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Mycenaean Shield Fresco

Mycenaean Shield Fresco


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THE SHIELD OF ACHILLES

‘Tipped’ off by a great little blog post by Polyxenos over at Polyxenos – Abstractions and Musings, I know you will be equally fascinated to learn of a Bronze age Minoan fresco from Akrotiri (Santorini) that appears to depict a Mycenaean shipboard war tactic described in Book 15 of Homer’s Iliad.

Polyxenos notes, “Classical literature is often littered with visual descriptions of singular moments recorded by paintings or sculpture, and even more conspicuously, Mythology.”

“Of course,” he continues, “Ekphrasis is quite common in parts of ancient Greek literature, but a description of warfare from Homer’s Iliad that is also displayed in a painting from the Minoan-era is even rarer.”

Polyxenos guides us to Homer’s narration of “the ferocious onslaught of Hector and the Trojans and in true Homeric style, he describes the event in over several books with seemingly tangential yet highly pertinent details that add more colour to his verse in a cool and satiated style.”

So the Trojans swept over the wall with a loud yell,
driving their chariots on, and began a close-combat fight by the sterns:
the Trojans from chariots, with double-edged spears,
and the Achaeans, after climbing high on to their black ships,
with the long jointed pikes that they had lying in the ships for fighting at sea,
clothed at their point in bronze.

[Anthony Verity’s translation of Homer’s Iliad, Book 15]

“Verity writes in his endnotes,” explains Polyxenos, “to how a Theran fresco displays this phenomenon, where pikes are used on ships, being glued together. I confess I have no idea how they would have been used in such a context, but it is the display of it in painting that captures my imagination.”

Finding Parallel Pikes on the Akrotiri Shipwreck Fresco

Following up on the lead provided by Verity, Polyxenos researched Theran frescoes and quite cleverly discovered a very interesting depiction that closely parallels Homer’s description.

“The image below shows,” says Polyxenos, “after much looking, what I think Verity alludes to in his endnote to the above quote:”

Detail of the Minoan Akrotiri Shipwreck Fresco, ca. 1600 BCE. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Polyxenos’ image was rather unclear, so I have taken the liberty to crop an image which I found on Wikimedia, white balancing it, enhancing the contrast slightly, and sharpening the focus a bit in order to view the shipwreck scene more clearly.

The staves, or pikes as Polyxenos refers to them, are clearly sticking out from the two ships on the left, with three or four pikes apparently lined up side by side and fastened together in such a way as to create a formidable weapon against anything approaching the ship.

This clearly parallels Homer’s reference in Iliad 15, to “the long jointed pikes that they had lying in the ships for fighting at sea,”don’t you agree?

Ajax Staves off the Trojans from the Achaian Ships

Let’s return to the Iliad, this time consulting Church’s 1911 publication, The Story of the Iliad. Here we see Homer’s description of the Greeks using the ship’s pikes as weapons come to life as Telamonian Aias/Ajax staves off the Trojans, illustrated by the incomparable John Flaxman:

Ajax Defending the Greek Ships Against the Trojans –
Illustration by Flaxman, 1911 from Church’s The Story of the Iliad. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Then Teucer rushed to seize his arms, but Hector cast his spear.
Teucer it struck not, missing him by a little
but Amphimachus it smote on the breast so that he fell dead.
Then Hector seized the dead man’s helmet, seeking to drag the body among the sons of Troy.
But Ajax stretched forth his great spear against him, and struck the boss of his shield mightily,
driving him backwards, so that he loosed hold of the helmet of Amphimachus.

[Chapter XVI, The Battle at the Ships, from Church’s The Story of the Iliad]

DNA Analysis Finds Minoans & Mycenaeans Genetically Similar

In light of recent DNA analysis showing that Mycenaeans and Minoans were genetically similar, it should come as less of a surprise that their shipboard warfare tactics were similar, too.

Indeed, learning that “Genetically, the Minoans and Mycenaeans had the most in common with early Neolithic farmers from Greece and Turkey” goes a long way towards explaining why Hektor and Achilles both spoke the same language!

