescoes correspond to Shaft Grave artifacts, some resemble Protogeometric and Geometric ware over 500 years later.6
Again like their nineteenth century precursors, modern scholars still compare some of the Shaft Grave artifacts to those of the Greek Archaic Period (seventh to sixth century). Schiering and Vermeule, for example, noted the similarities between the “second millennium” gold and electron masks from the Mycenaean Grave Circles and a seventh-century bronze mask from Crete and sixth-century gold masks from Bulgaria, each feeling that, despite the huge gap in time, an otherwise undetected continuity linked the Mycenaean and the much later examples.7
Many of the artifacts from the Grave Circles, including the stele and ring already mentioned, depict stags—a favorite subject of Mycenaean two-dimensional art.8 In one of the richest graves of Circle A, Schliemann also found a three-dimensional silver stag having a hollow, barrel-shaped body and a spout on the back, probably used as a drinking vessel. Possibly an import from Anatolia, and certainly deriving inspiration from that region, where the stag had long been “a charged symbol,” it seems to be a metallic copy of a ceramic model.9 Excavations in Greece have, so far, produced only one other comparable grave offering in the form of a three-dimensional ceramic stag with a hollow, barrel-shaped body, probably used to hold liquid, Though different in material and in style from the Mycenaean example, it still reminded its discoverer of that find.10 It comes from the Kerameikos cemetery of Athens, and is dated over 500 years after the Shaft Grave stag, at ca. 925 B.C.—a date which poses its own problems for those seeking to connect the Athenian model to similarly-made ceramic figurines of the Mycenaean Age, supposedly centuries earlier, with an apparent gap dividing them.11
Baltic amber first appeared in Greece in the Shaft Graves, and became characteristic of the Aegean during the early Mycenaean Age (sixteenth to fifteenth centuries), then lost its popularity for a long time,12 returning near the end of the thirteenth century.13 Five hundred years after the Shaft Grave period in the eleventh or tenth century, it again became “not uncommon”, again disappeared for centuries, and again regained its popularity during the eighth century,14 as it had in the late thirteenth. Roughly half a millennium separates the corresponding phases of its popularity and scarcity.
In addition to amber. Northern burial rites, cultural traits and taste in art also found their expression in the Shaft Graves, with some scholars even speculating that the rulers of Mycenae may have been newly-arrived immigrants from the North.15 Roughly half a millennium later, ca. 1100 B.C., northern influence again spread into Greece.16 In the tenth to ninth centuries, the tribes of Central Europe, especially Austro-Hungary, had a life—style and customs very similar to that of the Shaft Grave princes of Mycenae, and there are those scholars who look for such conditions in contemporary Greece, but fail to find them, since they assign the Shaft Graves 600 years earlier.17
Between the Danube and Mycenae lay the burials of Albania which Hammond considered the antecedents of the Shaft Graves, while Prendi and Snodgrass dated them 500 years later. At about the same latitude, to the east, in Macedonia was another cemetery site at Vergina. Like Mycenae, its earliest tombs were stone-lined shafts, roofed with wood, containing very primitive pottery, and enclosed by circles of stones. Once again Hammond assigned the first tombs earlier than the Grave Circles of Mycenae.18 Responding to that assessment, Snodgrass19 again noted that it was 500 years earlier than the excavator (M. Andronikos), Desborough, he himself, as well as most scholars had dated them on the basis of tenth century artifacts inside the tombs.20 There are, however, still other similarities to the Shaft Graves, beyond those mentioned by Hammond, which pose problems for those convinced of Vergina’s late date.
As at Mycenae, the people of Vergina were both wealthy and warlike, burying with them their weapons, amber trinkets, gold jewelry, long dress pins, spiral ornaments, spiral hair coils of bronze and gold wire, and many objects strongly influenced by the north21—all familiar features from the Shaft Graves. Contrasted with tenth-century Greece, however, their burials are without parallel22 their warlike society is “the first clear example of one,”23 their wealth is “amazing,” while “the most remarkable fact” is that the strong northern element did not “penetrate the rest of Greece at this period.”24 What is unique, “first,” “amazing,” and “most remarkable” for the tenth century fits well the Shaft Grave Period, currently placed 500 years earlier.
There was a number of special coils of gold wire in the Shaft Graves of Mycenae, as well as contemporary examples in gold or bronze at Kirrha and Eleusis, used for hair—rings, finger-rings, etc.25 Not only at Vergina but elsewhere in Greece coils of bronze or gold wire, often indistinguishable from the Mycenaean examples, again became popular in the eleventh to tenth centuries, with the gold examples most noteworthy for their contrast to the general impoverishment and the particular scarcity of gold now seen for that period.26
Other gold ornaments from the Shaft Graves, which P. Gardner originally assigned to the Geometric Age, still cause problems for modern excavators who cannot bring them down that late. When publishing the early finds from the Kerameikos cemetery of Athens, K. Kübler characterized four ninth-century gold bands as having a “closely related” (nahverwandten) and “completely similar forerunners” (völlig gleiche Vorläufer) in the gold work of Mycenae over 600 years earlier.27 Quite recently he published a beautifully decorated T-shaped band, probably used as a garter belt, not earlier than the tenth century B.C., and probably belonging to the eighth. He noted “comparable and unmistakable similarities” (vergleichbar und unverkennbar Ahnen) to a number of the golden garter belts from both grave circles, citing his example as still further proof of a “direct connection” (unmittelbarer Zusaromenhang) between the metalwork of the Shaft Grave Period and that of the early first millennium.28 With such finds separated by several centuries, it is easy to see similarities, but difficult to see any link, direct or indirect.
Several of the ornamental gold discs from Circle A showed “the frequent use of the compass” to form the embossed and engraved rosettes and concentric circle designs.29 Compass-drawn, concentric circles and semi-circles comprise “one of the most common features” of eleventh-century Protogeometric pottery. Desborough, who has made the most thorough study of that type of pottery, considered the sudden appearance of such precise motifs to be the result of a 500-year later “new Athenian invention,”30 since compass-drawn patterns of any kind are difficult, if not impossible, to detect during the intervening half millennium.31
In Grave Circle A Schliemann discovered long dress pins, some with globular heads. In 1956 P. Jacobsthal, an authority on Greek art, wrote a book detailing the history of dress pins in Greece, which he felt did not begin prior to the late twelfth century B.C., when women started to use long pins with globular pins to fasten thick clothing at their shoulders. Aware of the pins from Mycenae, two of which closely resembled the earliest ones of his series, he declined to include them in his survey. In a footnote he acknowledged the existence of Schliemann’s finds and observed that two of them do “look like forerunners of the sub-Mycenaean pin-type. This must be coincidence: they are separated by an interval of 400 years, and this cannot be bridged.”32 Other scholars of about that time also agreed that the history of Greek pins ought to begin in the late twelfth century, not with the Shaft Grave examples.33 N. Sandars, who speciallized in metallurgy, felt that the assumption that 400 years passed without any examples to connect the pins of Mycenae to the very similar ones which started Jacobsthal’s series was “rather too sweeping.”34 Still there was an embarrassing gap.
During the course of that discussion, archaeologists found and published Grave Circle B at Mycenae and a cemetery only about seven miles away at Argos, both of which added new substance to the controversy, and made the gap even more embarrassing. Circle B produced still more “seventeenth-sixteenth-century” long pins with globular heads (some of rock crystal) clearly worn at the shoulders of women. 35 The excavator of Argos found similar long dress pins worn at the shoulders, but datable to the late twelfth century. He felt that since they were so similar in style and usage, and so close geographically, there had to be a connection between the pins of Mycenae and Argos.36 Desborough, granting that the shape and function were similar, and that Mycenae is very close to Argos and provides a “local predecessor” for the pins there, still felt that the time gap was too enormous for there to have been a conscious revival, and no evidence of survival. Despite the affinities of the Shaft Grave pins to those beginning in the late twelfth century, and becoming “a common feature of the period, the later pins constituted a “radical change” from everything during the intervening 400 years. Desborough attached some importance to the later pins, since they” had a bearing on the vital matter of the origins of the whole sub-Mycenaean culture towards the end of the twelfth century,37 which, not only in regard to pins, bore numerous similarities to the culture of the seventeenth-sixteenth centuries,38 but constituted “a radical change” from nearly everything which the present chronological scheme places between the two periods.
E. Bielefeld, unlike Desborough, did not want to connect the Shaft Grave pins to the later examples but, faced with the same centuries—long gap, suggested that there might have been a change in dress after the Shaft Grave period, possibly due to Minoan influence (or warmer weather), but at the end of the Mycenaean Age women again dressed as they had 400 years earlier. With no evidence that similar pins existed in Greece to span the gap, he suggested that the pins and dress might have survived in the East, only to return after 400 years, or, alternatively, that the pins and dress did survive in Greece itself, among the lower classes who did not embrace Minoan fashions, but that their remains have so far eluded excavators.39
Snodgrass, long concerned with metal work and the Dark Ages, noted that the later pins “appear somewhat abruptly,” possibly due to a colder climate. He, too, saw the “clear . . . antecedents” from the Shaft Graves, and felt some sympathy for the hypothesis of revival, but, like Desborough, was far less concerned with the short distance between the graves of Mycenae and Argos than the huge gap in time. Like Bielefeld he preferred to see the pins survive somewhere to bridge the gap, rather than view the similarities as merely coincidental. Since Greece, despite so much excavation, has not produced the intermediate examples, he looked to more likely (and colder) areas to the north and northwest, but conceded that those regions show no evidence of spanning the gap either. He concluded that “the origins of the straight pin in Greece need to be reconsidered.”40 Bielefeld confessed a similar perplexity when he stated that the whole topic involves difficulties which at present are not fully resolved.41
Under the present chronology, either the Shaft Grave pins were some sort of aberrant phenomenon, which only incidentally resembled pins 400 years later, similar in function and style, and as close as ca. seven miles away, or else pins existed somewhere, as yet undetermined (to the North, the Northwest, the East, or in Greece itself—though even those who believe in survival do not agree where it took place, since the evidence is lacking or inconclusive for all areas), which span the centuries, centuries which Jacobsthal and others, who reject the notion of survival, considered unbridgeable.
We return to the vessels and daggers with inlaid designs and scenes of gold, silver and niello, which link the Shaft Graves to the early Eighteenth Dynasty. The inlay technique first appeared in Greece among the Shaft Grave artifacts, and continued through the early Mycenaean Age, and possibly until the destruction of the Late Helladic palaces towards the end of the LH period.42 When describing the inlaid metal decoration of Achilles’ shield in the Iliad, Homer gives such extensive details of the design and of its manufacture that late nineteenth and early twentieth-century scholars like C. Tsountas and K Friis Johansen felt that the technique lasted until the poet’s time.43 Now that experts generally date Homer to the eighth century B.C., while excavators have found no inlaid metal after the LH III B period, which Egyptian chronology assigns to the thirteenth century, scholars are forced to ask “how was it remembered?” during the intervening half millennium.44 Some45 postulate that individual pieces may have survived as heirlooms or been rediscovered centuries later, which would explain the description of the finished product but not of the manufacturing technique.46 That is, in any case, purely hypothetical, since no inlaid objects have been discovered in contexts later than LH III B. Others doubt that possibility and prefer to believe that the tradition of oral poetry kept the memory of the objects and the technique alive47—a theory frequently employed to explain Homer’s extensive knowledge of the culture which scholars now date half a millennium before his time. One of the Shaft Grave swords bore a geometric meander design on its hilt, which a recent writer considered “wholly untypical of Helladic workmanship at that time,” and more akin to the decorative scheme which started to become popular some 500 years later.48 A number of the swords had their handles attached by bronze rivets plated with silver or gold, as did other weapons during the early Mycenaean period. On present evidence, silver-plated rivets lasted from ca. 1550-1400 then returned ca. 700 B.C. on Cyprus, which has provoked yet another debate among Homericists. Homer sings of gold-studded and “silver-studded swords” in his epics, with several classicists conjecturing that Homer chronicled weapons which had gone out of use centuries before his time, but which the metrical formulae of oral poetry kept fresh in the Greeks’ memory.49 Since the Cypriote swords with silver studs are contemporaneous with the rise of the epics, V. Karageorghis felt it more likely that Homer sang of the weapons of his own day.50 Between the two groups of swords there is at present a gap of 700 years, with each group of classicists championing examples on one side or the other of that lacuna51—a very familiar situation, as we shall see again and again in the present essay.
The earliest locally-made vases from the Shaft Graves are pretty homely compared to the roetal work, the exotic imports and the much finer Mycenaean pottery which soon followed. Still, pottery is the major element which Aegean archaeologists employ to establish relative sequences and absolute dates for the pre-classical period,52 so that the Shaft Grave vases deserve some consideration. They include goblets and storage vessels, the latter of which are of special interest. Although the “Submycenaean” pots of ca. 1125 B.C. supposedly followed immediately after the last phase of Mycenaean pottery (LH III C) in Western Attica, and Protogeometric pots of ca. 1050-900 B.C. supposedly followed LH III C at Mycenae and elsewhere in Greece,53 there is “a striking difference” in the repertory of shapes between LH III C and sub-Mycenaean,54 and both LH III C and sub-Mycenaean vases seem unlikely progenitors of protogeometric ware.55 Those pots of ca. 1125-900 B.C., which archaeologists now place centuries after the, Shaft Grave period (despite some problems with that placement) show some marked similarities to the Shaft Grave pots, supposedly 400-600 years earlier.56
Numerous scholars have long noted resemblances of the earliest “Iron Age” pottery of Greece, with its distinctive shapes and geometrical designs, to the Middle Helladic (MH) ware at the tide of, and immediately preceding the Shaft Grave Period, with the earliest writers, like Conze, Gardner, and Schliemann himself,57 making them contemporaneous. Since the Shaft Graves showed a close link to the early Eighteenth Dynasty, however, Egyptian chronology discredited that notion, and separated the two sets of pottery by some 500 years. Despite that long interval, since the Middle Bronze Age ware of the Peloponnese and Boeotia still resembled the familiar Iron Age pottery from the Kerameikos cemetery of Athens, S. Wide proudly announced his discovery in 1894 of the long-sought “missing link” (das fehlende Glied) bridging the two groups at the site of Aphidna, less than fifteen miles northeast of Athens.58 While his find did help geographically, chronologically it was still 500 years too old to connect with the Athenian Iron Age ware. Wide and J. Böhlau therefore proposed that while the upper classes used LH pottery, the humble folk continued to make and use their older style throughout those same 500 years, until the disappearance of the aristocracy and its cultural remains, at which point the native ware again came to the forefront.59 Their idea that the older geometrical pottery coexisted with LH ware appealed to a number of contemporary scholars, even as late as 1935,since it explained the similarity of styles otherwise dated 500 years apart.60
More recently scholars have rejected the notion that geometrical MH pottery survived alongside LH ware in the Mycenaean world. Many, however, still see the earliest Iron Age pottery of Greece as “a clear break”61 and a “separate entity” from the latest Mycenaean ware, which it supposedly succeeded directly, and as marking “a new era in the art of the Greek lands.”62 They still note closer similarities to MH ware 500 years earlier than to the intervening LH pottery a matter which “raises a host of problems.” Some regard the origin of the new Iron Age ware as “obscure”, somehow “by-passing the Mycenaean phases” to link up with the 500-year-older MH tradition, possibly in some remote region to the north.63 Desborough, who has made the most thorough study of the earliest Iron Age geometrical ware, rejected a derivation from such a source, although he, like others, was equally dissatisfied with a direct development from the latest Mycenaean ware.64
However one tries to solve the 500-year ceramic problem, the fact remains today, as in Schliemann’s time, that some of the earliest Iron Age ware of Greece, with its distinctive fabric, its wheel made and handmade forms, and its incised and painted decoration, resembles the pottery which culminated in the Shaft Grave vases from Mycenae;65 and at the site of Asine, less than twenty miles southeast of Mycenae, the excavators termed that resemblance “astounding.”66
Later Use of the Grave Circles
Not very long after the Shaft Grave burials, a Mycenaean ruler disturbed one of the interments in Circle B, enlarging its shaft to form an entrance to a new “built tomb,” with a stately chamber and saddle-shaped roof constructed of stone blocks. Enough ceramic material remained in the tomb, after its subsequent robbery, to indicate an LH II date for its fabrication and use, Since the LH II pottery phase corresponds to the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III,.G. Mylonas, the tomb’s excavator, assigned it to the fifteenth century B.C. The tomb type is foreign to Greece, with the example from Circle B constituting its sole appearance in the country. Archaeologists have discovered the type at roughly the same period on Crete (also one example) and Cyprus and especially in Syria, where it originally developed. Mylonas saw “striking parallels” to the tombs of Syria and Trachonas on Cyprus;1 but, as he had noted earlier, there was a problem with Trachonas since, despite its close proximity to Syria, its example is 500 years younger than those of Syria.2 There are tombs of the “right” date on Cyprus, notably at Enkomi, but the 500-year problem still exists and has grown with time.
Excavations have found similar Iron Age built tombs in large numbers on Cyprus, in Asia Minor, Urartu, Palestine and at Carthage, none dating earlier than ca. 950 B.C., and most belonging to the ninth-seventh centuries. Noting the same “striking parallels” between the examples of 1550-1200 B.C. And those from 950-600 B.C., numerous archaeologists have tried to connect the two groups. A 250-year gap separates them, however, with the earliest Iron Age tombs resembling not the latest Bronze Age examples, but the earliest ones, ca. 600 years earlier, with developmental stages running parallel after a 600-year interval, Furthermore, although excavators assume that Syro-Phoenicia was the place of origin for both groups, especially since the Iron Age examples encircle that region and appear at Levantine colonies, there are, in fact, no such tombs known from Syro-Phoenicia during the second period.3
The built tomb of Circle B marks the last burial inside the Grave Circles. The Mycenaean rulers turned from simple, stone-lined shafts (and the one Syrian built tomb), sunk into the softer rock of the relatively flat land west of their citadel, to the neighboring hilly slopes to the west and southwest. There they excavated long, unroofed corridors into the hillsides, then hollowed out gigantic circular tombs which they lined with stone, capping them with corbelled, stone-built domes, resembling huge beehives, over which they heaped a tremendous mounds of earth. They also began to protect their citadel with thick walls of stone.
