When Was the Greek Bronze Age?:
The Aegean Bronze Age, where Aegean refers to the Aegean Sea where Greece, the Cyclades, and Crete are situated, ran from about the beginning of the third millennium to the first, and was followed by the Dark Age. The Cyclades were prominent in the Early Bronze Age. On Crete, Minoan civilization -- named for the legendary king Minos of Crete, who ordered the building of the labyrinth -- is divided into Early, Middle, and Late Minoan (EM, MM, LM), which are further subdivided. Mycenaean civilization refers to late Bronze Age culture (c.1600 - c.1125 B.C.).
The following paragraphs describe important terms to learn connected with the Greek Bronze Age.
The Cyclades are islands in the south Aegean circling the island of Delos
. During the Early Bronze Age (c. 3200-2100 B.C.) pottery, marble, and metal goods were produced that wound up in grave sites. Among these are the marble female figurines that inspired 20th century artists. Later in the Bronze Age the Cyclades showed influence from Minoan and Mycenaean cultures.
Minoan Bronze Age:
British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans began excavating the island of Crete in 1899. He named the culture Minoan and divided it into periods. In
the early period newcomers arrived and pottery styles changed. This was followed by the great palace-building civilization and Linear A. Catastrophes destroyed this civilization. When it recovered, there was a new style of writing known as Linear B. Further catastrophes marked the end of the Minoan Bronze Age.
- Early Minoan (EM) I-III, c.3000-2000 B.C.
- Middle Minoan (MM) I-III, c.2000-1600 B.C.
- Late Minoan (LM) I-III, c.1600-1050 B.C.
Knossos is a Bronze Age city and archaeological site in Crete. In 1900, Sir Arthur Evans bought the site where ruins had been found, and then worked on restoring its Minoan palace. Legend says King Minos lived at Knossos where he had Daedalus build the famous labyrinth to house the minotaur, the monstrous offspring of King Minos' wife Pasiphae.
The Myceaneans, from mainland Greece, conquered the Minoans. They lived in fortified citadels. By 1400 B.C. their influence extended to Asia Minor, but they disappeared between about 1200 and 1100, at which time the Hittites also disappeared. Heinrich Schliemann's excavations of Troy, Mycenae, Tiryns, and Orchomenos revealed Mycenaean artifacts. Michael Ventris probably deciphered its writing, Mycenaean Greek. The connection between Myceaneans and the people described in the epics
attributed to Homer, The Iliad
and The Odyssey
, is still debated.
Henirich Schliemann was a German maverick archaeologist who wanted to prove the historicity of the Trojan War, so he excavated an area of Turkey.
Linear A and B:
Just as Schliemann is the name associated with Troy and Evans with the Minoans, so there is one name connected with the deciphering of Mycenaean script. This man is Michael Ventris who deciphered Linear B in 1952. The Mycenaean tablets he deciphered were found at Knossos, showing contact between Minoan and Mycenaean cultures.
Linear A has not yet been deciphered.
Archaeologists learn about the culture of ancient peoples by studying their remains. Graves are a particularly valuable source. At Mycenae, wealthy warrior chieftains and their families were buried in shaft graves. In the Late Bronze Age, warrior chieftains (and family) were buried in decorated Tholos tombs, round stone subterranean tombs with vaulted roofs.
Bronze Age Resources:
"Crete" The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Ed. M.C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press, 1996.
Neil Asher Silberman, Cyprian Broodbank, Alan A. D. Peatfield, James C. Wright, Elizabeth B. French "Aegean Cultures" The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Brian M. Fagan, ed., Oxford University Press 1996.
Lesson 7: Western Anatolia and the Eastern Aegean in the Early Bronze Age