I’m very interested in the impact that this new DNA analysis will potentially have on the historically- and currently-held notion that the Mycenaeans overthrew the Minoans. For, as the researchers found, “The genomes of the Minoans and the Mycenaeans were also similar to those of modern Greek populations and to each other — for the most part.”

In fact, this goes even further towards explaining why a Minoan fresco, ca. 1600 BCE, could realistically depict a Trojan War-era, ca. 1200 BCE shipboard defensive tactic, described by a Greek epic poet some 400-500 years later!

A Literary Evolution of a Single Race?

So, I’m wondering, does this new analysis imply that “Minoan” Linear A and “Mycenaean” Linear B may represent a literary evolution of a single race of people?

How many neatly categorized archaeological sites and finds, as well as the wealth of history books and academic papers, will experience an interesting revolution if we ultimately recognize “Minoans” and “Mycenaeans” as one and the same people?

“A convincing contextualized decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 1 (Haghia Triada)” (c) Richard Vallance Janke. Source


T. Farkas’ brilliant decipherment of Linear B tablet KN 894 Nv 01

T. Farkas’ brilliant decipherment of Linear B tablet KN 894 Nv 01:

Line 1. ateretea peterewa temidwe -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair ― tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

Line 2. kakiya -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair 1. kakodeta -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for pair or set ― tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

Line 3. kidapa temidweta -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair 41 ― tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

line 4. odatuweta erika -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair 40 to 89 ― tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

Translation (my knowlege of Greek grammar is not sufficient at present to write out proper sentences [NOTE 1] but I have looked up and “ know ” the Greek equivalents for the Linear B words which I will write here.)

Line 1. Pair/set of inlaid/unfinished? elmwood chariot wheel rims

Ο n your blog you have translated ateretea as “inlaid” from the Greek ἀιτ h= ρ e ς . I found these words ατελείωτος , ατελεις … that means “unfinished” Do you think that could work? Either way I get that ateretea is an adjective that describes the wheel rims [2].

α ) τερεδέα / ατελείωτος πτελε F άς τερμιδ F έντα ζευγάρι a1 ρμοτα , ( sorry for the mishmash Greek [3]).

Line 2. 1 Copper [4] set or pair of wheel fasteners , bronze set or pair of wheel fasteners

I looked around the net and some say copper was used as a band or even as a “ tire ” and as leather tire fasteners on bronze age chariot wheels.

Since the deta on kakodeta refers to bindings perhaps this line is refering to sets of types of fasteners of both copper and bronze for wheels? (hubs, linch pins, nails, etc…) [Richard, YES!]

χαλκίος ζευγάρι α 1 ρμοτα , χαλκοδέτα ζευγάρι α 1 ρμοτα

Line 3. 41 Sets or pairs of “kidapa” chariot wheel rims

Looked around the net didn’t find and words to match kidapa…I did take note that you think ― like L.R. Palmer ― that it means ash-wood.

κιδάπα τερμιδ F έντα ζευγ ἀρι α 1 ρμοτα

Line 4. 40 to 89 ? sets of toothed/grooved willow-wood chariot wheels.

I ’ ve looked at many diagrams and pictures of chariot wheels… but none that I could find were clear enough to really understand what might be meant by toothed [5]… Ι even watched a documentary where an Egyptian chariot is built. It is called building Pharaoh’s Chariot. Perhaps one day I’ll happen upon some chariot wheels somewhere and finally understand what is meant.

ο 0 δατ F έντα ε 0 λικα ζευγἀρι α 1 ρμοτα 40 -89 ?

Comments by our moderator, Richard Vallance Janke:

This is absolutely brilliant work! I am astounded! 100 % hands down. This is one of the most difficult Linear A tablets to decipher. I too take kidapa to mean ash wood, as it is a tough wood. It is also probably Minoan, since it begins with ki, a common Minoan prefix:

See my Comprehensive Linear A lexicon for further details I imagine you have already downloaded the Lexicon, given that at least 16 % of Linear A is Mycenaean-derived Greek. This decipherment alone of an extremely difficult Linear B tablet entitles you to a secondary school graduation diploma, which I shall draw up and send to you by mid-August.