In the LH III B period, which began towards the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty and extended through the subsequent reigns of the Ramesside pharaohs,4 both Grave Circles, abandoned for centuries, experienced renewed activity. Circle B, the farthest from the citadel, and possibly silted over with wash and forgotten during the centuries of disuse, suffered an ignoble fate when the workmen excavating the last of the great beehive tombs (the so-called Tomb of Clytemnaestra, to which we shall return), sliced through the eastern portion of the Grave Circle, and heaped the earthen mound to cover that tomb over the rest of Circle B.5
Circle A, on the other hand, enjoyed a completely different lot during the same period.6 Like Circle B, the beehive tombs,and all the other graves of rich and poor residents or Mycenae, Circle A originally lay west of, and outside the settlement proper, both during the period of its burials in MH-LH I, and at the time of the first extensive fortification of the city in LH III A. When the “thirteenth-century” Mycenaeans decided to enlarge their city, by building another, longer wall in the area of the “prehistoric cemetery” to the west, they faced the problem of what to do with Circle A. We already saw some evidence of the disrespect for their dead predecessors which the Mycenaeans displayed at Circle B, when the owner of the built tomb violated the earlier Shaft Grave he expropriated, only to have his own tomb pillaged after his death, and again when the excavators of the beehive tomb destroyed part of Circle B and heaped dirt over the rest of it. In fact, they were notorious for their lack of piety towards the deceased, building structures over earlier tombs, robbing the dead, and casting aside their bones.7
Unlike Circle B and so many other graves in the vicinity, the Mycenaeans treated Circle A, which lay directly in the path of their urban expansion, with a reverence singular for that age. They extended their fortification wall farther than mere concern for defense or for urban planning dictated, enclosing Circle A within the city proper. They made sacrifices and dedicated idols inside the circle.8 Although space inside the citadel was at a premium, and the inhabitants crowded buildings around that area, many of them over older graves, some of which they plundered,9 they spared Circle A. In fact, they decided to raise its level as a whole, to correspond to the higher grade of the city’s interior—a massive engineering feat, requiring the construction of a giant retaining wall to the west over five meters high, adding tons of earth above the graves until they formed a higher, even surface, then raising the old grave stelae to the new level to designate the individual burials below. At the new surface they constructed a new enclosure wall of two concentric rings of stone slabs filled with earth and capped by horizontal stone slabs.10
Considering the lack of respect for other, neighboring, tombs, the building all around but not above Circle A, the vast labor that went into deflecting the city fortification around the circle, and into creating the circle as it now appears, as well as the contemporary sacrifices and dedication of idols, some scholars have considered Circle A as a sacred burial precinct,11 unique for thirteenth-century Greece, The next evidence of such a practice in Greece—again involving older graves sunk into the earth and lined with stone walls or stone slabs encircled by a later wall to form a sacred precinct—took place in Attica at Athens” and at Eleusis roughly 500 years later.12 Scholars regarded the latter two cases as the beginnings of hero shrines in Greece, stating that “respect for older burials is something quite new at this time [the eighth century]” and “foreign” to all earlier periods.13 The similar instance from Circle A stands in isolation 500 years earlier. It is of further interest for the cult at Circle A itself, that, as with nearly every other example of real or presumed thirteenth-century cults throughout the Aegean, there is a sharp break soon after its initiation;14 yet, again, as in most other cults, people, apparently stirred by the same feelings as their predecessors, re-established worship and dedications at Circle A some 500 years later,15 as if there suddenly arose “the revival of some kind of consciousness in a people who had previously lacked it” during the intervening half millennium.16
From the above account we see that the late nineteenth-century savants, who were forced to “throw aside all that we have learnt of the development of early Greek art” (Hall), when Egyptian chronology made the Shaft Graves of Circle A and all their contents no later than ca. 1450 B.C.,17 were not alone in their problems. Even a century after Schliemann’s fabulous discovery, and despite all the finds since then, including Circle B, still the stelae, grave construction, and many of the contents of the Shaft Graves of both circles, the built tomb of Circle B, and the cult at Circle A prove vexing to contemporary archaeologists,” With the beginning of the Eighteenth Egyptian Dynasty redated by over 500 years, the Shaft Graves would belong to the eleventh-tenth centuries, the built tomb would fall into the late tenth century, and the special honor accorded to the dead of Circle A would date to the eighth century—all linked in time with similar items and traits of a supposedly later era. Under such a revision they no longer stand isolated from 400-600-year-later, but still comparable artifacts and customs of the eleventh-eighth (and later) centuries, with which some late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholars synchronized them, and with which even current scholars still compare, and seek (despite difficulties) to relate them.
The Warrior Vase
In one of the buildings closest to Circle A (Fig. 1, F), Schliemann discovered the fragments of a large, decorative ceramic bowl, used for mixing water and wine. Because of its friezes of soldiers, he dubbed it “the Warrior Vase.” It is probably the best known piece of Late Helladic pottery (Figs. 3, 5A).
For quite some time after its discovery, scholars dated the bowl to the seventh century B.C. They regarded its peculiar bull’s head handles as definitely derived from those found on eighth-century vases.(1) They likewise considered the registers of spearmen as a development from the eighth-century processional friezes on funerary jars found near the Dipylon Gate at the Kerameikos cemetery of Athens. They unhesitatingly attributed the soldiers on the bowl to the Protoattic Period (i.e., early seventh century B.C.) on the basis of style, comparing them to the warriors on another mixing bowl (Fig. 4) painted by a known seventh-century artist; some even ascribed both bowls to the same man. (2) They felt that still other technical and stylistic features of the bowl and its decoration indicated a date between 700 and 650 B.C. for the Warrior Vase.(3) That same vase is now firmly assigned to the early LH III C period, which Egyptian chronology fixes at ca. 1200 B.C.,(4) leaving as problems the peculiar handles and the figural style. Over seventy years ago, D. Mackenzie replied to those who derived its bull’s head handles from eighth-century prototypes, that the Warrior Vase itself proved that such a device “had a much earlier history.” (5) Still, they stood in isolation from the much later handles, originally thought to be their prototype. The more recent discoveries of two other LH III C handles of the same type(6) has provided companion pieces, but has not alleviated the problem.
Irrespective of the absolute dates for LH III C pottery, scholars had always considered bull’s head handles as a later development from double-loop handles, now artistically rendered as horns surmounting a bovine face. In 1966 N. R. Oakeshott treated the topic in great detail. If the LH III C vases belonged to ca. 700 B.C., as early scholars believed, there would be no problem in deriving the developed handles from the double loops on vases from the Protogeometric Period (i. e., no earlier than ca. 1050 B.C.) onward; but since scholars now assign LH III C to ca. 1200 B.C., and since Oakeshott “searched in vain” for double loops earlier than that date, she concluded that the original idea, first seen in the three LH III C examples, was to fashion a fully-articulated bull’s head attachment, both as a decorative and a functional device. She spoke of “a continuous tradition” from LH III C onward, but, reversing the previous consensus, she assumed that the Iron Age examples descended from those on the Warrior Vase, only later degenerating into mere double loops of clay.(7)
Oakeshott branded the early Iron Age handles “very debased,” part of a “’holding operation,’ almost a tactical retreat.” (8) Her evidence for a “continuous tradition” is solid from perhaps 1050 B.C. (at the earliest) on, but there is a lacuna of at least 150 years between the developed LH III C bull’s head handles and the earliest known “debased” double loops, which they supposedly engendered. Additionally, of all the numerous Iron Age handles from the Protogeometric Period onward, only the most developed forms of ca. 700 B.C. again began to look like articulated bull’s heads, and were “very similar” to those of the Warrior Vase.(9) A vase from Cyprus displays not only “very similar” handles, but also a similar bird to those depicted on the Warrior Vase; the decoration of the Cypriote bird and the friezes of filling ornaments above the handle are also “very similar” to other LH III C pots.(10) Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholars assigned the same dates to the Warrior Vase and the Cypriote pot. After Egyptian chronology set the former into the early twelfth century, while independent Cypriote chronology has fixed the latter in the early seventh, “the gap between the Cypriote products and the Warrior Vase, to which they are typologically closest, has widened” by half a millennium.(11)
Confronted by a lacuna of 500 years between the “typologically closest,” “very similar” examples of bull’s head handles, Oakeshott suggested “that a continuous tradition culminated in this area [Cyprus] in a revival.” (12) We shall soon see that numerous scholars note a revival of LH III C pottery styles in Cyprus and throughout the East Mediterranean after a 500-year gap; still, Oakeshott, faced with a gap of at least 150 years, which unsettles the idea of “a continuous tradition” and observing the closest similarities between fully-developed bull’s head handles of the seventh century (which went through ca. 350 years of continuous evolution from double loops) and 500-year-older handles (which were just as fully developed, but seem to have come about suddenly, and without any ascertainable forerunners) was in a quandary. She concluded that “this is a feature of great interest that others must elucidate.” (13) A chronological revision of 500 years not only elucidates the feature, but also eliminates the problems.
The turn-of-the-century scholars, who assigned the painted figures on the Warrior Vase to the seventh century, did so at a time, when there was a general consensus that the latest Mycenaean pictorial pottery lasted that late. After Egyptian chronology pushed the end of Mycenaean civilization some 400 years earlier than they believed (and the Warrior Vase 100 years still earlier), two problems arose, which remain today. The first is that, during the intervening centuries, there seems to have been what J. N. Coldstream has termed “the darkness of taboo on figured representation in Greek art.” Because he felt that eighth-century painters who “revived” the figural style did so as a result of experimentation and “with no earlier models to guide them,” and because he also considered that artistic revival to be the eighth century’s “most striking innovation of all,” (14) one must explain how the style of ca. 700 B.C., which was a natural development from an only-slightly-earlier “invention,” came to resemble so closely the figural style of ca. 1200 B.C. after such a long break in the artistic tradition. The second problem is, why there should have been a centuries-long period when figures disappeared from art—a phenomenon which one recent observer considered both “strange” and “curious.” (15)
Despite those problems, modern scholars, like Vermeule(16) still see analogies between the friezes of men on the Warrior Vase and those on eighth-century pottery. Unlike earlier commentators, who also saw that similarity, but who had the former develop from the latter, modern specialists must see the Warrior Vase as ca. 450 years earlier than, and devoid of historical connection with eighth-century figural pottery. O. W. von Vacano, like his predecessors impressed by the close similarity of the soldiers on that bowl to seventh-century figures, recently spoke of “an obvious link” between them.(17) If, however, 500 years really do separate the Warrior Vase from the later pottery, with nothing similar to fill the gap, there is, as everyone has noticed, an “obvious” similarity, but there can be no “link,” obvious or otherwise.
The spearmen of the Warrior Vase not only resemble the men depicted on seventh-century Protoattic Pottery from Greece, but, as L. Woolley justly noted, they also look “remarkably” similar to soldiers painted on terracotta roof tiles from Phrygia in Asia Minor, currently dated sometime between the late eighth century and the sixth (fig. 6)(18) Regarding Greek art, “one might almost say that the decorators of Protoattic pottery took up the animal [and human] designs where their predecessors of late Mycenaean times had left off. The similarity is very striking.” (19) With 400 years separating the end of one from the beginning of the other, without anything comparable between the two, “the similarity is very striking” indeed!
A Chariot Vase
Somewhere in the vicinity of the Warrior Vase was another LH III C mixing bowl, sporting a procession of chariot-borne troops. Only two tiny fragments of that vase are presently known—both retrieved from the heap of debris left behind by Schliemann’s workmen. Each sherd depicts part of an open-work chariot transporting two soldiers. Although friezes of people in chariots were fairly common in Mycenaean art, on those two sherds both the spearmen and the drivers wear their shields in a manner “unique in chariot iconography” of the Myceanaean Age, but found again in eighth-seventh-century chariot scenes.(1) Regarding the chariots themselves, we have already alluded to their first appearance in Greece on the Shaft Grave ring and tombstones, where they are cumbersome box-like devices. Between that time and their appearance as swift, light-weight, manoeuverable vehicles on a mixing bowl, the so-called Chariot Vase of Mycenae ca. 400 years later, they had passed through a total of three developmental stages.
In eighth-century representations, supposedly another 400 or more years after the Late Helladic III Chariot Vase, chariots, showing no further modifications, look like “direct descendants” of the twelfth-century type. One would hardly object if the model was incapable of improvement, and thus remained unchanged for another 400 years, but there is no evidence of its existence during those intervening centuries;(2) and alongside the chariot which seems not to have changed for 400 years, other models make their first known appearance.(3)
The lack of evidence for chariots between the twelfth and eighth centuries, coupled with the impoverished picture of the Greeks, which modern scholars note during that “Dark Age,” led Snodgrass to conclude that chariots disappeared from Greece for 400 years, then returned to their old form.(4) Despite that admitted lack of evidence for continuity, H. Catling preferred to follow those who believed that chariots did persist in their old form throughout the Dark Age, rather “than to add chariots to the long list of war-gear that failed to survive the Mycenaean period, and did not reappear in Greece until the eighth century or later.” (5) Nevertheless, Snodgrass, who has specialized in, and been instrumental in compiling that “long list of war-gear,” and who has also grappled with the problem of the Dark Age, which scholars place between the end of the Mycenaean Period and the eighth century, still believed that chariots disappeared for centuries, not to return until the eighth century.(6) The debate—at times rather heated—still continues.(7) Integrally related to that controversy is yet another one concerning Homer’s references to chariots and chariot warfare, which some date to the thirteenth century, others to the eighth—which “raises a serious problem” for philologists as well.(8)
Other LH III
Throughout the area of Schliemann’s excavation-south of Grave Circle A, as well as in Wace’s trench beside the Lion Gate, there appeared vast quantities of ornamental LH III B-C pottery fragments. One system of decorating the LH III C pottery from that area (in fact, throughout the Mycenaean empire) is the “Close Style,” a term which art historians use to describe compact designs arranged in friezes of water fowl, rosettes, triangles, loops, semi-circles and other motifs, which fill all the exposed surface area of the pots. Lacy recently found it “interesting to notice that the same phenomenon occurred again four hundred years later in the profusion of ornaments” that covered the so-called Dipylon pottery of the eighth century.1 It is even more interesting that the individual motifs on the Close Style vases, as in the case of the Warrior Vase, find their most striking parallels to designs on the seventh-century “Orientalizing” pottery of Greece, Crete, Rhodes, Cyprus, Sicily, Italy and the Eastern Aegean. That interest heightens when we recall that at a number of excavations throughout that same area (including Wace’s trench by the Lion Gate) eighth-seventh century pottery immediately overlay, was mixed with, or even lay beneath LH III B-C ware.2
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a number of Aegean specialists believed that Mycenaean civilization immediately preceded the seventh century B.C., but because of the discovery of Late Helladic (soon followed by Minoan) remains was so fresh, they had little other than the better-known works of the first millennium with which to compare them. Egyptologists noted that the earliest Mycenaean artifacts in Grave Circle A corresponded to the early Eighteenth Dynasty; Flinders Petrie found a large quantity of LH III A - early LH III B pottery in Pharaoh Akhnaten’s short-lived capital of Akhetaten in Egypt; and excavators outside Egypt began finding Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasty objects beside Mycenaean ware throughout the Levant and the Aegean. At Mycenae itself archaeologists discovered a number of Eighteenth Dynasty Egyptian objects, including some which bear the cartouches of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, Amenhotep III and his wife. Queen Tiy.3
Aegean archaeologists, confronted with Egyptian evidence, had to reassess their dates for Mycenaean culture. “Vehement disputes” erupted between those accepting Egyptian reckoning, and those challenging it as 500-700 years too early,4 some of which early controversies Velikovsky has chronicled above for Olympia, Tiryns, Enkomi and Mycenae. Those who rejected the Egyptian scheme usually branded the New Kingdom exports to the Aegean as centuries-old heirlooms.5 That explanation was weak for a number of reasons it assumed that the Mycenaeans only collected 500-700-year-old Egyptian artifacts to the complete exclusion of Egyptian items produced in their own day; it did not explain depictions of Mycenaean objects in Eighteenth-Dynasty murals; and it completely failed to explain the presence of LH pottery in bona fide Eighteenth Dynasty contexts in Egypt itself. None of those championing the heirloom theory even dared to consider that the very basis for dating the New Kingdom of Egypt might be incorrect. Cecil Torr was one Aegean specialist who did question the Egyptian chronological scheme,6 but Egyptologists countered with strong and at times unfair retorts,7 and Torr gained no appreciable following.
Most other Aegean prehistorians, realizing that the Late Helladic Period had to be as early as the Eighteenth-Nineteenth Dynasties of Egypt, and accepting the absolute dates furnished by the Egyptologists, pushed the beginning of the Mycenaean Age into the mid-second millennium B.C. Many, who felt that the inception of the period had to be that old, still wanted the end of the era to last long into the first millennium, and thereby connect directly with the similar products of the eighth-sixth centuries B.C. Beloch, and even Petrie who, through his discoveries and his writings was largely responsible for pushing back LH I-LH III A/ early LH III B to the sixteenth-fourteenth centuries, still had the remainder of the Mycenaean Age last into the eighth century.8
The LH III BC figural pottery, more than any other Mycenaean product, seemed to flow directly into the seventh-century ware of the Greek world. Since archaeologists agreed that Protogeometric and Geometric pottery also preceded the seventh century, many envisioned an overlap of LH III and Geometric styles, just as Böhlau, Wide and their followers had proposed a 500-year-earlier overlap of MH and LH styles. Furtwängler, one of the great pioneers in the study of pottery decoration was among that school’s foremost proponents.9 When further excavation revealed still more New Kingdom Egyptian material alongside the youngest Mycenaean vases, and showed that there was hardly enough LH III BC pottery to last from ca. 1350-700 B.C., art historians had to abandon the notion that LH III co-existed with geometric ware as late as the eighth-seventh century in Greece itself.
