Mycenaean civilization

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Mycenaean civilization

(mīsēnē`ən), an ancient Aegean civilizationAegean civilization
, term for the Bronze Age cultures of pre-Hellenic Greece. The complexity of those early civilizations was not suspected before the excavations of archaeologists in the late 19th cent.
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 known from the excavations at MycenaeMycenae
, ancient city of Greece, in Argolis. In historical times it had little importance and was usually dependent on Argos. Its significance is in its remote past as a center of Mycenaean civilization.
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 and other sites. They were first undertaken by Heinrich SchliemannSchliemann, Heinrich
, 1822–90, German archaeologist, discoverer of the ruins of Troy. He accumulated a fortune in the indigo trade and as a military contractor and retired from business in 1863 to dedicate himself to finding Troy and other Homeric sites.
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 and others after 1876, and they helped to revise the early history of Greece. Divided into Early Helladic (c.2800–2000 B.C.), Middle Helladic (c.2000–1500 B.C.), and Late Helladic (c.1500–1100 B.C.) periods, the chronology roughly parallels that of the contemporary Minoan civilizationMinoan civilization
, ancient Cretan culture representing a stage in the development of the Aegean civilization. It was named for the legendary King Minos of Crete by Sir Arthur Evans, the English archaeologist who conducted excavations there in the early 20th cent.
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. The Mycenaeans entered Greece from the north or northeast c.2000 B.C., displacing, seemingly without violence, the older Neolithic culture, which can be dated as early as 4000 B.C. These Indo-European Greek-speaking invaders brought with them advanced techniques in pottery, metallurgy, and architecture. Mercantile contact with Crete advanced and strongly influenced their culture, and by 1600 B.C., Mycenae had become a major center of the ancient world. The exact relationship of Mycenaean Greece to Crete between 1600 and 1400 B.C. is extremely complex, with both areas evidently competing for maritime control of the Mediterranean. After the violent destruction of Knossos c.1400 B.C., Mycenae achieved supremacy, and much of the Minoan cultural tradition was transferred to the mainland. The Mycenaean commercial empire and consequent cultural influence lasted from 1400 to 1200 B.C., when the invasion of the DoriansDorians,
people of ancient Greece. Their name was mythologically derived from Dorus, son of Hellen. Originating in the northwestern mountainous region of Epirus and SW Macedonia, they migrated through central Greece and into the Peloponnesus probably between 1100 and 950 B.C.
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 ushered in a period of decline for Greece. Events from 1100 to 900 B.C. are extremely obscure, but by the 9th cent. B.C. the centers of wealth and population showed a decisive shift. Although the Mycenaeans had certain innovations of their own, they drew much of their cultural inspiration from the Minoans. The great Mycenaean cities—Mycenae, Tiryns, Pylos, Thebes, Orchomenos—were noted for their heavy, complex fortifications and the massive, cyclopean quality of their masonry, while Minoan cities were totally unfortified. Mycenaean palaces were built around great halls called megara rather than around an open space as in Crete. Unlike the Cretans, the Mycenaeans were bearded and wore armor in battle. Their written language, preserved on numerous clay tablets from Pylos, Mycenae, and Knossos, appears to be a form of archaic Greek linguistically related to ancient Cypriot. The presence of this script, known as Linear B, at Knossos c.1500 B.C. indicates that Mycenaean Greeks had invaded and dominated Crete during the Late Minoan period before the final collapse c.1400 B.C. The works of Homer have been radically reevaluated since the archaeological discoveries of Mycenaean Greece. He is now considered to give admirable glimpses of the culture of the late Mycenaean civilization of the 12th cent. B.C. (see AchaeansAchaeans,
people of ancient Greece, of unknown origin. In Homer, the Achaeans are specifically a Greek-speaking people of S Thessaly. Historically, they seem to have appeared in the Peloponnesus during the 14th and 13th cent. B.C., and c.1250 B.C. they became the ruling class.
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See W. Taylour, The Mycenaeans (1964); A. E. Samuel, The Mycenaeans in History (1966); G. E. Mylonas, Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age (1966); W. A. McDonald, Progress into the Past (1967); J. Chadwick, The Decipherment of Linear B (2d ed. 1968).

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References in periodicals archive ?
Third, these literary and physical records are further augmented by the difficult translation of both Linear B (the surviving inventory scripts of Mycenaean civilization) and Hittite texts, a corpus of clay records that is occasionally enlarged by new discoveries.
Their tribes had leaders called ege (hence the Aegean sea) or aka, a name taken by the Akalar (Achaeans) who produced the Mycenaean civilization. The Classical period was more difficult, but it was argued (correctly) that many place names in Greece belong to a pre-Greek language.
Beginning earlier than most histories of the classical period, the authors see the origins of Greek history lying in the palace-based Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations of the late Bronze Age.