[1] Thalassa Farkas declares that “ … my knowlege of Greek grammar is not sufficient at present to write out proper sentences… ” , but the actual point is that it is not really possible to write out Greek sentences in Mycenaean Greek, in view of the fact that sentences are almost never used on Linear B tablets, given that these are inventories. Grammar is not characteristic of inventories, ancient or modern. So it is up to us as decipherers to reconstruct the putative “s entences ” which might be derived from each of the tabular lines in an inventory. So long as the sentences and the ultimate paragraph(s) make sense, all is well.

[2] “ wheel rims ” is an acceptable reading.

[3] This is hardly mishmash Greek. It is in fact archaic Greek, and archaic Greek in the Mycenaean dialect, absolutely appropriate in the context.

[4] In Line 2, kakiya ( genitive singular of kako ) might mean copper, but is much more likely to mean “( made of ) bronze ” (gen. sing.) , given that copper is a brittle metal, more likely to shatter under stress than is bronze. Copper tires would simply not hold up. Neither would pure bronze ones. Either would have to be re-inforced, and in this case by kidapa = ash-wood. That is the clincher, and that is why the word kidapa appears on this tablet.

[5] In Line 5, temidweta does not mean “ with teeth ” , but the exact opposite, “ with grooves ” or “ with notches ” . After all, if we invert teeth in 3 dimensions, so that they are inside out, we end up with grooves. This can be seen in the following illustration of a Mycenaean chariot in the Tiryns fresco of women (warrior) charioteers:

On the other hand, scythes, which are after all similar to teeth, were commonplace on ancient chariots, including Egyptian, a nice little clever addition to help cut or chop up your enemies. Still, it is unlikely that Mycenaean chariots would be reinforced by scythes, in view of the fact that there are far too many of them even on fresco above. That is why I take temidweta to mean “ indentations ” or “notches” . But temidweta could refer to “studs”, which like notches, are small, even though they stick out.


Delving into History ® _ periklis deligiannis

The sea-battle scene from the Aristonothos Vase on the left (of the reader) and on the right the “Battle in the River” fresco, along with the modern representations by Angel G. Pinto (image credit: Angel G. Pinto)

In this article, I would like to note two significant representations of ancient Greek paintings by one of my favourite artists on military topics, namely Angel G. Pinto. The image of the two representations came from his website (angelgpinto.blogspot.gr).

I was interested (rather lured) in the ad hoc themes that he chose for these two artistic representations, that is to say the “Battle in the River” – a Mycenaean fresco of the 13 th century BC from the palace of Pylos – and the sea-battle scene from the “Aristonothos vase” of the Archaic Era (about 700-650 BC).

I will start from the chronologically earlier fresco, the “Battle in the River”. This artwork was found in the palace of Pylos, the administrative center of a Mycenaean state in the south-west Peloponnesus. It was one of the most potent states of the Mycenaean ‘Commonwealth’ and probably the best organized. Pylos was a power counterbalance to the state of Mycenae, although it seems to have been usually its ally.

The fresco depicts a group of Pylian light infantry confronting a warband of mountaineer warriors, possibly Arcadians, that is a Hellenic people of the interior of the Peloponnesus. The Pylian infantrymen are armed with bronze swords of the later short type and spears, and are protected by their characteristic Mycenaean tusk-boar helmets and linen greaves. They wear a linen loincloth covered by leather straps, called pteruges by the Classical Greeks.

The battle takes place rather in a border river and in my point of view, that river has to be Alpheios, the river that marked the borderline between the Pylian state – a state extended to most of the western Peloponnesian coastline – and the ‘wild’ hinterland of Arcadia. The lack of armour or shield of the Pylian fighters along with the use of the ‘expensive’ tusk-boar helmets has caused a debate on these incompatible features, but this lack is explained by the need of those light infantrymen for fast movement and rapid action during the military operations. The use of the ‘expensive’ tusk-boar helmet denotes their financial ability (of them or of their king) to be armed with shield and some kind of armour, even a leather cuirass.