Since the latest Mycenaean vases still resembled so closely 8th-7th century ones, and with Greece no longer a possible area of continuity, they postulated that somewhere in the far-flung Mycenaean empire, outside of the mainland, LH III pottery continued that late. They looked to islands like Sicily, Aegina, Melos, Crete, Rhodes, Cyprus and the east coast of Turkey as places where the tradition could have survived no matter what occurred in Greece proper.10 Little by little, exploration of those areas revealed the same pattern as in Greece itself, with LH III C dying out by the late eleventh century, if not earlier still.11
According to Greek tradition, most of those places, like the Greek mainland itself, fell prey to Dorian invaders, whom early archaeologists - as well as some modern ones - have blamed for the obliteration of Mycenaean culture. Of all the places on the fringe of the Mycenaean world to which scholars looked for centuries-long retention of Mycenaean life and art, Cyprus afforded a unique setting for the continuation of Mycenaean figural art, as both early and modern excavators have hypothesized.12 It never fell victim to the Dorians;13 it imported tremendous quantities of LH III pottery, and during the LH III C period it received numerous Mycenaean colonists, including skilled artisans steeped in the art of their homeland;14 it was far enough away from the Aegean centers to escape the turmoil which they encountered, and near enough Phoenicia to share in its presumed prosperity; its people were extremely conservative, reflecting many features of Mycenaean culture well into the eighth-seventh centuries;15 its late eighth-seventh century pottery shows some close similarities to LH III C shapes and especially decoration;16 and throughout the period between the end of LH III in Greece and the eighth century, Cyprus enjoyed a “special relationship” with the Aegean world, importing and exporting finished products (including pottery), and influencing the pottery shapes and decoration of Greece.17
Despite all those positive factors, Cyprus, for some reason not fully understood, followed the same pattern as the rest of the Mycenaean world at the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age. It, too, suffered its own long period of destructions, abandonments, cultural desolation, archaeological obscurity, and historical darkness.18 P. Dikaios once claimed that its Iron Age ware, which scholars originally felt would continue the LH III tradition for centuries, in fact, made its appearance suddenly on the island, showing little connection with, and no evolution from the Late Bronze Age ware, which it supposedly superceded immediately. Even those who reject his opinion do not view it as a continuation of figural LH III.19 Dikaios and others (including his critics) noted some instances where Cypriote Iron Age ware, like its counterpart in Greece, seems to have bypassed Late Bronze Age ceramics, resembling instead 500-year-older Middle Bronze Age pottery.20
Since countless authorities have long noted, and still note, that the late eighth-seventh century pottery of Greece, Sicily, Aegina, Melos, Crete, Rhodes, Cyprus and eastern Anatolia seems a direct continuation of LH III BC shapes and decoration;21 since they have not found artistic continuity in any of those areas; and since they see too many close resemblances for the similarities to be merely “fortuitous,”22 they view the phenomenon as a “renaissance.”23 Even so, with ca. 400 years separating the last LH III C figural ware from the earliest return to that bygone style, they need a mechanism to explain the revival. Since no corner of the Greek world kept the style alive during those centuries, some have conjectured that the Mycenaean ceramic and decorative traditions passed beyond the Greek world to Phoenicia, which provided the required continuity, and finally sent the Greek products, along with some Levantine accretions, in a “backwash” to their place of origin hundreds of years later. That theory is extremely popular24 and explains why art historians refer to seventh-century Aegean ware with its Levantine and renascent Mycenaean elements as “Orientalizing.”
The Levant did receive quite a bit of LH III pottery, and made its own imitation of LH III C shapes and decoration (the so-called Philistine ware);25 it did send Oriental products (including the alphabet) to Greece in the ninth-seventh centuries; and it did inspire, some of the decoration found on seventh-century Greek pottery. Between the Mycenaean Age and the ninth century, when Greece was undergoing a Dark Age, literary sources give a much brighter picture for Phoenicia. A Twenty-first Dynasty document from Egypt, which the accepted scheme places in the eleventh century,26 indicates a very strong position for contemporary Lebanon; the Bible portrays tenth-century Phoenicia as an independent land, from which Kings David and Solomon purchased lumber and hired seafarers, stone masons, carpenters and a master craftsman. 27 Phoenicia therefore seemed an ideal place to foster LH III pottery until the seventh century.
The facts are that the Levant did not export painted pottery to seventh-century Greece; LH III shapes and decoration made only a very small impact on the Levantine ceramic industry as a whole} and even in Philistia, LH III C-type pottery did not last as long as it did in Greece itself—none of which helps the survival theory for the Levant any more than at all the other places suggested over the last century. Bothered by those facts some scholars, who still favor the theory, propose that Near Eastern metalwork, ivory carvings and decorated fabrics kept the designs (if not the pot shapes) alive over those centuries.28 For continuity of decorative ivories and metalware the situation in the Levant presents as big an obstacle as in Greece (and as big a source of consternation), since there is no evidence of either product from ca. 1200 to 900 B.C.29 The only Levantine medium for continuity that is left is patterned fabric, which several people now see as the most likely source for LH III motifs’ survival. While there certainly was ornamental cloth, and it could have preserved some LH III decoration, it lends itself more readily to geometrical patterns than to the curvilinear, naturalistic ornaments and figures of LH III C and seventh-century ware. Still, if one must limit oneself to only one medium for 400 years of continuous patterning, and disregards its nonappearance in other media, Greece is as probable a candidate as Phoenicia;30 in any instance, the case is completely unproveable, since all the cloth has vanished, and one can only speculate about its possible ornamentation. Yet another problem with Phoenicia, as the source of, retaining, then returning LH III decoration, is that some “Mycenaean” elements begin to appear in eighth-century Greece, before there are any signs of Oriental influence on Greek art; additionally many of the curvilinear motifs and naturalistic figures (especially human) found on seventh-century “Orientalizing” ware, and most reminiscent of the LH III C style, did not come from the Levant, but followed the same course as did the 500-year-earlier decorations, evolving directly from the stiffer forms of native Greek ornament which immediately preceded them.31 Despite the popularity of the notion of a Phoenician link to explain the close similarities of two sets of Aegean vases now dated half a millennium apart, there is still no evidence that the Levant fared any better than did Cyprus or Greece in continuing the LH III artistic tradition until the seventh century.
As an alternative to the still-popular hypothesis of survival, other scholars have postulated a native revival, whereby the Greeks of the late eighth-seventh centuries found 500-year-old vases, liked what they saw, and imitated some of the shapes and much of the ornamentation. 32 Such rediscoveries certainly fit the numerous cases where the later Greeks seem to have returned to cities, houses, wells, palaces, tombs and cult places supposedly abandoned for nearly half a millennium.33 Still, one had to explain why only then, and at no time during the previous 500 years did the Greeks decide to return to those palaces and copy the bygone art. There is a popular notion, to which we shall return that the later Greeks, hearing Homer’s epics, gained a new pride in their heritage, and consciously sought out the relics of the Trojan War heroes.34 Taking that antiquarian devotion one step further, some observers have proposed that the later Greeks recognized the LH III BC ware in those places as belonging to the “Age of Heroes,” and copied it to strengthen their ties of identity with their forebears.35 K. de Vries has challenged that view on the reasonable that the eighth-seventh-century Greeks would not have been knowledgeable enough to identify the particular type of pottery used in the Heroic Age after so long a gap.36
C.G. Starr recently called the similarities of late eighth-seventh-cerntury wares to LH III BC pottery “particularly puzzling and intriguing.”37 There have been several attempts to explain that phenomenon in terms of a fifth-century revival or survival, but none stands up to careful scrutiny. Some 75 years ago C.C. Edgar, who recognized that seventh-century ware resembled LH III C, just as eleventh-century Protogeometric resembled sixteenth-century Middle Bronze ware, felt that somehow the two revivals, after “obscure” 500-year gaps, followed the same pattern, arid probably had the same explanation, whatever it happened to be.38 Wide, Böhlau, Dörpfeld, Furtwängler and others, who favored survivals rather than revivals, sought to explain the similarities by synchronizing the Geometrical and Mycenaean styles, but they also ran afoul of 500 years.39 While I would not equate Middle Helladic with Protogeometric or LH III C with Orientalizing ware, since each group does have very distinctive shapes and designs which the other lacks, I would point out that, under a dating system which has eliminated 500 years, the early idea of co-existing styles would explain close similarities, which, under the current chronological framework, merely puzzle and intrigue.
Somewhere in the area of Grave Circle A and the house which contained the Warrior Vase, Schliemann discovered fragments of a bronze cooking cauldron supported by three legs. Unfortunately, he did not record its exact provenience (which would have helped to fix its precise date),1 but it is of more interest for its relative position in the history of Aegean metallurgy than its specific location inside the citadel of Mycenae.
Both its shape and its area of discovery help to define its chronological limits within the Mycenaean period. Stylistically the tripod cauldron could be as early as the LH III A period, which corresponds to the reigns of Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Akhenaten; both stylistically and stratigraphically it seems to be no later than the LH III C period, so that, in broad terms, archaeologists have assigned its date of fabrication and its subsequent burial sometime within the fourteenth-twelfth centuries.2 Snodgrass recently called its shape “particularly important,” and noted its “close resemblance” to the bronze tripods of the eighth century from3 Olympia. Many archaeologists have long observed that close resemblance, and since it is essentially a utilitarian object, they believed that there must have been a continuous production of similar bronze tripods between the two ages.4
Today one sees that at the end of the Mycenaean Age there apparently occurred “a precipitous decline in the technique and employment of Bronze.” Presumably, the Mycenaeans no longer had access to their sources of copper and/or tin ore to form new bronze, did not have enough old bronze artifacts and scrap to melt down to create new objects, and also lost the technology to cast the metal in complex molds.5 Therefore, despite the close similarities of eighth-century bronze tripod cauldrons to Mycenaean specimens, all the excavation of the last century reveals no evidence for the continuous manufacture of bronze tripods of that distinct form, or, indeed, of any form during the Dark Age.6 Catling, a specialist in the Aegean bronzework of the Mycenaean Age, felt that the close resemblance of eighth-century tripod cauldrons from Olympia and elsewhere in Greece to the Late Helladic examples, as well as the close resemblance of a highly developed eighth-century cuirass from Argos to an example from fourteenth-century Dendra (both places less than ten miles from Mycenae and from each other) implied continuous production for at least those two classes of bronze objects, despite the present gap of centuries in the evidence.7 Snodgrass, also a specialist in metal work, and on the Dark Age as well, took the same position vis-à-vis Catling, with regard to tripods and body armor as he did with chariots, feeling that, despite the close similarities, a 400-600-year gap in the evidence indicated the the eighth-century items did not evolve directly from their Mycenaean antecedents.8
The tripod cauldrons were very effective for heating meals over a cooking fire, but they had their disadvantages. Because of their massive size and weight, their boiling contents and their own heat over the flame, one could not remove them from the fire beneath them, but instead had to ladle what one could of the boiling liquid from their interior. In the LH III C period the Cypriots developed an improved model, consisting of a hollow tripod stand upon which one placed a separate cauldron, which one could remove from the fire, allow to cool, bring to the table, and from which one could pour the contents. Those tripods present similar chronological problems to the one-piece Mycenaean tripod cauldrons which they came to replace. Because there are numerous LH III C examples and a few precisely similar ones in contexts as late as the eighth century, Benson, endorsing earlier opinion, recently called the new tripods “one of the most often cited examples of continuity between the Late Bronze Age and the Geometric Period in the Aegean. ”9
Catling, who studied the numerous tripods, including the Dark Age stands, who noted the close similarity of an example from an eighth-century Athenian context to those of LH III C date, and who did believe, despite the complete lack of evidence, in the continuity of chariots, body armor, and tripod cauldrons during the Dark Age, which separates similar examples, nevertheless dated all the tripod stands to the LH III C period. Rejecting continuity of manufacture after that time, he postulated that all the tripod stands in later contexts were prized antiques.10
It is of no little interest that the bronze tripod stands of the LH III C period, replacing one-piece tripod cauldrons, then supposedly vanishing (except for rare heirlooms and much later clay models),11 followed the same course as, and physically resemble other Eastern tripod stands of the seventh century, which came to replace the eighth-century Greek tripod cauldrons,12 as if history repeated itself with one 500-year throwback evolving from and supplanting another 500-year throwback. It is of still greater interest that a bronze bull’s head attachment, presumably from a cauldron of LH III C date, looks very similar to animal-head attachments found on eighth-seventh-century Eastern cauldrons imported to Greece. Catling and others, noting that resemblance, believed that there must be some kind of connection, but felt perplexed that so many centuries, which offered nothing remotely similar, separated the Mycenaean Age example from its much later counterparts.13 Furthermore, one of the most ornately decorated Cypriote tripod stands, presumably also of LH III C date, showed Levantine motifs which seemed to derive from somewhat earlier ivory carvings, but the one Levantine ivory carving, which Catling considered stylistically closest to that stand, probably belongs to the eighth century, while one of the closest Cypro-Levantine metalwork analogies dates to the seventh century B.C.14
As in other cases that we have already seen, and still others as well, the archaeologists’ impasse has also had a direct effect on Homeric scholarship, since Homer mentions bronze corselets and tripods in his epics. One group of scholars heralds those references as accurate memories of the Mycenaean Age, preserved through the centuries, while the other regards them as a reflection of the eighth-century world in which Homer and his audience lived.15 Regarding two sources of literary controversy Homer refers to tripods as prizes at chariot races.
One particular passage, referring to an aborted chariot race for a tripod at or near Olympia shortly before the Trojan War (Iliad XI: 698-702) sparked one of the first chronological debates in Homeric scholarship. Writers of the Roman period argued whether or not the hard made a poetic allusion to the famous Olympic Games of his own day,16 a problem which still troubles modern authors,17 especially since some archaeologists feel that the eighth-century tripods found at Olympia, which so closely resemble the centuries-older Mycenaean examples, were, in fact, as Homer recounted, prizes for the winners of the early Olympic Games.18
The controversy, then as now, compounds itself because of two conflicting chronological schemes’ The Greeks of the classical period attributed the foundation of the Olympic chariot races to a pre-Trojan War hero such as Pelops, Heracles or Atreus,19 at a time when they had come to believe, via Egyptian reckoning, that the Trojan War fell sometime during the fourteenth-twelfth centuries B.C. At the end of the fifth century the Greeks, using native accounts, calculated that the first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776 B.C.20 A dispute then arose between those who assigned the foundation of the Olympics to the thirteenth century, and those who opted for the early eighth.21 As happened with contemporary and analogous debates over the foundation dates of Rome and Carthage—either the era of the Trojan War heroes or the ninth/eighth century22—the ancients decided to resolve the arguments by accepting both traditions—all three were founded in the Heroic Age, abandoned for nearly half a millennium, then refounded at the later date. Pausanias, who over 1800 years ago related that compromise for the Olympics,23 did not end the debate, and, in fact, created yet another 500-year problem for Olympia, which sparked the heated quarrel between Furtwängler and Dörpfeld, which Velikovsky has recorded above Olympia.24
Rather than resolving ancient literary debates over Olympia, chariots and tripods, modern philologists and archaeologists have run into the same problems (and still more) as their predecessors, and for the same reason—Egyptian chronology placed Mycenaean objects and institutions half a millennium before similar objects and institutions again appear.
A Terracotta Figurine and
a Terracotta Head
Somewhere at Mycenae, and most probably in the same general region as the Grave Circle and the buildings to the south of it (Fig. 1, D-J), Schliemann discovered a fragmentary clay figurine which, along with a similar example that he found at the site of Tiryns, seems to represent someone kneading dough to form loaves of bread. He did not record the exact provenience (and the associated material) of either example, which would help to fix their date; both are fragmentary, unpainted and crude, which makes stylistic dating equally difficult; and there are many analogous breadmaker figurines from the Peloponnese (including examples from Tiryns and Prosymna, which lies between Mycenae and Tiryns), that belong to the archaic period (i.e., seventh-sixth centuries). Despite all these considerations, archaeologists nevertheless felt that Schliemann’s two finds were LH III in date, because of their discovery at citadels whose main period of occupation was the Mycenaean Age. Still, there were no similar LH III examples with which one could associate them.
C. Blegen published another breadmaker terracotta of unknown provenience, but definitely LH III A-B in modelling and decoration. Since his figurine did “at first glance” look “like a comparable piece” to Schliemann’s finds, it could have helped to bolster the date which archaeologists had long believed, but could not prove for the examples from Mycenae and Tiryns, linking all three to form a tight little LH III group. Blegen realized that people did live in, and leave remains (including figurines) at both Mycenae and Tiryns during the archaic period. He therefore felt that Schliemann’s finds, which resembled the later examples and came from contexts that might as easily have been late as early, could have belonged to the archaic period. He finally decided to assign those two breadmakers to a time 500 years later than other archaeologists had assumed, but did connect them with the large group of seventh-sixth-century figurines, instead of leaving them cut off by centuries from the archaic group.
Blegen’s example was certainly of LH III style, so he could not lower its date. Displacing the other two terracottas, the new one assumed their former, isolated position. It became the sole Mycenaean “antecedent” of the later group, “separated from them by a long interval” of 500-600 years, during which similar figurines seem not to have been made.1 In fact, by the present chronological scheme, for nearly two of those intervening centuries, the Greeks seem to have made no figurines of any kind.2 Blegen was not alone in his dilemma, however. For despite the break in continuity, many authorities note the remarkable similarity of eighth-sixth century terracottas to those of the LH III period—a matter which has elicited wonder and sparked debates involving 400-600 years over individual figurines.3
In 1896 C. Tsountas, excavating among the houses south of Grave Circle A, discovered a brightly painted, nearly-life-size terracotta head of a female (possibly a sphinx), which art historians have assigned to the thirteenth century B.C. The monumental proportions of the head, contrasted with the more ubiquitous, tiny figures, led V. Müller to speculate whether the large-scale sculpture, which one finds from the seventh century onward in Greece, had a centuries-old tradition behind it, and with that question as his point of reference, he observed something in 1934 which is equally valid today: “The relationship of the Minoan-Mycenaean culture of the second millennium and the classical civilization of the first is one of the most pressing problems of present-day archaeology.”4
Art historians have long noted the close similarity of the first monumental Greek statues of the seventh-sixth centuries to the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasty sculpture in Egypt. The Mycenaeans who visited Egypt at that time and copied other contemporary arts of their hosts, seem not to have imitated their sculpture. Apparently their descendants of the Archaic Period, returning to Egypt after centuries of allegedly broken contact, and seeing for the first time those same colossal works (by now quite ancient), did decide to copy them.5 Müller observed that the Mycenaeans could and did create larger-scale sculpture, albeit non-Egyptian in inspiration, and cited literary statements that the later Greeks preserved early sculptures for centuries. He therefore considered it reasonable that native Greek sculpture, such as the terracotta head from Mycenae, might, like the contemporary Egyptian works, have been on constant display during the centuries of the Dark Age when, according to present evidence, the Greeks produced no other sculptures; he felt that the Mycenaean pieces could also have supplied an even more accessible, and just as natural a source of inspiration as Egypt did to seventh-century artists. He wanted to believe that, but in the end decided that the old statues “had no influence whatsoever on the new Greek types. Mycenaean civilization died . . . classical art made a new beginning.”6 A few years later F. Grace V. Müller, “The Beginnings of Monumental Sculpture in Greece,” also noted the nearly-life-size Mycenaean creations as possible models for monumental archaic sculpture. Unlike Müller, he doubted that the Greeks frequented cult centers throughout the Dark Age, rather than merely returning to them 500 years later, and felt it improbable that once they did return, there were still any Mycenaean sculptures on view. Like Müller, however, he felt that seventh-century Greeks, looking to Egypt and the Levant, rather than to older native works, “created their sculpture anew.”7
More recent authorities have also noted the Mycenaeans’ skill at producing monumental stone sculpture, such as the Lion Gate, the Shaft Grave stelae, the façades of the beehive tombs, and in modelling large-scale creations of clay, such as the terracotta head.8 Like Müller, they too ran into the problem of the huge gap separating the monumental thirteenth-century sculptures from those of the seventh century. E. Vermeule parodied the frequently-expressed sentiment that “the thrust toward monumental sculpture is somehow innate in [Mycenaean] Greece but will lie dormant” for over 500 years.9 Still, the Dark Age of no similar sculpture forced such conclusions upon the art historians.
