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Mycenaean period

The Mycenean Period covers the latter part of the Bronze Age on the Greek mainland. The eponymous site is Mycenae in the northeastern Argolid, Peloponnesos, Greece. It represents the latest part of the helladic period (helladic III), which is characterised by strong Minoan, that is Cretan influences on the culture of the Greek mainland.



The pottery is characterised by dark paintings on a light background. The beginnings of the Mycenean decorated pottery on the Greek mainland date to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age (Late Helladic I). The typology of the Mycenean pottery was created by the Swedish archaeologist Arne Furumark based on the material from the excavations of Asine . He provided a list of pottery-shapes as well (Furumark 1-333) that is used internationally in the description of Mycenean and Minoan pottery.

Table 1 provides the approximate dates of the Late Helladic phases (LH) on the Greek Mainland.

Approx. date Period
1000 protogeometric
1000–1060 submycenean
1090–1060 LHIIIC late
1130–1090 LHIIIC middle
1190–1130 LHIIIC early
1320–1190 LHIIIB2
1300–1320 LHIIIB1
1350–1300 LHIIIA2
1400–1350 LHIIIA1
1450–1400 LHIIB
1500–1450 LHIIA
1550–1500 LHI


The LHI pottery is known from the fill of the shaft graves of Lerna and the settlements of Voroulia and Nichoria (Messenia), Ayios Stephanos, (Laconia) and Korakou . Furumark divided the LH in phases A and B, but Furumark's LHIB has been reassigned to LHIIA by Dickinson.


The description of the LHIIA is mainly based on the material from Kourakou East Alley. Domestic and Palatial shapes are distinguished. LHIIB sees a lessening of Cretan influences. Pure LHIIB assemblages are rare and originate from Tiryns, Asine and Korakou.


The uniform and widely spread LHIIIIA1 pottery was originally defined by the material from the Ramp house at Mycenae, the palace at Thebes (now dated to LHIIIA2 or LHIIIB by most researchers) and Triada at Rhodes. There is material from Asine, Athens (wells), Sparta (Menelaion), Nichoria and the 'Atreus Bothros', rubbish sealed under the Dromos of the Treasury of Atreus at Mycenae as well.
The LHIIIA2 pottery marks a Mycenaen expansion covering most of the Eastern Mediterranean. There are many new shapes. The motifs of the painted pottery continue from LHIIIA1 but show a great deal of standartisation.
The definition of the LHIIIB by Furumark was mainly based on grave finds and the settlement material from Zygouries . It has been divided into two subphases by E. French, based on the finds from Mycenae and the West wall at Tiryns.
LHIIIB2 assemblages are sparse, as painted pottery is rare in tombs and many settlements of this period ended by destruction, leaving few complete pots behind.
The dating of the LH IIIC hinges on the destruction of Ugarit. The beginning of LH IIIC is now commonly set into the reign of Queen Twosret . The LHIIIC has been divided into LHIIIC1 and 2 by Furumark, based on materials from tombs in Mycenae, Asine, Kephallonia and Rhodes. In the 1960ies, the excavations of the Citadel at Mycenae and of Lefkandi in Euboia yielded stratified material that allowed the subdivision of the LHIIIC into three phases. There is a lot of regional variation in the LCIII, especially in the later phases. Late LH CIII pottery is found in Troy VIIa and a few pieces in Tarsus.


The submycenean pottery (called LHIIIC2 by Furumark) already belongs to the early Iron age. It is best known from the cemeteries of Kerameikos in Athens, Salamis in Attica and Skoubris in Lefkandi (Euboia) and the settlements of Athens (Agora), Tiryns and Mycenae. The term was introduced in 1934 by T. C. Skeat.

Further reading

  • P.A. Mountjoy, Mycenean decorated pottery, a guide to identification (Göteborg, Paul Aström 1986).
  • Christian Podzuweit, Die mykenische Welt und Troja. In: B. Hänsel (ed.), Südosteuropa zwischen 1600 und 1000 v. Chr. (1982), 65-88.

See also

Last updated: 02-07-2005 12:50:36
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55