In general, the earlier depictions of the Mycenaean light infantry come from the palace of Mycenae (16 th century BC). The light infantry is depicted in the archaeological findings as frequently as the heavy infantry, which is evidence of its military value. It is worth noting that these two types of infantry are usually depicted together: this is evidence that they operated together, rather supporting one another. Their flexibility of movement and their ability for very close combat (melee combat) made them the identical infantry for operations in semi-mountainous or mountainous terrain, being the most common geophysical terrain of the Hellenic mainland. The sword seems to have been their main weapon, but some of them were also using light spears as it is evidenced in the fresco of the “Battle in the River”.

Concerning Pinto’s outstanding representation, I have to note his work on the intensity of the combat and on the depiction of the Peloponnesian hinterland, being actually my homeland.

The “Aristonothos vase” (about 700-650 BC) was manufactured by Aristonothos in Magna Graecia, that is the Hellenic colonies in modern South Italy, and was discovered at Caere of Etruria (Caisra in Etruscan, Agylla in Greek and Caere in Latin). It was rather an object of trade between Greek maritime traders and the Caeretan buyers. Its vase-painting of a naval battle provides us with a very good representation of the ships used by the Greek and the Etruscan sea-fighters – being almost identical – and of naval warfare during the Early Archaic period. The ship on the left is probably a triaconter (τριακόντορος) or a penteconter (πεντηκόντορος) while the ship on the right seems to be a merchant ship under attack, protected by heavily armed fighters due to the fear of piracy. The warriors of the warship on the left, are early hoplites or military ‘ancestors’ of the hoplites, depending on their ethnicity. They wear helmets of the Early Corinthian, Illyrian and ‘Insular’ types, bell-type cuirasses and heavy Argive (hoplite) shields and they are taking cover from the arrows and the javelins thrown to them by the defenders of the merchant ship. They are armed with heavy spears.

We can estimate that the scene is taking place in the Tyrrhenian Sea that is the sea covering the area between the Italian mainland and the islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. This sea area has taken its name by the Etruscan people – called Tyrrhenoi in ancient Greek: Τυρρηνοί – and during the Early Archaic period (700-600 BC) it had been a field of intensive maritime trade, but also a field of frequent and sometimes fierce naval encounters and endemic piracy between Greeks, Etruscans and Phoenicians (including Carthaginians). Actually the ethnic origination did not matter so much for the merchant ships or the warships of a city-state which were at the same time corsair or pirate vessels. The Greeks and the Etruscans used to confront each other, but it was not uncommon for a Greek vessel to attack a ship of another Greek city-state without being in a state of war, or for an Etruscan vessel to attack a ship of another Etruscan city-state. A merchant captain or a commander of a warship was usually a corsair or pirate at the same time without restrictions …if the ship that his vessel was encountering was weakly protected. If the opposing ships were about equal in power (ship construction, armament, manpower and other features), they were usually avoiding confrontation even if their crews were of different ethnic origins and possibly began trading. It was only from the end of the 6 th century BC due to the decline of Etruscan power and the limitation of the Carthago-Phoenician sphere of influence in the west of Sardinia, that the Tyrrhenian sea became a safer sea to sail and trade, but even then piracy was not uncommon. The Greeks were not the winners of the naval antagonism in the Tyrrhenian Sea: the Carthaginians were always present in the waters of Sardinia, Corsica and north-west Sicily, the Etruscans were always present along the coastline of Etruria and Liguria, and soon another geopolitical player emerged in the vicinity: Rome.


The Stream of Time

Have you seen the Mycenaean fragment showing what appears to be an elite or divine female warrior figure, that is, a female figure wearing a boars' tusk helmet, holding a collar-wearing griffon. Some people think it's actually Athena (it's possible, maybe even probable, but not provable at all). Anyway. you should include it here in this post of yours! It's a nice piece of art, AND it's controversial. (Well, as controversial as antiquities get. ) :D I love your blog, its image collection is so great!