Not only the monumental size of the terracotta head looked to the seventh century. The shape of the face “seems to foreshadow,” and “anticipates in an uncanny way the so-called ‘Dedalic’ style which was to emerge some six centuries later.”10 As if its own 600-year problems with size and morphology were not enough, that head has created still others. W. Schiering published a small terracotta face of unknown provenience, but noting its similar clay composition to Tsountas’ discovery, he noted that it, too, probably came from the region around Mycenae. Observing the face’s stylistic affinities to those on large-scale terracotta statues from the island of Kea, which are now dated to the sixteenth century, to the thirteenth-century head from Mycenae, and to a small head from the town of Asine, less than twenty miles southeast of Mycenae, now dated to the thirteenth or twelfth century, Schiering sandwiched the face between the latter two sculptures.11
Like the Mycenaean head, the Kean statues and the Asine head have their own 500-600-year problems—the former with stratigraphy,12 the latter with style.13 Now the terracotta face, like its three companion pieces, has its own 600-year problem as well. Though its style does resemble the other problematical sculptures, its size fits well a series of seventh-century heads, but more importantly, its mode of manufacture also points to that same period. Distinct from all other Mycenaean terracottas presently known, the face was fashioned in a mold, something which scholars have traditionally considered an important invention of the early seventh century. If that face really belongs to the late thirteenth century, then the earliest-known Greek mold must go back that far, though its impact seems negligible; then it must have disappeared for ca. 500 years only to re-emerge in the seventh century,14 at which time it “completely transformed” the Greek terracotta industry.15 Realizing the problem, Schiering couselled that, in order to follow the history of terracotta heads, one had to take “a long step” (einen weiten Schritt) from the end of the Mycenaean Age to their return ca. 700 B.C.16
As we have seen, and shall continue to see, one must constantly take that “long step” whenever tracing the development of so many strikingly similar artifacts of two cultural phases supposedly separated by half a millennium. With specific regard to representational art, we already noted the “taboo” on figures on painted pottery of the Dark Age,17 and have just seen a similar “taboo” on stone and clay sculpture—both large and small. There is also a contemporary, centuries-long lack of two-dimensional representations on carved gems and ivory plaques, and three-dimensional ivory and bronze statuettes, which separates the figures found in each of these media during the eighth to sixth centuries from the strikingly similar figures in each of those media during the LH III period.18 The complete departure from all representational art in sculpture, glyptic and painting, immediately following a long period when such figures flourished, and immediately preceding the return of such similar specimens again seems “strange” and “curious”. For bronze, ivory and semiprecious stones, one can postulate a shortage of raw material, or the loss of the skill to adorn them, or the lack of funds to commission the work; however, at a time when there was no dearth of clay and paint, and when artisans did continue to fashion ceramic objects and to adorn them, it is far more difficult to explain why the Greeks interrupted the flow of figural art for so long, only to revive it centuries later in forms so reminiscent of the Mycenaean Age.19
Specifically, terracotta figurines were “ubiquitous” during the LH III period, and became common again in the eighth-seventh centuries. Experts often have difficulties distinguishing examples of the two groups, and debates arise, as we have seen. At both periods the terracottas comprise one of the most conspicuous manifestations of Greek religion, which itself constitutes one of the few legacies of prehistoric Greece whose continuity throughout the Dark Age no one seriously questions. The fact that the later examples so closely resemble the earlier ones and that terracottas “disappear almost without a trace” between the two eras,20 not only poses problems regarding art and religion, but is, once again, reminiscent of conditions 500 years earlier.21
The Religious Center of Mycenae
Starting in 1968, British and Greek archaeologists resumed excavations at and around a large structure southeast of Circle A (Fig. 1, K) which Tsountas and Wace had partly cleared long before, In the process they discovered an LH III B religious complex of altars and sanctuaries unlike any previously known in the Mycenaean world.1 Until quite recently, scholars felt that the Mycenaean Greeks practiced their religion only at rustic shrines, or else in parts of the urban palaces where their kings served as priests. Those seeking to date the various institutions and objects which Homer described, decided that his references to an independent priesthood and to stone-built, roofed, freestanding urban temples, which he ascribed to the Mycenaean Age, were, in fact, anachronisms 500 years out of place.2 The recent discoveries of Late Bronze Age temples inside the cult center of Mycenae, at Kition on Cyprus, Ayia Irini on the island of Kea (which began in the Middle Bronze Age), and most recently in the lower citadel at Tiryns, now vindicate Homer.3
Those discoveries also add urban temples and an independent clergy to a staggering list of Homeric references which one can ascribe as easily to the thirteenth-twelfth centuries as to the eighth-seventh, but not to the period between. 4 Archaeologists face the additional problem that the ground plan of temples starting in the eighth century seems to be a throwback to the groundplan of Mycenaean palaces and temples,5 after a 400-500 year period which shows an abrupt abandonment of, and “an essential discontinuity” with Mycenaean architecture6—a Dark Age whose architectural forms also seem to be a 500-year throwback to pre-Mycenaean structures.7 With regard to Homer’s epics, for over a century now, archaeologists have “divided themselves into two parties as if engaged in a tug of war,” either championing his references as accurate, 500-years-old Mycenaean reminiscences retained in the poems, or else viewing them as a reflection of eighth-century reality.8
Literary critics have, as we noted for tripods, engaged in the same tug of war for over 2000 years now.9 Contemporary philologists, employing linguistic criteria in an attempt to determine the precise date of Homer’s allusions, and thereby resolve the debates of their colleagues, find themselves as perplexed as the other disputants, since they cannot neatly separate the manifestations of eighth-century Greek from those which they judge to be 500 years older, and find numerous cases of “Mycenaean” language describing late material and late language describing Mycenaean material.10
The philologists, trying to aid the archaeologists to establish dates, readily confess their consternation that “‘older’ and ‘younger’ elements (whether archaeological, linguistic, or social) interlock,”11 and that those same components, which “differ in age by more than half a millennium . . . are inextricably blended”—a fact which they term “most bewildering,”12 and for dating purposes, even “fatal.”13 Since the linguists’ attempts to separate the elements into distinct strata has met with failure,14 they send the problem back to the archaeologists. As Snodgrass remarked, the whole matter is “a sorely vexed question, but it cannot be shirked. It remains as true today  as it has been for some years past, that there are only two positively and widely identifiable historical ‘strata’ in the world described in the Homeric poems,” the LH III period and the eighth century.15 For temples specifically, and for each of a number of other items, he saw “a pattern. . . emerging,” wherein they belonged either to the thirteenth-twelfth centuries or the eighth-seventh, but not between. ”16
The dating controversy still rages over temples and an astonishing number of other matters,17 with the recent discoveries of Mycenaean temples encouraging those who prefer to see all of Homer’s references as genuine Mycenaean memories rather than eighth-century anachronisms.18 But two gnawing questions arise: how did the LH III and eighth-century elements become so “inextricably blended” in the poems, if the epics grew through accretion; and why are those the only two periods in evidence? The second question goes to the very heart of the notion that oral poetry sustained Mycenaean memories through 500 years of illiteracy. If the epics in their original form were so sacrosanct that no poet, who transmitted them, altered them for centuries, why did an eighth-century hard feel that he could insert language, customs and objects of his own day in such a pervasive manner? On the other hand, if it is true that no oral poet memorizes another bard’s songs verbatim, or even sings his own tale twice the same way,19 then one should expect that those transmitting enormous, unwritten secular sagas for 500 years would gradually omit or alter many of the Mycenaean details, which would only have confused or had no meaning to themselves or their audience during the Dark Age; one would further expect that the bards between the LH III period and the eighth century would have added contemporary language and references to make their epics more relevant and comprehensible to their own day and their own listeners:20 yet they seem to have done neither of those things. Consequently, for Homer’s temples, as for other matters, the “tug of war” across a 500-year chasm continues, and the entire situation remains “most bewildering.”
Among the discoveries inside the cult center were two fairly large ivory figurines, representing a couchant lion and a very delicately modeled male head. Ivory carving in the round was very rare in Mycenaean times, and those two pieces struck the excavators “unique” among them. Since they come from a building of LH III 3 date, they can be no later than the thirteenth century B.C.21 The lion foreshadows a similarly-posed, lake seventh-century sculpture from the island of Corfu,22 and the face reminds one very much of archaic statuary of the seventh-sixth centuries, although, as we noted above, most critics agree that seventh-century sculptors began their art afresh, with no discernible ties to the bygone works of their ancestors.23 As for the material itself, ivory statuettes vanished towards the end of LH III only to reappear in Greece ca. 750 B.C.24 There is, moreover, an important deposit of ivory figurines from Ephesus in Asia Minor, dating to the late seventh-early sixth century, including lions, one of which bears some resemblance to the specimen from Mycenae, and a statuette of a priestess (?), which shows close similarities to the ivory head from Mycenae in the shape and piercing of the head, the facial features, and the modeling of the hair. The peculiar rendering of the eyes on the ivory face from Mycenae also foreshadows the similar, though slightly more realistic, eyes of an early seventh-century ivory sphinx from Perachora, less than twenty-five miles northeast of Mycenae.25 Between the two “unique” LH III B ivories and comparable works of the late eighth-sixth centuries lies the centuries-long Dark Age.
Other cult objects include quite a few terracotta figurines whose lower bodies were formed on a potter’s wheel as hollow tubes, in a typical Mycenaean process.26 They range in date from LH III A - late LH III B, i.e., the fourteenth-thirteenth centuries B.C. One of the thirteenth-century idols had a “curious” trait: the lips formed an “archaic smile”27—a feature which derives its name from its prevalence on seventh-sixth-century Greek sculpture, but is essentially unknown in Greece before that era.28 After the manufacture of fourteenth-thirteenth-century Greek cylindrical idols of Mycenae, and the recently-discovered twelfth-century ones from a shrine at Tiryns,29 there apparently follows a centuries-long break in their production throughout the Peloponnese, until ca. 700 B.C., when “wheel-made work in the old technique” suddenly makes a “strange revival;” terracotta figurines in general then started to become “universal throughout Greece once more,” as they had been during LH III, before their virtual disappearance during the Dark Age.30
In every case where the idols from the cult center still possessed their arms, they were “invariably raised,”31 as were those on the more schematized specimens from the shrine at Tiryns,32 and, in fact, most of the numerous handmade and wheel-made figurines of the LH III B-C period. That pose presumably designates a worshipper in the posture of supplication, or a deity in the set of epiphany or benediction. The type suddenly became extinct at the end of the Mycenaean Age. With the return of the Peloponnesian wheel-made figurines and female idols ca. 700 B.C., there is “a remarkable associated phenomenon, the reappearance of the goddess with raised arms,” which, like other features of contemporary terra cottas, made a “strange revival.”33 They then “kept reappearing spontaneously in widely separated parts of the country without any direct continuity that can be traced among the votive statuettes themselves. Something much more than an archaeological zeal on the part of the faithful needs to be invoked to explain this!”34
Dark Age Burials
The cult center, along with much of the citadel, perished in a conflagration which swept through Mycenae towards the end of LH III B, i. e, the late thirteenth century, according to the accepted discovery. Digging through the debris of the temple compound, the excavators also found three graves of the eleventh-tenth centuries. All three were simple pits, though two of them had their sides lined and their roofs covered with stone slabs to form “cists.”1 Cist tombs were the most common type of grave at Mycenae, and throughout Greece, during the Middle Helladic period, ca. 500 years earlier. The sudden, widespread adoption of that type of burial and the rites that accompany it ca. 1125 B.C. have struck several prehistorians as both an “innovation,” when contrasted to Late Helladic burials, and, at the same time, ” a resurgent phenomenon” when compared to the vogue 500 years earlier—a return to ancestral tomb types and burial rites after the destruction of Mycenaean civilization. That kind of grave became “the most characteristic form in both eras,” and the graves of both periods are so closely similar that often excavators cannot decide to which age some cists belong, unless they contain the distinctive grave goods of one period or the other2—goods which, as we noted above, also, at times, look extremely similar, despite the 500 years separating them.3
The tomb type did survive into the Mycenaean Period, but was not nearly as common then as before and after, and seems not to span the entire time between its two major peaks before ca, 1550 and after ca. 1125.4 Because it is difficult to trace such continuity between the two ages, because the graves made “an almost universal take-over,” supplanting the Mycenaean tomb types, and they constitute” one of the distinguishing features” of post-Mycenaean culture, which was “radically different from the old Mycenaean civilization” that it supplanted, those who reject a 500-year continuity or some strange revival after 500 years, postulate the influx of new people from the north, who retained burial customs whose popularity in Greece had been on the wane for half a millennium. Still, as we shall observe presently, the evidence for the hypothetical immigrants is highly questionable. Many archaeologists reject the notion, and even its adherents cannot show a spread of the new tombs from the north to the south, but they find it easier to face “the present geographical gap in the evidence” than the chronological gap.5
The presence of the graves in the cult center, presumably destroyed long before, requires two assumptions: first, that the inhabitants of Mycenae decided to forsake their traditional cemetery grounds where for centuries they had interred their dead in the relatively soft ground away from their dwellings, outside and to the west of the citadel wall; and, second, that they chose, instead, to bury their dead inside the city itself, which required the more laborious task of digging the graves into a thick mantle of eroded debris and a cement-like mass of calcinated stones and fire-hardened brick within the former temple complex. Desborough, who published the graves, considered it “extremely unlikely that people living outside the walls” would enter the citadel for the sole purpose of burying their dead therein,6 but the fact remains that there is no clear evidence that people inhabited the citadel at that time.7
The condition of the two cist tombs is also revealing. One of them showed the effects of a subsequent fire so intense that, in addition to the ashes it left over the grave, it bleached the stone cover slabs and the stone walls of the grave, and even burned the bones of the skeleton it contained.8 Such a great burning over that spot is difficult to explain if the grave is later than the cult center,9 but it would be much easier to see as the result of the tremendous fire that destroyed the citadel towards the end of LH III B—if the tenth-century grave was, in fact, earlier than the LH III B10 cult center. Desborough termed the second cist “sub-mural,”11 because an LH III C wall rested over the eleventh-century grave—again easy to explain if the grave was older than the LH III C structure; if it was not, however, then one must conjecture that “the buriers decided—for some reason unknown—to destroy part of a wall” of the Mycenaean structure, and for some reason even more difficult to comprehend, they then decided to rebuild the wall of a structure long-since destroyed and abandoned and of no use to them, on top of the grave.”12
The burial circumstances inside the temple complex reminded Desborough of the situation encountered by C. Tsountas at another spot inside the western extension of the citadel walls. To the northeast of the Lion Gate Tsountas excavated some LH III houses and discovered six cist tombs datable sometime within the eleventh-ninth centuries. The tombs lay under a deposit over six feet thick of LH III pottery and other remains, which by the accepted chronology should be older than the graves. To explain why LH III material lay over the graves, rather than the graves lying above it or cutting through it, Desborough speculated that even after tremendous fires supposedly flattened the city in the late thirteenth and mid-twelfth centuries, a few houses survived the conflagrations, remained intact for centuries until people entered their ground floors, not to inhabit them, but only to bury their dead, and that only sometimes thereafter the upper stories, still filled with LH III goods, which had somehow withstood earthquakes, fires and the ravages of time, then collapsed onto the graves.13
There is another way to view the “late” graves under the LH III buildings in the western citadel, which fits the special circumstances at the site, if one applies the revised chronology. The town of Mycenae was originally much smaller in size, and rested entirely on a hard limestone promontory. The inhabitants, in order to remove the deceased from the dwellings of the living, to perform burials with some ease, and to follow religious precepts, buried their dead outside of the first city wall, in the softer ground, and to the west—the region of sunset and death. When the rulers decided to enlarge the citadel in the LH III B period, they extended the fortification wall into the ancestral cemetery to the south and west. They enclosed the shaft graves of Circle A and accorded them special reverence, but built their structures over numerous other graves of the MH-LH II period (seventeenth-fifteenth centuries),14 which, for the most part, were cist tombs—like “the 500-year-later” ones. In fact, the excavators of the temple complex found a Middle Helladic cist tomb inside the religious center and not far from the eleventh-tenth-century ones they discovered;15 but because of the 500 years currently placed between them, they assumed the former cist was covered by the later structures, while the other cists cut into them (despite problems with fire and the overlying wall). If the LH III B period belongs not to ca. 1350-1200 B.C., but some 500 years later, the discovery of the typologically identical, but supposedly 500-year-older cists beneath the LH III B buildings in the same area.
Despite the 500-600 year problems we have already noted at the cult center regarding temples, Homer, ivories, idols, tomb types and stratigraphy, the excavators found one type of object there which, more than any other factor, has served to fix the absolute dates for Mycenae’s period of greatness. Inside the temple was a faience plaque bearing the throne name of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Quite a few identical plaques have turned up in Mycenae,16 and the pattern of Eighteenth-Nineteenth Dynasty objects together with Mycenaean material throughout the Aegean, the Levant and Egypt itself, establishes a synchronism. Egyptologists assign that king’s reign to the early fourteenth century B.C., hence the dates for, and all the chronological problems with the Mycenaean Period, Velikovsky17 places the same man in the ninth century. The direct effect of such redating for Mycenae is obvious.
The Northeast Extension
The city walls of the mid-LH III B period reached as far as wall O (Fig. 1) to the northeast. When the Mycenaeans realized that the citadel lacked an adequate supply of water to withstand a prolonged siege, they remedied the problem by extending the fortifications to the northeast (Fig. 1, P, Q, R), and transported water via a subterranean conduit from a natural spring to a cistern which they secretly excavated just outside the new walls, and to which they carved out an elaborate descending stepped passage with a hidden entrance just inside the wall (Fig. 1, S). The exact date of the undertaking is uncertain, because the original excavation, was not fully published, but it was sometime shortly after the extension of the walls into the cemetery to the south and west, and before the end of LH III B, i.e., very late in the thirteenth century B.C.1 Mylonas called the system “the most striking construction in the citadel, a truly Cyclopean undertaking”2 and “another wonder of the ancient world.”3 Probably spurred by Mycenae’s example, both Tiryns and Athens constructed analogous underground reservoirs approached from inside the fortifications, also toward the end of LH III B (i.e., ca. 1200 B.C.).4 Vermeule termed all three “marvellous feats of design,” which inspire “admiration for the palace engineers . . . tempered by awed respect.”5
The concept of securing fresh water for a siege by such a clever device that early in human history impressed Tsountas as “astonishing.”6 Still, Karo felt that the system at Mycenae had a significance far greater than its mere construction, and that one could not view it in a historical vacuum. He noted comparable Greek water projects of the Archaic and Classical Periods and declared that, despite the huge gap in time, the similarities were not accidental, but that the Mycenaean system was the archetype for the much later undertakings.7 In fact, one can think of the famous engineering marvel of Polycrates of Samos who, in the late sixth century, had spring water conducted into his city via a large tunnel.
