Introduction & General Information

Ancient Mycenae is a legendary city, whose imposing remains to attract visitors from around the world. In fact, this is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, and its most antique findings date from 3,000 BC.

The area of Mycenae Greece was excavated by the German amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1870. This constituted a milestone since Mycenae was mainly thought to exist just in literature and myths. The findings of Schliemann proved that the information provided by Homer in the Iliad, or by the famous geographer Pausanias was true. In fact, the Iliad was used as an important reference in order to find a place to start the excavation project.

Many of the uncovered objects are now on display at the Archaeological Museum of Mycenae. According to the Greek tradition, it had an acropolis, which belonged to the 13th century BC. It was actually rebuilt in this period- and was constructed on strong Cyclopean walls with a thickness of five meters. The name of this style is given by the large size of the blocks used. A mythological explanation attributed this work to the powerful Cyclops. The entrance of this wall, known as the Gate of the Lions, is the most ancient example of monumental sculpture, not only in Greece but in the whole of Europe.

Although the Mycenaean people are known as being efficient warriors and hunters, the mentioned findings provide more information about their activities and way of life. The pottery provides signs of extensive trading between Mycenae and other city-states. In fact, remains of Mycenaean pottery were found as far as Italy and Egypt. Mycenae has also the reputation of counting on good merchants, dedicated to trade oil, animal skins and other raw articles for fine objects like jewelry from Crete, Egypt, and Asia Minor. The ivory carvings, gold ornaments, and jewelry that were found also give an idea of their wealth, although unlike the Minoans, Mycenaean society destined richness to the king and other officials and was not shared with the rest of the population.

Domestic artifacts such as cups and lots of bronze weapons were also found. The graves are another important component of the Mycenaean civilization. Before 1500 BC, the important persons of the Mycenaean society used to be buried in deep shaft graves. However, after this century the famous Tholos tombs were created. These tombs are basically a monumental work, consisting of great chambers cut into a side of a hill. Burying their leaders in such sumptuous environments is typical from such cultures.

The Tholos tombs were found in 1870 as well. The most important object found is the golden mask of Agamemnon, which along with other masks found in the graves of important Mycenaean chieftains, prove the Mycenaean tradition of burying important persons with a golden mask.