Oh, oh also, the altar fresco you include with the "grain goddess" (misnomer) and the two larger figures (and the floating males), I thought it would be cool to mention that there is some serious scholarly speculation that the two larger women may be our earliest images of Athena and Hera. (possible, but not provable). It is thought that the woman on the left, holding a golden sword and wearing a priestess's robe, may be Athena, while the richly dressed woman on the right, grasping a staff, might be Hera. Supporting evidence includes the location of the fresco--it's on the side of a step-like altar, so that the grain-bearing woman is at ground level, while the significantly larger women are on/at/above the altar. Plus, the pillars which the women stand between indicate that they are in a religious temple. I like speculation like this, because it makes a crumbling, faded picture of basically feet, much more interesting, and curious. Oh, and another fascinating tidbit is that the ancient artist went out of his/her way to indicate that the so-called "grain goddess" is in fact a mortal human--she's wearing a seal-stone (which would bear her "coat of arms" so to speak, and which would be used on wax seals) on her right wrist! Little details like that make me salivate just thinking about how many other "clues" there must have once been. Keep your eyes open!! haha

The fresco depicting the two women opposite each other holding a sword and a spear respectively plus the lower figure with a griffin are interesting because even though it was found in Mycenae two of the three women are Minoan. The woman on the right of the pair with the spear and the one below are wearing unmistakable Minoan clothes. The open bodices exposing the breasts and the striped v-shaped pattern in the skirts are unique to Crete. As this fresco was found in Mycenae it appears as though there is a considerable melding of the two cultures and without one being subjugated by the other.


Mycenaean Shield Fresco - History

Contextual Analysis: The Mycenaean Civilization
The Citadel of Tiryns is located on the mainland of Greece off from the cost of Mediterranean Sea it is 10 miles away from Mycenae. Unlike Knossos, Tiryns was built mainly to be defensive, since it did not suffer from the ravages of earthquakes like Knossos it did not have phases and grow in the organic manner as Knossos did it was planned from the beginning. There are heavy walls surrounding Tiryns and other Mycenaean palaces. The entranceway to Tiryns is also designed to be defensive. In order for the attackers to approach the palace they have to pass a series of long narrow ramps that forces the soldiers to turn to right to expose their unshielded sides.

Not much is known as to why Tiryns or Mycenae died, however, it is known that they were under constant attack and that Tiryns and Mycenae both ended, probably by fire, in 1200 BCE.
The Greeks of later periods were quite taken with the ruins at Tiryns and even then it was a place of legend and fascination. Hercules was said to have been born in Tiryns and second century CE Greek historian Pausanias even wrote a tour book about its gigantic towers and masonry.

There’s a romantic story about the life and times of Heinrich Schliemann who was the archaeologist who excavated what he labeled the city of Mycenae and also another city called Tiryns. The book “The Greek Treasure,” by Irving Stone depicts Schliemann as a groundbreaking hero. He is in a lot of ways. Like Evans who excavated Knossos Schliemann was a very well-informed thoughtful man who knew a lot about the ancient world. He started as a businessman who had a passion for the books of the Iliad and the Odyssey. He made enough money that he was able to follow his passion and without the help of an academic institution he became an archaeologist on his own. He was not without a basic set of skills which included knowledge of Greek, ancient Greek, and several European languages. He is also known to have memorized the entire texts of Homer’s books the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Tiryns plan of Citadel c1200 BCE Knossos 1700-1300 BCE

Contextual Analysis: The Planning of Walled Cities
A great way to get a sense of what the values of a culture are is to look at how the designed their cities. Knossos on the right-hand side was a city that was located on a defensible island. It’s also thought that the Minoan culture had such a strong Navy that no one would dare invade or attack the central island of Crete or even the Cycladic islands around the area. On the left-hand side we see the Mycenaean city of Tiryns. In comparison, the city is actually a Citadel which is a defensible Palace with living areas as well as governing spaces. There’s really only one way to get in and that’s through the place called the outer propylon, that’s Greek for Gateway. The way in which the long thick walls are arranged means that anybody who was attacking the city couldn’t get in through the thick outer walls and if they were storming the city they would have to go through the approach ramp and make a right turn into the gateway.
hoplite n [Gk hoplites, fr. hoplon tool, weapon, fr. hepein to care for, work at--more at sepulchre] (ca. 1741): a heavily armed infantry soldier of ancient Greece