When assessing the LH III B defensive architecture and water systems of Tiryns, Athens and especially of Mycenae, an example from beyond the Greek cultural sphere comes to mind. King Hezekiah of Judah, confronted by the Assyrian host, rebuilt the old walls of Jerusalem and erected new fortifications, hid natural springs and excavated a gigantic sinuous tunnel to carry spring water from Gihon to a reservoir at Siloam, most probably an underground cistern approached by a secret passage from inside the city. The Old Testament heralds that feat as one of his greatest secular accomplishments8 and modern archaeologists have confirmed the Biblical account, in fact, K. Kenyon called the undertaking “an event in the history of Jerusalem which is of vital historical importance.”9 The Biblical description and the actual remains are very reminiscent of what took place at the northeastern extension of Mycenae. Hezekiah’s defenses and water project belong ca. 700 B.C., while the standard chronology places the ones at Mycenae, Tiryns and Athens ca, 500 years earlier.
Although it is certainly possible for the same idea to occur to different people indifferent locations at different times, under the revised chronology, the water systems of Mycenae, Tiryns and Athens are roughly contemporary with that of Jerusalem. It is therefore of interest to note that the three Greek tunnels seem so “astonishing,” precisely because they appeared suddenly and fully developed, and constitute such a novelty for the region. Hezekiah’s tunnel, on the other hand, was not only the successor to the earlier, less ambitious (and militarily disastrous) attempts by the Jebusites to channel spring water into Jerusalem, but also followed upon centuries of Istaelite improvements which produced completely concealed water tunnels, making spring water accessible to besieged cities throughout Palestine at places such as Gibeon, Gezer, Megiddo and Hazor.10
Of far greater importance in determining the date of the three contemporaneous Greek water systems is the fact that in the two excavations where the archaeologists did record their findings, the results correspond to Wace’s trench by the Lion Gate. The Tirynthian and Athenian cisterns both contained pottery of the late eighth-seventh century immediately above, and mixed together with pottery from the transition of LH III B-C; they contained no ware from the “intervening” centuries and no layer of sediment to mark the passage of the five centuries which the standard chronology places between LH III B/C and the eighth/seventh century.11
Excavations in the eastern portion of the acropolis of Mycenae revealed a substantial structure, (Fig. 1, U) which contained hundreds of scraps of ivory, gold leaf, and other precious commodities, obviously comprising the quarters and workshops of the palace artisans, who produced many of the ivory figurines and plaques, gold jewelry, and carved gems found throughout the Aegean, and the East Mediterranean. (1) Ivory, probably from Syria, first appeared in Greece as tiny ornaments applied to other objects in the Shaft Graves at the beginning of the Late Helladic Period. By the late Eighteenth Dynasty, the Mycenaean craftsmen were fashioning ivory sculptures and inlay plaques with intricate patterns and subjects, such as hunting scenes, combats with real and mythical beasts, warriors, heraldic and religious motifs, etc., which spread across the Aegean and Near East. They and their Syrian counterparts freely exchanged their creations, in the process mingling Eastern and Western decorative elements to form an international style.(2)
By the end of the Mycenaean Age, the importation of raw and finished ivory from the East, and its carving in the Aegean, apparently ceased, “making its first re-appearance” in Greece some 600 years after the Shaft Grave Period.(3) Greek artisans resumed the fashioning of intricate carved ivories in the eighth century,(4) with the motifs very reminiscent of Mycenaean work some five hundred years earlier.
Ivory carving is an extremely delicate craft, which only a small guild of artisans practised, passing the technique from master to apprentice, and probably from father to son; Greece itself had a centuries-long gap in production, despite the close similarities of the later ivories to the Mycenaean ones; the Levant was the ancient source of the raw material as well as a center for ivory carving in antiquity; and the Levantine ivories of both the second and the first millennium B.C. displayed distinctive Mycenaean motifs. For all those reasons, students of ancient ivories looked to the East as the region which carried on the artistic tradition over the centuries when it had vanished from Greece. They believed, as did those who postulated the return of Mycenaean ceramic decoration from seventh-century Phoenicia, that thirteenth-century Mycenaean ivories influenced the Levantine artisans, who continued to fashion similar works without interruption until, centuries later, they sent the influence back to Greece.(5)
Those who look to the Orient as the place that preserved the artistic tradition meet the same difficulty there as they found for Greece, since from 1200-900 B.C., both places have “a sudden gap . . . in which no ivories are known. ” (6) Across those three centuries, one cannot detect any links to connect the ninth-eighth-century creations to the very similar examples of the fourteenth-thirteenth centuries, which were “now quite extinct,” both in the Aegean and in the Near East. “Unlikely though it may seem . . . this is yet the case.” (7) Despite that gap, numerous authorities have long noted the close resemblence of the later group to the centuries-earlier one.(8) There are some cases (e.g., at Delos) where ivories from eighth-century contexts look Mycenaean in style, so that scholars proclaim them to be 500-year-old heirlooms,(9) and other cases which have sparked scholarly debates on whether the ivories stem from the thirteenth century or the eighth.(10) Still there is a perplexing gap.
In order to bridge the gap, M. Mallowan recently suggested that the Levantine artists turned from ivory to media such as textiles and wood—all examples have long since perished—to keep the tradition alive.(11) If one accepts that theory for the Levant, one can as readily apply it to Greece, in order to sustain the art there, without requiring a hypothetical Oriental interlude. The disadvantages of that idea are that it is completely unprovable, and, for the Levant, at least, where there was a native supply of the raw material, it provides no reason why the artisans stopped carving ivory, or how they managed to resume the art so skillfully, with motifs scarcely, if at all, changed from those of the earlier period, immediately after the break. Also recently, D. Harden observed that the two chronologically distinct sets of ivories are “closely akin in style” with “little or no gap in artistic tradition.” With no stylistic break, the centuries-long gap in time troubled him. Whatever the effects of hypothetical invaders in Greece, or of raids on the Syrian coast, he could find no explanation for the art to cease in Phoenicia or further inland. He therefore concluded that, for the Levant, “there should not be such a hiatus in the evidence.” (12)
Much to everyone’s consternation, both the Aegean and the Orient presently have a very long “hiatus,” which “should not” exist (in the latter region, at least), dividing two sets of very similar Aegeo-Levantine ivory carvings. H. Kantor, who chronicled many of these similarities, but also saw the gap that separated them, considered “the problem of the relationship” of the two displaced sets of material to be of “predominant importance.” (13) Yet that problem remains unresolved.(14)
That difficulty, of “predominant importance” today, did not trouble excavators at the turn of the century. A. S. Murray, then Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum, unearthed and published a number of Mycenaean Age ivory carvings at Enkomi on Cyprus. Observing the same close resemblances to ninth-seventh-century ivory and stone reliefs that still impress (and disturb) scholars today, he assigned his ivories, along with everything else he found at Enkomi, to that period. He did not believe in a Dark Age, and judged that the entire Mycenaean Age belonged that late, rather than five hundred years earlier.(15) As Velikovsky has recorded above (“The Scandal of Encomi”), other authorities, such as Arthur Evans, implicitly trusting in the dates furnished by Egyptologists for New Kingdom pharaohs, some of whose exports were also at Enkomi, blasted Murray and the British Museum as well. They pushed back his dates by five hundred years,(16) in the process creating two similar, but chronologically disjointed groups of ivory carvings. The ensuing problem not only disturbs modern archaeologists and art historians but, once again, the philologists as well, since Homer’s mention of furniture inlaid with carved ivory plaques strikes some classicists as a thirteenth-century memory preserved by epic poetry, while others view it as a reference to the material again becoming common in the poet’s own day, five hundred years later.(17) The result of Egyptian chronology’s triumph today are two epochs of ivory carving, showing similarities five hundred years apart, with a three-hundred-year break in the evidence, no way to bridge or even explain the gap, and a great many authorities who confess their bewilderment at the state of affairs which now confronts them.
Beginning in the Shaft Grave Period, the rulers of Mycenae not only patronized a guild of ivory carvers but also a guild of jewelers, who were probably inspired and instructed by, and perhaps originally were, Minoan artisans, who had had a venerable tradition in the art. The craftsmen of Mycenae fashioned gold rings with intricate designs of battle and hunting, and heraldic and religious scenes, and also produced lens-shaped and almond-shaped sealstones and gems of semi-precious materials, which they engraved with men, monsters and animals arranged in compositions similar to those on the ivories and gold rings.1
Since the shaping, and especially the engraving, of such tiny, hard stones is an extremely precise and delicate craft which requires years of apprenticeship to master, and since both the shapes and the decoration of seventh-century gems and coins so closely resembled the jewels of the Mycenaean Age, late nineteenth-century archaeologists like Arthur Evans felt that there had been an uninterrupted tradition of Greek gem-carving from the Late Bronze Age until the historical period,2 with Cecil Torr prepared to date the entire Mycenaean Period just prior to ca. 700 B.C. party on the basis of carved gems.3 Further excavation, plus chronological reconsiderations, seemed to refute their belief, as Evans later admitted, but since he still detected remarkable similarities of seventh-century gems to Minoan-Mycenaean ones, he dropped the idea of survival, and replaced it with one of revival.4
According to the current scenario, the jeweler’s art perished toward the end of the Mycenaean Period. By ca. 750 B.C. “the native art of gem-cutting” returned to Greece, but since barren centuries separated one “native” manifestation from the other, art historians could not consider Greece itself as the source of the revival. Thus they once again turned to the Near East as a place for the Greeks to relearn the craft.5 At first the Greeks used softer stones, formed various shapes, and engraved the gems by hand with the same type of geometrical patterns and figures as one finds on contemporary pottery. Within a few decades of their “relearning” the craft, the artisans created designs which, like seventh-century pottery, developed a more naturalistic, curvilinear appearance. Within seventy-five years of the re-introduction of the “native art,” they again employed the cutting wheel used 500 years earlier, again standardized the shapes of the gems, mainly to the Mycenaean preference, and engraved themes extremely reminiscent of those belonging to the Mycenaean Age.6 In carving technique, shaping and design, the early seventh-century jewelers “were in some mysterious way imitating the gems which had been made at least half a millennium earlier.”7
In order to explain the “mystery,” scholars now assume that seventh-century artists not only followed a line of artistic progression similar to that of their ancestors, but that they actually found and imitated 500-year-old gems. They seem to have made such expert copies that even today, when the find-spots of individual gems are unknown, some experts cannot decide whether they fall into the Mycenaean Age or the seventh century, or else one group of scholars will champion Mycenaean dates for gems which other scholars place 500 years later. Even instances when the experts know the provenience and associated material of some gems are not always helpful, since they sometimes judge the gems to be half a millennium older or younger than the associated material, on the assumption that many gems are 500-year-old heirlooms, or else that late gems somehow slipped into (or were dedicated at) 500-years-older structures.8
Before Egypt provided absolute dates for the Mycenaean Period, late nineteenth-century scholars had none of the problems with Mycenaean gems (or, for that matter, with anything else) which beset modern specialists. Even after Egypt began to fix Mycenae’s age. Cecil Torr had no problem, since he completely distrusted the Egyptologists’ calculations,9 but he was practically alone in his skepticism. Problems began for Evans and for everyone else from the turn of the century to the present, such that, even today, authorities freely admit that “there will always be som [engraved gems] which defy attribution” to one side or the other of the 500-year gap which now disrupts the sequence;10 and debates continue between experts championing dates half a millennium apart for individual gems that they discover.11
Homer referred to Mycenae as “rich in gold,” an epithet which is very appropriate when we recall the wealth of the Shaft Graves. In dealing with their masks, hair rings, diadems, pins, garters, discs, the chariot-hunt ring, etc., we already noted a number of 400-700-year problems. Other pieces of gold jewelry from Mycenae and across the Aegean have caused still more bewilderment for the excavators. As was true of the gem-engravers, the first goldsmiths at Mycenae were probably trained by, or were themselves Minoan artisans, who had had a long history of craftsmanship on Crete. R. Higgins eloquently described “the superlative excellence of Mycenaean jewelry, in which the arts of filigree, granulation, inlay, enamelling, and repoussé work were carried to perfection. ”12 Much of that work, at least in its final stages, apparently emanated from the royal workshop on the citadel (Fig. 1, U).
Towards the end of the Mycenaean Period there comes “a real break in continuity,” with Greece too impoverished to create jewelry, except for rare pieces, which were “simple in extreme.”13 By ca. 850 B.C., more intricate works, again showing filigree and granulation, start to reappear. Since jewelers engage in the “most conservative of all crafts,” and there is a centuries-long break in the continuity of sophisticated jewelry in Greece, one could not assume that the Greeks began such delicate and intricate work again without the aid of non-Greek jewelers. Scholars therefore postulated that Mycenaean work which was exported to Cyprus and the Near East, had a profound impact on the artists there, who kept the tradition alive during the centuries when the Greeks themselves lost it, then re-introduced the old techniques and some jewelry types, which were popular in the bygone era.14
There is clear evidence of Near Eastern influence on Aegean jewelry of the ninth-seventh centuries,15 but any evidence that the Orient adopted and continued the Mycenaean tradition from the twelfth-ninth centuries is almost as poor as that assumed for pottery painting, metal work, ivory carving and gem engraving.16 In fact the earliest known sophisticated jewelry” of ca. 850 B.C. from Athens, showing both filigree and granulation, looks less Oriental than it does native Greek; and the granulation does not resemble the Levantine type as much as it does Mycenaean work,17 which flourished some 500-600 years earlier.18 One therefore had to postulate that while Mycenaean techniques nay have returned from the Near East, the Greek jewelers probably also rediscovered and copied centuries-old pieces of native Mycenaean craftsmanship.19
The problem of gold jewelry is not confined to the Greek mainland. On Crete in the eighth or seventh century,20 art historians are likewise “suddenly confronted with jewelry” of great sophistication. ” One piece from contemporary Ithaca to the northwest displayed a complex pattern of filigree and granulation, which “inevitably recalls” a twelfth-century Cretan ring. Similarly a seventh-century Cretan ring resembles yet another twelfth-century Minoan ring. Such a repetition of designs after so long a period “leads to the question whether there can be any connection between the two groups. . . Can this resemblance be due to chance?” Higgins, seeing such marked similarities between jewelry from Ithaca and Crete separated by 500 years, felt that they could not be fortuitous. He felt that there had to be a continuous tradition, but discounting the Near East as the intermediary, he suggested something which he hoped was not “too far-fetched”—that Crete itself kept the art alive during the Dark Age. Still, there were not only the problems of a 500-year difference in dates, and the sudden appearance of the later jewelry, but the additional one that for Crete, just as for Greece, “the record is a balnk” for some two hundred years after the creation of the twelfth-century rings21—which hardly helps to support the notion of continuity.
Similar problems have beset a cache of jewelry now in the British Museum, purportedly from Aegina, which many scholars have long viewed as Mycenaean in spirit but ninth-seventh-century in date, while others, also aware of their affinities to ninth-sixth century Italian, Aegean and Oriental material of the first millennium, have assigned the hoard to the period of and just prior to the Shaft Graves, ca. 1700-1500 B.C.22 A gold and enamel scepter from Cyprus has also become the subject of a debate between those who see its analogies to jewelry of ca. 1200 B.C., and those who see its resemblance to material of ca. 500 B.C.—again with a centuries-long gap separating the two groups, both for the jewelry technique and sophistication in general, and the manufacture of enamel in particular.23 The difficulties which have beset archaeologists and art historians over actual jewelry-have again provoked a 500-year “tug of war” between two schools of Homericists. Many commentators consider the Odyssey’s description of its hero’s golden brooch, depicting a hound attacking a fawn, to be a transplanted memory of Mycenaean jewelry design, while many others view it as an accurate reference to early seventh-century jewelry, and still others do not know which position to take.24
In addition to the water system and the artists’ quarters, the acropolis of Mycenae was also the site of the palace complex,, including an eastern villa, called the House of Columns (Fig. 1, L, N). Both, at least in their final forms, belong to the LH III B period, and both, along with most of the rest of the city, as well as several other palaces and towns throughout the rest of the Aegean, perished in flames towards the end of the LH III B period (i.e., ca. 1200 B.C.). While there was a brief re-occupation of the House of Columns before its ultimate abandonment, the palace itself apparently became an uninhibited heap of rubble for the next five centuries, until the Greeks of the seventh (possible late eighth) century constructed a temple on the site.(1)
The palace was the abode of the king, whom the Greeks of the eighth century, and probably earlier as well, (like contemporary peoples in Egypt and Asia) considered to be semi-divine;”(2) even though there was a separate religious complex in the lower city, presumably with its own priesthood, the king most probably still exercised much influence over the spiritual life of his subjects, performing sacred rites for the community as a whole inside the palace.(3) Since the palace grounds were the scene of religious activity in LH III B and from ca, 700 B.C. till the Hellenistic period, some recent authors have postulated that there was a continuous cult there, with the archaic temple and its Hellenistic replacement showing its more impressive manifestations at a later date.(4) As other have noted, however, if some 500 years actually transpired between the end of the palace and the erection of the first temple, with no evidence of cult activity during such a long interval, it is difficult to trace any continuity, and some even question whether the revival of religious activity on the site was a conscious one.(5)
The Greeks of ca. 700 B.C. erected temples over the ruins of LH III B palaces not only at Mycenae, but also at Athens, possibly at Prosymna,(6) and probably at Tiryns, a site which again generated a 500-year “tug of war” between two schools of archaeologists, making that case “problematical.”(7) They also constructed shrines and temples over 500-year-older shrines and secular buildings on Aegina, Calauria, Crete, Delos and Samos; at Mycenae itself, Epidaurus, Olympia, Perachora, Therapne, Isthmia, Brauron, Eleusis, Delphi, Pherai, Thermon, and Tegea.(8)
Once again, those who noted clear evidence of religious activity at most of those sites before 1200 B.C,, and again in the eighth-seventh centuries, postulated an uninterrupted cult, while those who were disturbed by the lack of evidence for religious activity—in many cases of any activity—at those sites during the intervening Dark Age, believe, instead, that after a “prolonged lapse” of centuries, the Greeks of the eighth-seventh centuries sought a “deliberate communion” with their predecessors of the Mycenaean Age.(9) Since the evidence for religious activity not only at each of those places, but throughout the Aegean, is so meager during the Dark Age,(10) both those who believe in continuity of cult places, and those who do not, find it difficult to explain why “the huge increase in [religious and architectural] activity” occurred so late, and why “it had suddenly become so pressing a need” to erect temples to the gods only after some 500 years had elapsed since the destruction and/or abandonment of the earlier structures immediately beneath them.(11)
At Mycenae itself, Archaic and Hellenistic levelling and building operations as well as severe erosion, and the less sophisticated excavation, recording and publication techniques of the early archaeologists, who first cleared the area, make it impossible to ascertain the exact relationship of the Archaic Temple to the LH III B. palace beneath it.(12) At other sites, such as Tiryns, Delos, and Prosymna, however, many scholars once believed—and some still do—that the temples of ca. 700 B.C. followed immediately after the destruction of LH III B buildings beneath them, but because 500 years ought to intervene, most authorities now reject that notion. (13)
Mycenae’s palace, like most other opulent habitations of LH III B Greece, had its interior walls covered with a smooth facing of stucco, which fresco painters decorated with brilliantly-colored designs and scenes. Although Egypt and Crete had had a tradition of mural paintings for centuries, the Mycenaeans, probably under Minoan influence, only began to adopt the art during the late Eighteenth Dynasty. Despite their late start, Vermeule judged the LH III A-B frescoes of Greece to be “perhaps the best of all Mycenaean arts. “(14) After the destruction of the mansions and palaces during the late LH III B-C period, it seems that the Greeks abandoned that art form, along with so many others;(15) once again, as in so many comparable cases, they seem to have revived the craft some 500 years later, when they painted frescoes on the walls of early seventh-century temples.(16) Further west, some authors have detected marked similarities between Minoan-Mycenaean frescoes and sculpture of the Late Bronze Age, and Etruscan funerary murals of the seventh-fifth centuries, again confronted by the now-familiar centuries-long gap between the two groups.(17)
Mycenae’s palace, like many other contemporary structures, was a multistoried building, with its walls formed by vertical and horizontal timbers, between which the builders packed rocks in a matrix of clay. As we noted above, the workmen covered the interior walls with a smooth layer of plaster, which painters decorated with beautiful frescoes. The outer faces of the palaces external walls presented a more difficult problem, since their wood and rubble composition was both aesthetically unattractive, and also too vulnerable to the elements. To remedy that situation, the Mycenaean builders decided simultaneously to mask, beautify, protect and strengthen the exposed exterior. Thus they quarried fairly large boulders of poros limestone, which they sawed into rectangular blocks, laying them in even courses, known 0.3 ashlar masonry, to present a solid architectural façade.
