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The Excavations at Mycenae

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The Mask of Agamemnon, called after the legendary Greek king of Homer's The Iliad. This mask adorned one of the bodies in the shaft graves at Mycenae. Schliemann took this as evidence the Trojan War was a real historical event.

Homer and The Trojan War

The Beehive Tombs of Mycenae

the "mask of Agamemnon" found in the grave shafts of Mycenae

More Information
on the relationship between the Mycenaean civilization and the Trojan War

 In Search of the Trojan War
by Michael Wood

cover


Grave Circle A
Grave Circle A at Mycenae aerial view

Homer described the city as "Mycenae, rich in gold" in the great epic poem The Iliad. Certainly the graves at Mycenae were rich in gold grave goods, such as this mask. The splendor of the graves at Mycenae demonstrate the power and grandeur of the Mycenaean kings of that time.

The amateur archeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, went to Mycenae because it was the legendary home of King Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks who went to Troy to fight the Trojan War. He used the text of Pausanias, the second-century A.D. Roman traveler, as his guide. The site was already well-known, but he was the first to dig systematically at the site. He discovered the deep shaft graves which were cut into the rock of the Mycenae acropolis.

Bodies, dressed in lavishly decorated shrouds, were adorned with gold items and diadems and their faces were covered by masks of gold or electrum (such as the Mask of Agamemnon). The bodies were lowered into the shafts and spectacular grave goods, made of precious metals, were placed inside.

When Schliemann, excavated a Mycenaean grave shaft, he discovered this mask and thought he had "gazed upon the face of Agamemnon," the great king from The Iliad. Although the Mycenaeans flourished around 1500 or 1600 BCE, earlier than the supposed time of Trojan War, this great civilization from the past probably did inspire the later Homeric tales. There may well have been a war between the Mycenaeans and Troy of Asia Minor over trade dominance. But the shaft graves themselves date from the early Mycenaean period and were certainly not the graves of Mycenaean warriors who went to Troy. The graves actually date from the very beginnings of Mycenaean civilization in 1800-1700 BCE, when there is no evidence of contact with Troy. The walls of Mycenae were built later, in the 1400s BCE, and the shaft graves had long been there.

 

 

Plan B, “The Circular Agora, with the Five Royal Sepulchres, in the Acropolis of Mycenae,” Mycenae by Dr. Henry Schliemann, London 1880.

 

 

 

A tombstone, or stela, discovered at Mycenae. It was one of several which marked the shaft graves

 

“The Third Tombstone, found above the Sepulchres in the Acropolis,” Mycenae by Dr. Henry Schliemann, London 1880.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the peak of Mycenaean civilization, shaft graves were no longer used. Tholos (Beehive) tombs came into use around 1500 BCE.

More on other Mycenaean sites: cover

 

The Palace of Nestor
by Carl W. Blegen

 

 


Part of The Long-Haired Achaeans - The Mycenaeans, a HistoryWiz exhibit

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