CLA160H1 Chapter Notes -Aegean Civilizations

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11 Apr 2012
Required Reading: Nagle, AW, pp. 67-78
Geography and History
Most of Greece‟s contacts are with Middle East or Mediterranean lands
Greeks also considered European BALKANS
o Just a peninsula extending into the Mediterranean
o Has contact with Eurasia through Black Sea
Aristotle: “the Hellenic people occupy an intermediate geographical
Plato: “We sit like frogs around a pond”
o Pond=Aegean Sea (no part of mainland Greece is more than 35
miles from the Sea)
Greece is a land of diversity
Patterns of fragmentation that is reflected in Greek politics and history
Diasporic Greeks
o Colonies found throughout Mediterranean and Black Sea regions
o Greek city-states reached more than 1500
Due to the diversity, Greece never became a unified state
o Greeks shared common language, some common cultural practices
but remained citizens of particular cities
Eg. Athenian citizens and Corinthian citizens
o No national identity or citizenship
The Origins of Greek Culture
Earliest periods are a blend of European War traditions and of influences
from Western Asia and Egypt
Material culture emphasizing military display was used to display wealth
No cities, temples, palaces along Mesopotamian or Egyptian lines
o No political hierarchies or bureaucracies attempted to regulate life
Chiefdom: type of society in which the person in authority maintained
himself by his ability to acquire and redistribute prestige goods to his
o Chiefs possessed prestige goods as a proof and guarantee doled
out gifts to followers as away of building their own power
o Chiefs presided over small territorial kingdom spent time hunting
and in athletics, idleness and feasting
o Famous chiefs were buried with prestige personal artifacts large
burial mounds, religious assembly areas
Greece benefitted from being on the fringe of two worlds
o No one-time transference of technology Greeks picking and
Avoided political domination, but enjoyed rich cultural and commercial
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The Minoan and Mycenaean Ages
Archaeological discoveries of ancient Troy, Mycenae and Knossos
stimulated interest in early Greek History
Archaeologists and historians try to place the sites in a chronological order
to unfold ancient Greek culture
Minoan Crete
Early people of Crete Minoans? Possibly because of legendary King
Civilization made way into Crete around 2500 BC by way of Anatolia
(modern Turkey
500 yrs later, people of Crete were organizing their lives around „palaces‟
o Knossos, Phaistos, Mallia, Zakros
Palaces: complicated structures consisting of a mix of residential and
storage rooms around large courtyard, varying in size
o Knossos 185 acres pop. 12 000
o Walls consisted of stone, mud brick with timber reinforcements to
resist earthquake shocks
o Rooms and passage ways decorated with colourful frescoes
depicting aspects of Cretan life
Men beardless, wearing codpieces or kilts
Women elaborate hair designs, dresses with flounced
sleeves, pinched waists
Exquisite garden scenes
Minoans excelled at jewelry making
o Delicate carvings in ivory, faience, gold, silver, and precious/semi-
precious stones
Masters of vase painting
Understanding of Cretan society depends on interpretation of palace
o Kings legitimicized by religious and military roles
o Don‟t include large temple complexes: worship was conducted in
mountain caves and at mountain top sanctuaries
o Palaces may have been religious centers Knossos aligned with
Mount Iouchtas and Phaistos with Kamaros cave sanctuary
o Politically organized as independent states Knossos “honourary
o Writing present in pictographic form
o 1700 BC syllabic script (Linear A) was introduced (not deciphered)
o Linear B identified as Greek used for recording palace
transactions and keeping inventory
o Palaces functioned as regulators of commercial, agricultural and
industrial activities in the regions
o Size/wealth of palaces indicate that overseas trading took place
o War ships appears in frescoes of Thera (nearby island)
o Close intermingling of religious and civic life
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o Trees and pillars were worshipped
o Mountaintop sanctuaries
Archaeological record of Minoan life is exclusively of the rich ordinary
people (workers, farmers, etc.) are “archaeologically invisible”
Minoans and Mycenaeans
1450 BC Mycenaeans came from mainland Greece, rose to power in
o Believed to conquer by forces (sites show signs of destructions,
though not massive)
o Knossos dominated central and western Crete until about 1200 BC
The Mycenaean Age (1600-1100 BC)
Shaft Grave Era (1600-1500 BC)
o Known for grave sites uncovered by Schliemann in 1876, and by
Greek archaeologists in 1950s
o Rich burial sites included golden crowns, diadems, swords,
daggers, spearheads, etc.
o Graves represent continued occupation of the site for extended
period of time
But no evidence of palace or dwellings
o Contents of graves suggest war-like society
o Art is specifically Mycenaean but has Minoan influences
o Early Mycenaean society is a typical warrior culture such as the
rest of Bronze age Europe, but different due to close contact
between Mycenaean aristocrats and high-civilization of Crete
o Mid-fifteenth century BC began burying in vaulted tombs (tholos)
Vaphio, Myrsinochorion, Dendra
Contained usual arsenal, with new addition bronze cuirass
with greaves and a boar-tusk helmet with metal cheek
Treasurary of Atreus dates around end of tholos tomb period
architectural ability (vault over 40 ft. high)
Mycenaean Palaces
Most developed phase
Mainlanders became middlemen in commerce between Europe and the
o Mycenaean wares showed up in Egypt, Syria and Phoenicia, Sicily
and Southern Italy
Mycenaean chiefdoms grew more into palaces of Crete
o Administrative centers attempting to control commercial, industrial
and agricultural activities
Major Palace Sites discovered
o Mycenae, Tiryns, Athens, Orchomenus, Thebes, Pylos
Differences between Minoan and Mycenaean
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