Although the Egyptians and Minoans had long been masters of monumental architecture in general and ashlar construction in particular, the Mycenaeans were again relatively late to adopt those skills, with the palace marking one of their last and finest accomplishments. Their earliest stone architecture of note consisted of the huge beehive tombs, at first constructed of rubble. With time they began to adorn them with ashlar façades and to line their entrances, which they had (rat through earthen embankments, with ashlar retaining walls. Finally they changed from sawn poros blocks to much harder conglomerate rock, which they hammered into blocks not only for the façades and entrance walls, but also for the construction of the tombs themselves. Similarly, they began to employ huge, rectangular blocks of hastier-dressed conglomerate, laid in even courses, to sheath some portions of their older fortification systems, and as the exterior for new, thick, rubble-core walls which they added to the earlier enceintes, such as the Lion Gate. It was only relatively late that the Mycenaeans began to erect large buildings of stone and to face them with ashlar masonry.(18)
Despite that late start, the relatively short period of use, and their rather restricted application of monumental construction techniques, the Mycenaean builders “reached a high state of development” and “proved their greatness.”(19) In fact, whereas Vrmeule felt the highest esteem for those who painted the frescoes on the interior walls of buildings like the palace, Desborough considered that “above all . . . the architects and stonemasons arouse one’s admiration. (20)
As was true in the case of the frescoes, the Greeks seen to have suddenly lost the skills to shape some blocks, to create ashlar walls, or to erect impressive constructions of any kind by the end of the Mycenaean period. “Such artist and craft were not to be seen again in Greece” during the obscure centuries following(21) the destructions of the Late Helladic palaces. During the Dark Age the Greeks seem to have made only snail structures of unbaked mud bridk, at most having a low foundation of unworked pebbles set in mud—in many ways reminiscent of the architecture 500 years earlier. With time they again began to erect a few stone walls, but those usually consisted of unworked rocks in a matrix of mud, at best having only their outer faces squared.(22)
Suddenly, ca. 700 B.C., the Greeks of Corinth and Isthmia, both less than twenty miles northeast of Mycenae, again erected large structures made of poros limestone, sawed into rectangular blocks, and laid in even courses:(23) “a striking token of the recovery of lost skills” employed half a millennium earlier,(24) Since both buildings are so early in the series of Greek temples, and follow 500 years of very meager architecture, one might expect them to be pretty “primitive”, but the excavators found both structures to be surprisingly sophisticated.(25) Since the construction of large-scale buildings of rectangular poros blocks laid in the ashlar technique seems to have ended 500 years earlier, and there seems to be no intermediate stage after the mudbrick and pebble walls, and before the erection of those two temples, it is difficult to show that they continued the Mycenaean tradition or evolved from the intervening, native Greek works. In the present overview of Greek architecture, those two temples “appeared suddenly”, as a “revolutionaryinnovation” by an ingenous, yet anonymous, Corinthian inventor.(26)
R.M. Cook and H. Thompson, noting that abrupt, unprecedented revival of ashlar masonry, the extreme proximity of Corinth and Isthmia to Mycenae, and the fact that some of Mycenae’s ashlar walls (e.g., at the Lion Gate) are still extant, have recently suggested that those walls at Mycenae might have inspired the seventh-century architects to return to the techniques employed, then lost, some 500 years earlier.(27) While that view has its attractions, there looms the question of whether untrained people merely gazing upon the outer faces of 500-year-old walls, constructed of rectangular stone blocks, could successfully quarry, trim, transport, lift and set new blocks in the old manner. The Mycenaean ashlar masonry only form a façade to older walls behind it, to solid rubble cores, or to earthen embankments. They did not have to bear the full weight of a roof and did not have to be perfectly plumb, since their solid backing supported them. The Mycenaean blocks were not always perfectly rectangular, and did not need to make precise joins, since only the outer face was of concern; the unseen inner faces might be left partly unworked or else splayed apart, leaving gaps to be filled with wood, rubble and clay.(28) The seventh-century blocks did not form a façade, but comprised the entire wall, only one stone thick, were perfectly rectangular, and had to join one another precisely on all contiguous faces; the walls had to be perfectly plumb to prevent collapse, and had to support heavy roofs. By ca. 700 B.C. the Greeks must have had a sizeable labor force of expert quarrymen, stone cutters, architects, engineers and masons, which seems to have arisen without any previous trace.
For all those reasons, some doubt that the seventh-century Greeks, merely-looking at 500-year-old walls, decided to copy them and immediately succeeded with no evidence of the kind of experimentation through trial and error that one would naturally expect if the Greeks taught themselves anew—and even surpassed the architectural accomplishnents of the predecessors whom they sought to emulate. Since the gap from 1200 to 700 B. C. is so huge, and one can trace no development in Greece itself leading to the achievements of the temple-builders, once again scholars postulate that some area outside of Greece kept the tradition alive for 500 years, and served both to reeducate the Greeks in the long-forgotten construction techniques of their ancestors (whom, it seems, they immediately surpassed), and to instruct them in the mathematics required to shape stone blocks of precise dimensions, with their right angles, and their parallel and perpendicular facesand to lay out and erect the structures.(29)
The Egyptians had a centuries-long tradition of monumental architecture formed by regular courses of hard stone, sawn into rectangular blocks. Therefore, as in the case of monumental stone sculpture, some art historians once more look to the valley of the Nile as the region “of paramount importance” to which Greek craftsmen travelled to see the great buildings, and also to relearn the techniques first-hand at the large-scale construction projects in that land.(30) The fact is, however, that the ashlar temples of Corinth and Isthmia of ca. 700-675 B.C. antedate the re-opening of Egypt to Greek craftsmen by several decades.(31) A third possibility is that the Greeks of ca. 700 B.C.. hit upon the idea of building monumental ashlar structures independent of any foreign or domestic models which might inspire them; and, untutored in the requisite techniques, quickly taught themselves how to create the blocks and erect the temples so successfully—admittedly the least compelling of the hypotheses.(32) Again, one is left to wonder how the Corinthians of ca. 700 B. C., came to recover the skills so suddenly and so perfectly, which the workmen and architects of Mycenae had employed and lost 500 years earlier, and less than twenty miles away.
The Design of the Palace
Approached through a large, open court, a covered porch, and a vestibule, there lies the large central room of the palace complex, called the “megaron,” in which the king of Mycenae held court and conducted the affairs of state. In the middle of its floor is a large circular hearth surrounded by four columns which supported the roof. Against the no-longer extant south wall the king probably had his(1) throne. As Vermeule has Justly observed, most people pay little attention to, and retain scant recollection of architectural details,(2) yet the LH palace designers obviously drew much inspiration from one another. Thus of the three best preserved LH III palaces at Tiryns, Pylos and Mycenae, the thronerooms all bear distinct similarities to each other, with those at Pylos and Mycenae almost identical in dimensions and arrangements.(3) Since all three are roughly contemporary, separated only by geography, one assumes that, like their counterparts of the classical period, the LH architects made the relatively short journeys to study older plans and/or to design new buildings.
A more difficult problem presents itself when we consider that the throne rooms of those thirteenth-century palaces also bear many strking resemblances to the decoration, construction techniques, and the arrangement of eighth-seventh century temples. Despite the intervening gap, numerous authorities have sought to establish a direct connection between the eighth-seventh century temples and the 500-year-older palaces.(4) Since a structure, which many scholars consider to be a seventh-century temple, rests directly above, copies the alignment and utilizes some of the features of the megaron of the palace at Tiryns, and since a number of archaeologists have felt that the later building succeeded the throne room immediately after its destruction, some writers therefore conjectured that the palace survived intact during those intervening centuries, and provided the required model for later builders.
There are problems with that notion, however. Some authorities regard the later structure as a dwelling of the twelfth century, rather than a temple of the seventh,(5) whose existence on the site is certain, but whose location would then be undetected. Even those who do identify the structure with the temple generally concede that it is highly unlikely that the palace stood intact during the intervening half millennium. If it did survive the end of the Mycenaean Age, it must have been uninhabited, since there is no evidence of any occupation of the entire upper city, upon which the palace stood, from the late thirteenth century until the late eighth; there is also strong circumstantial evidence that the palace itself perished ca. 1200 B.C. in the same wave of conflagrations which destroyed Mycenae, Pylos and other seats of Mycenaean power, and which razed the rest of the upper city of Tiryns itself.(6)
With the case for continuity at Tiryns “problematical”,(7) some authors have speculated that LH palaces may have survived intact for centuries in some other part of the Mycenaean world, which escaped the fate of the Peloponnesian centers. They therefore look to Athens and the Ionian coast of Turkey, since neither area fell victim to Dorian immigrants, whom many authorities have, blamed for the destruction of Mycenaean civilization; and both became centers of refuge for Mycenaean Greeks, including artists, craftsmen and royal families, who fled their afflicted homelands. In such areas, under such circumstances, one would reasonably expect the old way of life, with its characteristic art, architecture, customs and institutions (such as palaces), to continue without the interruption that characterizes the Peloponnese.
Greek tradition maintained that the colonization of Ionia was a result of the Dorian invasion, occurring in some cases immediately, or, at most, a couple of generations thereafter;(8) it further ascribed the foundations of the Ionian settlements to princes who were, no doubt, accustomed to dwelling in palaces. During the late Archaic Period Ionia was a thriving center of science, philosophy and literature, which played a large part in inaugurating the classical age of Greece. Furthermore, that region has the strongest claim for the honor of producing Homer, and presumbaly for keeping alive the memory of Mycenaean civilization which he chronicled. Since his epics contain detailed descriptions of LH palaces, which have struck numerous scholars as extremely accurate in their intimate knowledge of Mycenaean architecture (a matter to which we shall presently turn),(9) and since fourth century Ionian architects constructed buildings reminiscent of LH III palaces, it seemed, for all these reasons, quite possible that such edifices survived in Ionia.(10)
The facts are, however, that there is very little archaeological evidence for Greek settlement of that region prior to the eighth century—a date in keeping with some literary accounts—(11) and Ionia seems to have been a cultural backwater prior to its seemingly sudden bloom during the seventh century.(12) It has produced no evidence of palaces or of large buildings of any kind during the Mycenaean period or the subsequent Dark Age—only small, dingy, single storey, single-room dwellings made of pebbles, mud-brick, poles and thatch, whose very attribution to Greeks, rather than native Anatolians, one can question. (13)
Discouraged by the picture from Ionia, but still inclined toward architectural continutiy, some scholars have more recently looked to Athens,(14) which also escaped the Dorian onslaught and immediately received numerous Mycenaean refugees, including artisans and royal families. Unlike Ionia, Athens had been a sizeable center of Mycenaean civilization, and had an LH III palace on its own acropolis. Unlike the other LH city states of the Peloponnese, there is no evidence that Athens’ palace, or any part of the city, caught fire or fell victim to barbarians. Also, unlike practically every other contemporary site, there is ample proof of the continuous occupation of the city throughout the Dark Age. There is a native tradition that kings (who permanently dwelled in a apalce) governed the city long after the Dorians conquered the other Mycenaean centers, and apparently as late as the eighth or early seventh century.(15) Finally, we know that the Athenians, like the people of Mycenae and Tiryns, erected an archaic temple over the LH III palace—a circumstance which conforms to the Homeric references to one structure replacing its predecessor.(16) Here, at least, one would expect the retention of Mycenaean civilization, whatever befell Athens’ less fortunate neighbors.
What constantly surprises and perplexes archaeologists is that Athens, the one place where one should find continuity of culture is the very place which, without any obvious reason, changed most drastically, abandoning its Mycenaean characteristics more quickly and more completely than every other region. While the old ways lingered on in the severely struck Peloponnese., Athens suddenly and inexplicably adopted a material culture and customs which scarcely resemble their immediate predecessors in Athens or their contemporary counterparts elsewhere in Greece,(17) but which in art, architecture, dress, burial customs, standard of living, etc., seen more closely akin to antecedents now placed 500 years earlier. Vermeule once stated that “without being burned, Athens faded away exactly like ore obviously destroyed sites; neither architecture nor art continued, only people.”(18) More recently, H. Robertson likewise concluded that by the end of the Mycenaean Age “in Greece the greatest cities were all devastated; and even in places which, like Athens escaped the destruction, there is no monuiasntal building, and the tradition of the major arts—architecture, sculpture, painting—dies out. This seems to be absolutely true” throughout the Greek world.(19)
The tradition of a continuous kingship until the period of temple construction conflicts with an equally firm account that it died out towards the end of the Mycenaean Age, several centuries earlier—the two seemingly contradictory accounts, as we noted for Olympia, becoming unsatisfactorily conflated.(20) The case for continuous occupation of the palace until its replacement by the archaic temple is almost precisely like that for Tiryns. Although people have inhabited Athens without any major interruption for the past 5,000 years, residing on the acropolis itself throughout early prehistory, and establishing a sizeable settlement thereon during the Mycenaean Period; and despite the fact that the settlement was neither invaded nor destroyed, its residents apparently deserted the entire upper city and the end of the Bronze Age.(21)
That abandonment, not only poses a difficulty for those wishing to extend the duration of the palace’s use, but raises even greater questions. Since one can find traces of every other period of human activity on the Acropolis from the Neolithic Age until today; since, by its very nature, it was well fortified—the more so when, during the Mycenaean Period, the Athenians ringed the summit with massive stone wall which, in some areas, still stands today;(22) and since scholars generally portray the Dark Age as a period of anxiety and fear, one must wonder why it was precisely then that the people abandoned their bastion and moved to a “relatively unprotected” low-lying area “where there had been no previous Mycenaean buildings.” “Astonishingly”, whereas the Athenians seem to have forsaken their former stronghold, they followed the same practice as the Dark Age folk at Tiryns and Mycenae, using their deserted settlement solely as a place to inter a few of their dead.(23) As was true of the graves inside Mycenae’s citadel, one might consider it “extremely unlikely” that people, who did not live on the acropolis, whould scale it only to use it for burials,(24) especially since they then had a cemetery nearer their homes and in much softer ground.(25) Again, one should note that they used the same type of cist tombs on the acropolis as those in the same general area, but supposedly dug 500 years earlier.(26) Because of all those considerations, scholars generally conclude that even though Athens was not invaded or destroyed, its palace still ceased to be occupied after the end of the Bronze Age.(27) Neither is there any evidence that a new palace or mansion replaced the old palace, nor, in fact, that the Athenians erected any large-scale structures after the twelfth century and before the late seventh.(28)
Even if Tiryns’ palace miraculously escaped the blaze that, incinerated the rest of its citadel, and that palace and/or the one at Athena stood intact, though abandoned, after the end of the Mycenaean period, and even if other palaces still remain to be found at a later date (perhaps in Ionia), their very style of construction with rather thin walls, comprised of tremendous amounts of wood, snail stones and clay, would render them, in the words of one author, “an insurance company’s nightmare.”(29) The frequent seismic shocks of the region, termites, rot, crumbling clay, inclement seasons or some subsequent fire, singly or in any combination, would probably have reduced them to heaps of debris long before five centuries would have transpired.(30) Since eighth-seventh century temples still had a ground plan and other artistic and architectural details similar to those of the throne-rooms of Mycenaean palaces, which a few of those temples definitely overlay at Tiryns (?), Mycenae and Athens, some scholars decided that there must be a direct relationship, They have suggested that if the later architects did not see the palaces while they still remained intact, then they probably returned to the sites where the palaces had stood five centuries earlier and, poking through the piles of debris (cement-hard in many cases), discerned the older arrangement and details, liked them, and decided to reproduce them.(31) The fact is, however, that the later Greek architects “revived” the LH III arrangement before they erected temples over the Mycenaean palaces—even before people seem to have returned to the sites of those palaces—, and constructed their first monumental temples at places that had no palaces.(32)
Some suggest that the type may have persited during the intervening period in monumental, rectilinear buildings of stone, which have so far eluded discovery. but most scholars reject that notion, because the examples of Dark Age architecture, which we do know, are not similar to the structures of either the thirteenth century or the eighth, but rather look back to buildings 500 years earlier still.(33) As they do with other phenomena which seem to show 500-year “revivals,” some authors have suggested that the type did survive, but only in wood, which has long since vanished.(34) Such hypothetical structures should nevertheless have left at least :some trace, even if only of their contents (e.g., pottery), and their post holes and wall trenches, but none has come to light. Additionally, in a land like Greece where massive rock formations, field stones and clay are far more common than suitable trees, the Greeks have always preferred to use those substances—which do leave traces—to the scarcer commodity; but, even if they did erect perishable buildings, it was their practice to make at least the foundation of stone to support the wall, and to safeguard against rot and erosion. The lack of evidence of large-scale aegaron-shaped structures to span the centuries between the thirteenth-century palaces and the eighth-century temples thus seems significant.(35) Faced with those difficulties, some authorities have expressed an opinion that, by the time the canonical megaron returned to Greek architecture in the eighth-century temples, their builders must have lost all recollection of the Mycenaean palace. Nevertheless, the similar arrangement troubled them.(36)
Since most authorities now consider it highly unlikely that an LH III palace survived intact to inspire eighth-century builders; since those builders reproduced the megaron plan before they returned even to the ruins of the earlier palaces; and since one can trace no tradition of similar structures to bridge the gap—yet the eighth-century temples still resemble LH III throne rooms—one is left with two options. The first is to view the similarities as superficial or insignificant or coincidental. Experts, however, seem unanimous in considering the correspondences very close in many details, so that, in whatever way they try to explain them, they find them difficult, if not impossible, to attribute to mere chance.(37) Finally, some who view all the other alternatives as unproveable, improbable or impossible, have proposed another explanation. As in the case of the built tombs of the Mycenaean Age and their nearly identical, but 500-year-later, counterparts of the ninth-seventh centuries (p. 13 above), they have suggested that Greek temples simply evolved from similar origins as, and in the same manner as, Mycenaean palaces, following a parallel development, separated by a 500-year gap, which precludes a conscious revival or even a direct survival of form.(38) But even proponents of that notion admit that it is intrinsically “less satisfying” than the other theories which they reject.(39)
For some reason(s) not fully understood, not universally accepted and not especially satisfying even to their proponents, the eighty-seventh century inhabitant of Mycenae and most of the Greek world decided to erect temples over the heaps of rubble of bygone palaces and religious centers, returned to fresco painting, somehow regained the lost skills of stone cutting, engineering, solid geometry and ashlar masonry, and copied the architectural details of LH III thronerooms—all after a 500-year period during which their predecessors made no similar attempts.
Travelling only a short distance southeast of Mycenae we arrive at another Late Helladic center, Tiryns.
Legend connected the Bronze Age hero Herakles with the site, while its fortifications, constructed of tremendous stones, were attributed to the mythical giants, the one-eyed Cyclopes. Tiryns, under the leadership of Odysseus’ friend Diomedes, sent a contingent of men and ships to help regain Helen from the Trojans.
Excavation of the site began in 1884, when Schliemann, the first to excavate at Mycenae, turned his attention to Tiryns. The German Archaeological Institute in a number of prolonged campaigns has laid bare much more of the site and continues the work even today.
Before reaching Tiryns’ palace, one must first pass through two monumental gate structures (propylaea) (Fig. below: 11 and 12), built in the Late Helladic period. They, along with the entire (?) citadel, were destroyed in a violent conflagration dated ca. 1200 B.C. For centuries thereafter there is no evidence for monumental architecture in Greece, and monumental propylaea were not to re-appear until the archaic period. When propylaea do “return,” however, at the Aphaia temple on the island of Aegina and on the Athenian acropolis, they are said to copy the plan of the Tiryns gates. Some scholars are quite struck by the re-emergence of a model extinct for 700 years.1 How could the later Greeks have discerned the plan of the Tiryns gates if they had been buried beneath rubble for those 700 years, in fact, until Schliemann’s excavations?
After passing through the second propylon at Tiryns, then crossing a courtyard (Fig. above: 13), one reaches the palace (Fig. above: 14). “Along one side of the porch of the large megaron [the throne room and perhaps cult center of the palace] at Tiryns was found a curious series of seven interlocking blocks of alabaster . . . inlaid with blue glass paste” forming “two elongated half-rosettes with inner patterns.” The blocks’ “resemblance to Doric triglyphs and metopes is very striking”.2 The bench formed by these blocks is “strikingly close to the triglyph and metope pattern of the later Doric order of architecture”.3
One source sees the Doric triglyph altars as “a direct descendant” of this ritual stone bench at Tiryns,4 while another author has the entire Doric order, including triglyph and metope friezes, “invented” “in about the middle of the seventh century” B.C.5
If the Doric altars are “a direct descendant,” “how is it that we have no trace of the motif during the Dark Ages?”.6 Were such bench-altars made continuously between 1200 and 600 but only in perishable material, or did people return to Tiryns 500-600 years after it was destroyed, see, use, and then decide to copy the stone bench of the palace?7
If there is no direct descent, no copying of an extinct model, if the idea was invented afresh in the 7th century, how does one explain the “very striking” similarity of 7th-century altars to a 13th-century bench? On the other hand, how does one explain a decorative device with no functional nature or origin,8 which, after its re-invention, “remained without variation for over four centuries” in altars and temple architecture? This fact, “it is argued, points to at least as long a period of development before its appearance in stone at the end of the seventh century”.9 Yet it is precisely the period before its appearance in stone, some 600 years, for which “there is at present no evidence to show that the Doric frieze was derived from this ancient scheme” as found at Tiryns.
“It is not impossible that the two forms have some real historical connexion”.10 While not impossible, if 600 years really separate the two forms, it is highly improbable. If 600 years did not transpire, as is the premise of the revised chronology, the similarity of the friezes is only natural and ceases to be “very striking.”
It has been claimed that the Tiryns bench served as the model for triglyph altars. For the use of the triglyph and metope scheme on temples, a number of Bronze Age buildings and depictions of buildings with the triglyph and rosette frieze higher up are cited as prototypes.11 Among these structures is the Treasury of Atreus at Mycenae. The position of the triglyph scheme above the columns (Fig. 4) is particularly notable, as this arrangement of Doric-like frieze surmounting Doric-like columns is set centuries before the Doric order was “invented” in the 7th century. While this might remind one somewhat of a Doric temple facade, the chronological gap is hard to explain.
We now come to a very thorny problem at Tiryns. The upper town was gutted by a fire dated ca. 1200 B.C. Did the palace on the citadel miraculously escape the conflagration?
Many archaeologists have noted and been struck by the fact that the ground plan of a Mycenaean palace (especially the throne room or “megaron” ) is essentially the same as that for 8th-century and later temples. “How, for example, are we to explain the typical plan of the classical temple-with the two columns of the porch in line with the end walls and with the main shrine, or naos, and its central statue base—except as a carryover of the plan of the Mycenaean megaron?”.12
This could be explained very easily if there was continuity between the buildings of the 13th century and those of the 8th or 7th, but by the accepted scheme there is none. Immediately after the expiration of the Mycenaean period the “new” architecture displays an “essential discontinuity with Mycenaean architecture”.13 The change was quite abrupt.14 Now, rather than monumental, rectilinear structures, we find oval-shaped huts and apsidal buildings (i.e., with one end rounded). The latter shape, however, is not new. Just as the 8th-century temple seems to be a 500-year throw-back to Mycenaean palaces, the “post-Mycenaean” apsidal house seems to be a 500-year throwback to Middle Helladic buildings.15
When the 8th-7th-century temples were built, the 13th-century palace plans must have been long forgotten,16 unless some Mycenaean palace managed to survive intact until that time, or unless a ruined palace was cleared and its ground plan was then studied and copied. It is in the context of these two possibilities that Tiryns’ palace becomes so important for those desiring to connect 13th-century palaces with 8th-7th-century temples.17
The palace of Tiryns has special significance for the Homericists as well. Now that Homer is assigned to the late 8th century while the destruction of the Mycenaean palaces is put in the late 13th, could Homer have been influenced by Bronze Age palaces when he describes them in his Odyssey” .
Since Homer is removed by 500 years from the palaces he described, “Mycenaean monuments . . . will thus play no role” in any attempt to study the architecture that Homer actually knew.18 So says one archaeologist.
Other archaeologists and Homericists disagree. They believe that Homer must have been familiar with at least one Mycenaean palace.19 “No better succinct description could be given of the restored palace of Tiryns” than is found in Homer’s Odyssey. “Buildings combining these characteristics [enumerated by Homer] are known in Greece at one period and one only, that known as Late
Helladic III, and that is the period within which the action of the Odyssey is supposed to fall. Such a degree of coincidence can hardly be fortuitous, and it is now generally agreed that some connexion, however enigmatic, exists between the house of Odysseus and the Late Mycenaean palace.”
“The extent to which the action of the Odyssey can be adapted to the stage of Tiryns must not, however, blind us to the extreme difficulty of accounting for the knowledge which the poet apparently possessed of architecture of the LH III type”.20 “How was the knowledge of the LH III type of palace preserved?”.21
How can the palace at Tiryns help the Homeric archaeologists with their “extreme difficulty” of accounting for 13th-century details known so intimately by an 8th-century poet? How does it make the connection less “enigmatic”? How can it help the student of Greek architecture with his equally difficult problem of bridging the 500 years between Mycenaean Age palaces and 8th-century temples?
On the acropolis of Tiryns a large deposit of 8th-5th-century pottery and cult objects and 7th-century architectural fragments was unearthed.22 It was thus reasonable to assume that an 8th or 7th-century temple existed on the citadel. A suitable spot, in fact the only possible spot, was chosen.
Above the megaron of the Mycenaean palace lay the walls of a somewhat smaller and less well-built structure, identified as the Greek temple. Since the temple seemed to have been built almost immediately after the palace perished in flames, and the builders were familiar with the palatial ground plan, it was decided that the palace miraculously escaped the conflagration of 1200 B.C., and continued to stand until ca. 750 B.C. when it perished to a second fire on the citadel. Above its ruins the temple was then erected.
It was not only difficult for the excavators to imagine that the palace stood nearly half a millennium without alteration, but astonishing (“erstaunlich” ) to think that the Mycenaean elements of the palace (architectural, artistic, and stratigraphical) remained unchanged and visible to people 500 years later. Nevertheless, they felt compelled to accept this view, since the temple obviously followed immediately after the fire that razed the palace.23
If the palace of Tiryns stood 500 years longer than the other Bronze Age palaces, if it survived the fire of 1200 B.C. on the citadel and remained visible to 8th-century Greeks, then the architectural and Homeric problems are solved. The 8th-century temple builders and Homer were familiar with a 13th-century palace.
The conclusions of the excavators were challenged by Carl Blegen. He agreed that immediately after the palace burned down, the smaller structure was built by men intimately familiar with the palace when it stood;24 but there was only one fire, ca. 1200, and it destroyed the palace with the rest of the citadel. Thus, to him, the smaller megaron-structure represents the remains of a 12th-century building, not a 7th-century temple. In support of his contention was the vast quantity of Mycenaean pottery around the site. He too found it difficult and astonishing to believe that the palace survived intact an extra 500 years, so he rejected the notion. Others also reject it as impossible, since the wooden beams within the walls would have rotted away long before.25 While this interpretation explains away many 500-year difficulties, it leaves the problem of the 8th-7th-century votive deposits and 7th-century architectural fragments. If this building, which followed immediately after the fire that destroyed the palace, belonged to the 12th century, where was the 7th-century temple?
If the palace did not stand an extra 500 years, how can it help with the problem of the 8th-century temples copying Mycenaean palaces and with Homer’s knowledge?
A third solution is to have the palace destroyed in the great fire of 1200 B.C., have the site abandoned, then rediscovered and cleared in the 8th or 7th century. Those clearing the debris would see the ground plan of the destroyed palace, thus pleasing the Homericists and architecture students. A temple could then be erected on that spot after a lapse of ca. 500 years. While this view eliminates many problems and explains much of the evidence, it neglects one very important item. Both of the other schools of thought regarded it as a fact that the smaller structure was built immediately after the palace burned-500 years did not elapse between the destruction of the palace and the construction of its successor.
But these are stratigraphical problems. Perhaps the architectural form of the later structure will settle the dispute over its date—12th century or 7th. Here again we find a difficulty. Its ground plan, a rectangular building with a single row of interior columns, can be found in a few structures of the 14th-12th centuries or in a long list of 8th-6th-century buildings. No intermediate examples seem to exist to connect these two groups.26 To which group should we assign it?
What should one do? For the sake of helping the Homericists and students of architecture, does one presume that the palace stood intact an extra 500 years? Does one date the later structure to the 12th century, overlook the 8th-5th-cetury finds and see no temple here at all, thus destroying the one hope of the Homericists and architectural historians? As a compromise, does one have a 500-year-later rebuilding on an ancient site, partially pleasing, but partially displeasing both groups? This question has plagued Aegean scholars for over 50 years, has never been satisfactorily answered, and as long as 500 “ghost years” exist, it will remain “problematical”27 and defy explanation. 28
Even the objects from the temple cult, while of certain date, are “problematical.” Among these were terracotta figurines and grotesque masks of the 7th century B.C. Like so many other 7th-century votive terracottas, they were produced on the wheel “in the old technique” the Mycenaeans had used 500 years earlier.29 Such votives “kept reappearing spontaneously in widely separated parts of the country without any direct continuity that can be traced among the votive statuettes themselves. Something much more than an archaeological zeal on the part of the faithful needs to be invoked to explain this!” If we reject continuity, reject imitation of extinct models, and also reject the hypothesis that the type was preserved for centuries only in perishables now lost to us,30 what is left for us?
At Tiryns we have run into 500-700-year problems with triglyphs, with propylaea, with Homer and 8th-century temple plans, with the architecture and archaeology of the palace, and with the temple votives.
The fire that destroyed the acropolis of Tiryns is of approximately the same date as the great fire that destroyed much of Mycenae, including its palace. If we accept the hypothesis that Tiryns’ palace was destroyed then, not 500 years later (i.e., that the palaces of Mycenae and Tiryns burned down at about the same time), what was that time? We have seen arguments for making it the 8th or 7th century B.C. We have also seen problems that crop up if we refuse to bring down the date that far.
Now let us travel across the Aegean Sea, and, like the “13th-century” kings of Mycenae, Pylos, and Tiryns, we will arrive at Troy.
The Trojan War was probably the single most significant event of the Mycenaean Age. The tale, immortalized in Homer’s epics, is familiar to us moderns even millennia later. For the sake of the beautiful Helen, and to avenge her husband’s indignation at her kidnapping, the Late Bronze Age Greeks mounted a massive campaign. Approximately 1200 troop-carrying vessels1 were launched, and a war raged around the besieged city of Troy for 10 years, until the strategem of the wooden horse gave the Greeks access to the citadel. Once inside the city, they utterly destroyed it, slaughtering many inhabitants and enslaving all survivors who did not flee. This, at least, is the mythical account. When was that war fought?
The canonical Greek calculation was 1193/2-1184/3 B.C. This number was arrived at by the 3rd-century B.C. chronographer, Eratosthenes of Alexandria, who apparently relied on the calculations of Ctesias and on Manetho’s Egyptian king-lists. Ctesias, a late 5th-century author, is today viewed as “an amusing liar”2 and “an ancient red herring”.3 Manetho’s lists are the basis for modern calculations for Egyptian chronology. They are convincingly challenged by Velikovsky.4
The archaeologists also have a date for that war, ranging sometime between ca. 1260 and 1200 B.C.5 This date is assigned to a conflagration layer (stratum Vila) at the site of Hissarlik in Northwestern Turkey, which, in the excavator’s opinion, marks the Greek destruction of Troy. The date depends on the time of the Mycenaean pottery found in this layer. That in turn is based solely on Egyptian chronology.6 Thus, if the Egyptian scheme is off, both the Greek calculations and the archaeological date must be changed.
It is a simple task to show that the Greek calculations are of no worth and that the Greeks themselves made the Trojan War contemporaneous with many events that we now know to be of the 8th century B.C. Elsewhere I will show this in some detail. Only the archaeological problems will here concern us.
It is conceded that no artistic representations of any event connected with the Trojan War appear before the 8th century B.C.7 We have already seen that cults to the Greek leaders of that war do not seem to have sprung up until then. Homer is invoked to explain both these and many other phenomena, but Homer was almost universally regarded by the ancients as composing his epics very shortly after Troy’s fall.8 In our attempt to resolve this dilemma, we shall examine the archaeological findings from Hissarlik to see why they were assigned an early date, and whether the stratigraphy and other archaeological considerations support a 13th-century date for the great war. The Homeric problem and mythical matters relating to the war will await discussion until another time.
Just as at Mycenae and Tiryns, the first large-scale excavation of the site was undertaken by Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870’s-1890. His collaborator, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, continued the work after Schliemann’s death in 1890. From 1932-1938, yearly excavation of the site was undertaken by an expedition from the University of Cincinnati. Their findings, published in final form in the 1950’s, provide the principal scientific data about the site.
Nine major habitation levels, ranging from the Early Bronze Age (stratum 1) to Roman times (stratum IX) were distinguished, of which only levels VI-VIII will concern us.
As was pointed out in my earlier paper, the 8th-century Phrygians, who, according to Homer, were allies of Troy during its siege, copied the architectural style of the fortifications of Troy VI when they built their great gate at Gordion. Since the end of Troy VI is put at ca. 1300 B.C., its walls must have been buried by 500 years of debris, making them invisible in the 8th century. The excavator of Gordion, faced with this 500-year problem and no intermediate examples, still saw close similarities and was hard pressed to explain them.9 A house of Troy VI, destroyed in the great earthquake that leveled the site, assigned to ca. 1300 B.C., is of the same type as buildings beginning in the 8th century B.C. after a supposed break of centuries during which no similar houses are known. 10 The end of the sixth layer of Troy is dated by the presence of Mycenaean pottery, which, in turn, receives its place in time from Egyptian chronology.
Between the 7th and 8th strata of Hissarlik, it is said that 400 years transpired, during which the site was “a ghost-town in the gloom of the Dark Ages of the ancient world.” “There is nothing at Troy to fill this huge lacuna. For 2000 years men had left traces of their living there; some chapters in the story were brief and obscure, but there was never yet a chapter left wholly blank. Now at last there is silence, profound and prolonged for 400 years; we are asked, surely not in vain, to believe that Troy lay ‘virtually unoccupied’ for this long period of time”.11
Why are we asked to believe this? The eighth settlement began ca. 700 B.C. The seventh, however, contained Mycenaean pottery, which, of necessity, should be centuries earlier. At a tell such as Hissarlik one would expect a layer of wash and/or humus to mark this 400-year abandonment.12 There is none.
Recalling the legend of Troy, we would hardly object to an abandonment after the Greek sack of that city; it would be only natural, and is, in fact, attested in ancient sources.13 But the settlement said to mark the Trojan War is VIIa, and we are here dealing with the second sub-stratum above this, VII b2.14
Why should people who tenaciously remained on the site for 2000 years, despite fires, earthquakes and all-out war, abandon the town now? Was there another sack of the city, this time more devastating than the earlier destruction by the Greeks, yet, unlike its predecessor, lost forever to human memory?15
Let us examine this 400-year gap in some detail. Was the end of settlement VII b2 marked by a destruction layer so intense that abandonment could be rationalized? Reading the official publication of the most recent excavation, we find that it was not known what caused the end of stratum VII b2.16
If there is no sterile layer marking the desertion and no obvious cause for such action, we are certainly justified in asking if the site really was abandoned. If level VIII immediately overlay level VII, why could it not have begun immediately after the end of VII? The answer is that Troy VIII began in the early 7th century B.C. while Troy VI and VII contained Mycenaean pottery. Between VII and VIII “some four centuries must have elapsed” (emphasis added).17
If, by redating Egyptian chronology, we reduce the age of Mycenaean pottery by centuries, could Troy VIII have followed immediately after Troy VII without any gap?
Surprisingly, perhaps, for those accepting the old chronology, such a revision fits the circumstances of the two layers. In 1893 Dörpfeld, the great German excavator of Troy, more interested in stratigraphy and architecture than in pottery, treated Troy VII and VIII as a single unit, and, in some cases, could not differentiate between the two phases.18 With the results of over 20 years of excavations before him and an additional 8 years to reflect on matters, he still had Troy VIII follow immediately after Troy VII, and, at times, noted the presence in Troy VII of the 7th-century pottery characteristic of Troy VIII.19
Dörpfeld assigned the task of analyzing the pottery from all levels of the site to Hubert Schmidt. Schmidt noted obvious Greek wares in level VIII, marking a Greek colonization, while the material from layer VII seemed to represent a different culture. He nevertheless placed VIII immediately after VII. Noting Mycenaean imports in Troy VII, he still put this layer at ca. 1000-700 B.C., rather than 500 years earlier.20
These were early excavators and could be forgiven for their opinions as they did not know any better. Egyptian chronology had not yet established firm absolute dates for Mycenaean pottery.21 What did the modern excavators find?
After completing seven seasons of excavation at Troy, Carl Blegen, the chief archaeologist of the Cincinnati expedition of the 1930’s, saw no break between layers VII and VIII.22 After several more years had elapsed, allowing additional time to reflect on the dig, to study the pottery more carefully, and especially after Mycenaean pottery dates became more firmly entrenched,23 it was realized that a gap of centuries should exist between the two layers. Nevertheless, even in their official publication, the excavators were so impressed by certain facts relating to the mound itself that they left open the possibility that there was no gap.24 By the accepted chronology there had to be a lacuna, as they acknowledged, but they hesitated on this point. Their reasons are interesting.
The new excavations showed that the locally-made pottery of Troy VIII was “obviously akin” to that of Troy VII.25 The local grey ware pots of Troy VII (i.e., of the Mycenaean Age) were looked upon as the “direct ancestors” of the local ware not only of Troy VIII but also of 7th-6th-century Northwestern Turkey and the off-shore island of Lesbos as well.26 With a 400-year gap in the evidence, how can one connect this widespread 7th-6th-century ware with that of the Mycenaean Age?
At the very time that there was supposed to be a 400-year abandonment of Hissarlik, one house seemed to show continuity between the end of layer VII and the time of VIII, as if no one had left and only a few years had passed.27
In several deposits of Troy VIII there were sherds from Troy VII.28 There was finally, however, a more serious problem. Although the excavators were meticulous in their method of digging stratified layers and labelling and recording all finds and their provenience,29 in sub-strata of Troy VII that seemed to be undisturbed, sherds were found of the imported Greek pottery of the early 7th century.30 “The only explanation we can find is to suppose that, in spite of our efforts to isolate and certify the deposits we examined, contamination had somehow been effected and brought about the intrusion of the later wares into strata of Troy VII b”.31 The discovery of these 7th-century sherds “in several areas in the strata of Troy VII b1” stratified below layer VII b2, which is supposed to represent the 12th century, “presents a perplexing and still unexplained problem”.32
After all the digging by Schliemann, Dörpfeld, and Blegen at Hissarlik, only one sherd has turned up which could conceivably fall within the 400-year gap postulated for the site. Stratigraphically, however, it was not found where it should have been. A rim fragment from a “Protogeometric” cup was found “with sherds of Phase VII b I, but probably out of context.” The reason it was probably out of context is that it was covered over by “two successive buildings of Phase VII b2”33 which of necessity belong to the 12th century B.C. The sherd beneath those two buildings is seen as part of a body of material found from Palestine to Macedonia34 which, beginning perhaps ca. 900 B.C., was in vogue until the 8th or 7th century B.C.35 It is stratigraphically impossible to have a 7th, 8th, or even 9th-century B.C. item below the floor of a 12th-century B.C. building, unless contamination occurred. “There was apparently no contamination from disturbance or later intrusions,” however.36
In time these “perplexing and still unexplained” problems were brushed aside, and reservations about a 400-year gap were abandoned, because, by the accepted chronology, that gap had to exist. All the work of the excavators, their failure, to detect any physical sign of abandonment, their belief that Troy VII ended immediately before Troy VIII began (i.e., sometime around 700 B.C.), their detection of continuity of culture, their discovery of a house that seemed to span the ghost years, their finds of “12th-century” pottery just beneath or mixed in with 7th-century strata, their finds of 7th-century pottery in and sometimes under “12th-century” layers which seemed undisturbed (a situation quite similar to but more disturbing than what we saw for the stratified section just inside Mycenae’s Lion Gate), the opinions they held, the problems that upset them-all became secondary to making the evidence fit the accepted chronology. Archaeological facts were forced to fit a historical theory.
Then a new theory was needed. If there was indeed a 400-year gap, something must have caused it. The cause for the end of layer VII b2 was unknown when no gap was seen,37 but when the gap became necessary, it was decided that Troy VII b2 must have perished by fire and sword more terrible in their effect than the Trojan War which ended Troy Vila. Why else would people too stubborn to leave despite 2000 years of great hardships abandon their site now?
Only revision of the Egypto-Mycenaean dates can explain the “still unexplained” problems at Hissarlik. Only then do they cease to be “perplexing.”
Near the modern town of Pylos in Messenia in the southwestern Peloponnesus, a Mycenaean palace and town, taken to be the ancient Pylos of which Homer sang, were uncovered. According to legend, Nestor, its aged king, fought in the Trojan War. Carl W. Blegen, the excavator of both Troy and Pylos, assigned absolute dates to a burned layer at the site of Hissarlik in Northwestern Turkey, which he assumed to represent the Greek destruction of King Priam’s Troy, and to the Palace of Nestor, also destroyed by fire. The absolute dates were furnished by Mycenaean pottery in and under both destructions. Blegen found Mycenaean pottery in the destruction layer of Pylos obviously representing “the ceramic shapes and styles that were in normal current use on the very day the palace was set afire and destroyed”.1 “The collection as a whole reflects chiefly the latest stage in the style of Mycenaean III B” but there were quite a few pieces belonging to the III C period.2 Arne Furumark set the transition from the one style to the other at ca. 1230 B.C., about the time of the death of Pharaoh Ramses II.3 Blegen revised this downward by about 30 years, setting the date of Pylos’ destruction at ca. 1200 B.C.4
In the debris of the palace he also found a great deal of pottery which was dated not by Egyptian criteria but on the internal evidence from Greece itself. This ware he ascribed to ca. 600 B.C.5 Blegen saw that after the fire ”the site was obviously abandoned and thenceforth left deserted.”6 To account for the mass of later pottery he acknowledged that ca. 600 B.C. “there was fairly widespread activity on the site”.7
This later pottery appeared in many rooms of the palace, often, in fact, in the same layer as the pottery dated 600 years older8 so that the earlier sherds must have percolated up. In one case the later sherds were found together with the earlier ones in a layer ”which rested on the stucco pavement of the court” and “unquestionably represents the latest phase of occupation of the palace.” Since, by the accepted chronology, they are six centuries too young to have been in use “on the very day the palace was set afire and destroyed” (see note 1 above), they “must somehow have penetrated from above”9 through however much dirt settled and vegetation grew over 600 years, then slipping through ”a compact layer of smallish stones closely packed in blackish earth”10 .15 - .25 m. thick, they finally forced their way into a .03 -.10 m. thick “clayey deposit” (see note 9 above), for how else could they have gotten there?
Two sets of pottery are involved here: a group dating to the 7th century on internal grounds, and a group dating to the 13th century on external grounds - the time of Ramses II of Egypt, with whose scarabs Mycenaean III B and C pottery is found.11 Though the two groups were found together in the same strata, because of the supposed passage of 600 years, the “late Geometric” pottery was branded part of “an intrusive deposit”12 and the Mycenaean was used as a dating criterion for the fire. Velikovsky has postulated that Ramses II reigned ca. 600 B.C., not in the 13th century B.C.13 This would solve a problem at Pylos. No pottery percolated. None “penetrated from above.” The two styles were contemporaneous. Both were used in the palace before the fire and buried by the debris.
We now leave Asia Minor’s northwest coast and travel to the area where its south coast meets northern Syria, to Ugarit and Alalakh.
In the published volume of Ages in Chaos, Velikovsky made a strong case for challenging Ugarit’s conventional dates.1 He pointed out many 500-year problems in the literary texts uncovered at the site, and shows the difficulty relating to vaulted Cypriote tombs constructed in the style of those from Ugarit but set 500 years later. For those who have not read or were not already convinced by the material presented by Velikovsky for Ras Shamra-Ugarit, perhaps a couple of additional problems will suffice.
Let us again look at the vaulted tombs of Cyprus. Velikovsky has already mentioned some of these, especially the 7th-century example from Trachonas. The island of Cyprus has an “astonishing” number of these tombs2 which divide neatly into two series: those assigned to 1550-1200 B.C., and those beginning in 950 B.C. And continuing for some time.3 The first group of vaulted tombs (at Enkomi) corresponds closely in date and style to the Ugaritic tombs, and the type is thought to have come from Syria to Cyprus.4 The second group of Cypriote tombs corresponds to both the Ugaritic and earlier Cypriote examples, but a 250-year gap separates the inception of the second group from the end of the Bronze Age tombs. More important than the 250-year period when no tombs were built in Syria or Cyprus to connect the later tombs to the earlier ones, is the fact that the earliest tombs of each group (i.e., those of 1550 and 950 B.C.), separated by 600 years, are most similar.5
The Cypriote vaulted tombs from 950-600 B.C. seem to undergo the same development as the Enkomi and Ugaritic tombs with 600 years separating the corresponding phases. It has been postulated that the later tombs somehow copied the earlier Cypriote or Syrian ones, but the tombs presumably copied must have been buried and invisible for some 600 years.6
Similar tombs are found in Jerusalem, Asia Minor, and Urartu of the 9th-7th centuries, and again it is thought that they originated in 9th-7th-century Syro-Phoenicia.7 But the only tombs of this type in that region, notably the ones from Ugarit, are placed centuries earlier.
Leaving behind the regions bordering Syro-Phoenicia, we shall travel briefly to an actual Punic colony. In the 9th or 8th century B.C.,8 a group of Phoenicians sailed to North Africa and founded Carthage. One of the oldest archaeological discoveries from the site is a late 8th-century B.C. built tomb “closely related” to the Ugaritic tombs in architectural plan. 9 It is a “faithful miniature rendering” of the Syrian tombs both in design and, apparently, in arrangements for religious rites.10 It would hardly be surprising for 8th-century Phoenician colonists to bring over a current tomb type and burial customs from their motherland. The only similar tomb type and burial customs that their motherland can produce, however, are put 500 years earlier. By the accepted scheme, the colonists’ ancestors would have been very familiar with these matters, but by the 8th century B.C., the Ugaritic tombs must have been buried over, invisible, and forgotten. 11
How did these tombs of Ugarit serve as models for Cypriots, Israelites, Urartians, Anatolian peoples, and Phoenician colonists, if contemporaneity is denied, and they went out of use and were thus forgotten 500-600 years earlier?
The final items we will examine from Ugarit are a gold bowl and a gold plate, both beautifully decorated. Stratigraphically, they belong shortly before the destruction of the city during the Amarna period, and are thus assigned a date somewhere between 1450-1365 B.C.12 Stylistically, as well, they belong to the Mitannian-Amarna period and show scenes reminiscent of late 18th Dynasty Egypt, notably the time of King Tutankhamen. 13 Both stratigraphically and stylistically, then, a late 18th Dynasty date is necessitated. Since Velikovsky lowers that date by over 500 years, how are the gold bowls affected?
These two pieces are called “remarkable antecedents of the use of the frieze of animals on metal bowls” of Phoenician workmanship, firmly dated to the 9th-7th centuries B.C.14 What is more “remarkable” than the Ugaritic examples’ manufacture and burial over 500 years before the “later” series began, is the subject matter of the two items. Extraordinary conservatism was attributed to the Phoenicians, since the later group faithfully reproduced similar scenes and arrangement of the decoration,15 after a lapse of 500 years.
The chariot scene on the 14th-century gold plate is compared to similar scenes of the 9th-century Neo-Hittites and of the Assyrian King Assurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.).16 The elongated gallop of the horse is seen to be quite similar to depictions on Assyrian reliefs, but Assyrian influence “is chronologically impossible, all the Assyrian monuments presently known where horses are depicted at gallop being about half a millennium later than our plate” ( 174). The gold bowl (Fig. 7) with its combination of Aegean, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Levantine motifs is “an excellent example of Phoenician syncretism, half a millennium before Phoenicians in the proper sense are known”.17
Surely, it was thought, these golden objects, remarkably foreshadowing by 500 years similar metal bowls and similar scenes, “may be claimed as ancestors of the series of ‘Phoenician’ bowls of the ninth-seventh centuries B.C.”18 How can they be ancestors if they were buried and unseen for 500 years before the later series began, and the art was lost over those 500 years?
If metal bowls reproduced similar scenes in similar arrangements for 500 years, that would indeed be “extraordinary conservatism.” That 9th-7th-century Phoenicians should imitate so closely 14th-century bowls they never saw, after a 500-year gap, is merely “extraordinary.”
When their date is reduced by half a millennium, these bowls fit beautifully into the later series. If one keeps high dates for the Mitannians and the 18th Egyptian Dynasty, then this is yet another mystery to add to our list.
Traveling a bit farther inland and to the north, one reaches Tell Atchana, the ancient Alalakh.
The uppermost levels VI-I of the site, the ones of most concern to us, depend solely on Egyptian chronology, and the dates for imported Late Cypriote and Mycenaean pottery, Hittite New Empire and Mitannian material.1 The four latter sets of material owe their dates solely to Egyptian chronology, and maintain them by floating on mysterious Dark Ages, which are archaeologically empty, or, at best, very obscure. It is thus an easy matter to find some 500-600-year puzzles of the type met over and over again in this paper. For the sake of brevity we will treat here only two.
During part of the period of the 18th Egyptian Dynasty, Alalakh was ruled by King Niqmepa. His royal palace is thus assigned to the 15th-14th centuries B.C. Only a short distance north of Alalakh lies the site of Zinjirli with its 5th-century palace.
According to H. Frankfort there are no monuments, in fact, no works of art to fill the gap between ca. 1200 and 850 B.C. in this part of the ancient Levant. He was nevertheless struck by the resemblances of the 8th-century palace of Zinjirli to the 14th-century palace of Alalakh.2 How was the tradition of monumental architecture kept alive for 600 years, if the Niqmepa palace was covered over and invisible by the 14th century, and if there is absolutely no continuity in this or any of the other arts between the two periods?3
Many large fragments of sculpted stone lions were also unearthed at Alalakh. These were found re-used in the last phase of the “temple”,4 but presumably guarded the doors to this structure at an earlier date. According to the excavator,5 these lions have great “importance as monuments for the history of art. In the ‘Syro-Hittite’ period gateway lions of this sort are so regular a convention as to be almost the hall-mark of North Syrian art.” Such lions are normally assigned to the 9th-7th centuries B.C.,6 but because Egyptian chronology provides the absolute dates for Alalakh, “now for the first time we have a series of lion sculptures which cannot be later than the fourteenth century B.C.”
Should we view the Alalakh lions as “early forerunners of the whole series of Syro-Hittite lions”?7 Were they also the model for the guardian lions of Assyrian palaces, “anticipating [both sets] by five hundred years”?8 Could they have provided the inspiration for the 500-year-later sculptures?
If, by the 9th century B.C., the Alalakh lions were completely buried over by debris and long forgotten,9 and no similar lions exist to span the Dark Age in this region, “how can we explain why the system of flanking gates with large, guardian figures and stone reliefs in the ninth-century Assyrian palaces resembles so much that employed”10 here at Alalakh and other contemporary centers some 400-500 years earlier?
In this work the reader has traveled to six ancient cities to study some of the buildings and artifacts that modern excavators have unearthed. These six places were referred to as stumbling blocks for the revised chronology. We were told that they could not come down by centuries in time, thus the revised chronology, a nice enough theory, was disproved by archaeological facts. What did we see?
At Mycenae, Tiryns, Troy, Pylos, Ugarit and Alalakh, we found numerous 500-700-year problems for the excavators and for those trying to trace the development of artistic and architectural types. We have examined palaces, temples, tombs, pots, pins, carved slabs, bowls, figurines, etc. We have come across stratigraphical sections that do not conform to the expected and accepted sequence of events. Everywhere we went we found unanswered questions, perplexing problems, and always these involved 500-700 years.
In this article only five places were visited, and these but briefly. The number of 500-700-year problems studied by this writer is quite large, and the more he reads, the greater the number swells. No ad hoc theory has yet been advanced which adequately explains any one of the cases, let alone all of them. Only a revision of ancient history, a shortening of Egyptian chronology, works for all the cases mentioned in this paper, and, in fact, for all others which this writer has researched.
If there were no problems, or only a couple of minor points not yet fully understood, it would be simple, indeed necessary, to accept the standard chronology. When, however, major “exceptions to the rule” appear in great numbers, and these form a consistent pattern,1 it becomes very difficult to brush them aside and have faith in “the rule.” One must make a choice. Should archaeological evidence be forced to fit the Procrustean bed of historical theory, or should a new scheme be put forth to explain all the facts?
A few problems from a handful of sites do not prove that the revision is valid. Volumes could and need to be written to enumerate all the problems faced by the old scheme, which act as confirmations for the new. One article need not convince the skeptical reader that Velikovsky is right, but anyone reading this might start wondering: Just how sound is the accepted chronology?
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