The fact that they’d have to turn right is a significant strategic move in the ancient world since the warriors of the ancient world, especially Mycenae, were hoplite warriors. A hoplite warrior is a soldier who was taught how to fight side-by-side while interlocking shields with his neighbor. The shields were oval and would allow the interlocking phalanx to move forward in step and stab their spears through the space between the shields. They would wear armor on their arms called Greaves and they would also wear a helmet. Here is a depiction of hoplite warriors from a Mycenaean vase. See the movie “The 300” to see this in action.

Hoplite warriors need their right arms to be free to use their spears. Hoplite warriors entering the gateway would encounter a 90° right turn have their arms blocked by the stone walls. This would also leave a gap between the shield and and the wall. The warriors who would be defending that gateway would have their right arms free and would be able to exploit the weaknesses of the offensive forces. Another benefit to the thick tall stone walls is that the people defending the Citadel would be able to stand on top of them and throw things down on top of the advancing army. So the design of the thick walls long hallways and high vantage point are all elements integrated into the design of the Mycenaean city.

Mycenae, Warrior's Vase, c1500 Helladic Period/Civilization
Form: By the shape we know that this vessel was a mixing bowl for wine and water that the Greeks called a krater. Created on a wheel the vase is decorated with fired engobe. Engobe is a glaze made of thinned down clay sometimes called slip which has additives such as iron oxides which turn colors when fired.

A single register of warriors complete with armor marching from left to right. To the far left is a female figure waving at the figures as they move away. As in the Minoan art, no attempt at pictorial depth is apparent. The figures seem to be rendered in an attempt at naturalism and whatever stylizations occur they do not seem wholly intentional. The figures are in a modified composite view for this reason as well.

Iconography: The iconography of the vessel seems to fall in step with the overall plan of Tiryns. The theme of the vessel is martial. These are men going off to battle and the female to the far left is in support of their patriotic venture. Therefore the iconography describes both male and female roles within the context of a militaristic society.

Context: Since both Mycenae and Tiryns were built for defense and the fact that a household item, unlike the pottery from Knossos, contains such a martial theme indicates that the emphasis of the cultures at Tiryns and Mycenae were devoted to defense. The positioning of the shield and spear in the arms of the individuals is also a clue as to how the walls and entranceway into the citadels was defensible. Since an intruder would have to enter the main gateway (propylon) by turning right, the spear hand of the soldier would be blocked by the wall and the shield on the left would be rendered ineffective as the soldier turned. A soldier inside the propylon would have the benefit of having no such obstructions.

ashlar
noun
1. Masonry.
1. a squared building stone cut more or less true on all faces adjacent to those of other stones so as to permit very thin mortar joints.
2. such stones collectively.
3. masonry made of them.
2. Carpentry. a short stud between joists and sloping rafters, especially near the eaves.
verb (used with object)
3. to face with ashlars.


The walls themselves are constructed from large interlocking ashlars of masonry. The blocks are enormous and some of them would take several men possibly even a pulley and winch system to raise them into place. When the ancient people of Greece found these sites they describe them as looking as if the gods had constructed them. At least the demigods because they named this kind of masonry “Cyclopedia Masonry” because the stones were so large they assumed that one eyed giants called Cyclops constructed the city. The Cyclops is a mythical creature that will encounter in much of the art from ancient Greece. There are two of them and one is named Polyphemus who is a character in the Odyssey of Homer from 800 BCE. Odysseus encounters the Cyclops as he returns home from his war on Troy.

Iconography
We do not know how the people of Tiryns and Mycenae viewed their own cities since there is isn’t a written account. We do know that these cities were iconic for the Greeks and Romans who saw them centuries later. The massive walls and masonry blocks of Tiryns were gigantic. They are so massive that Greeks and historians imagined that giants moved and built the blocks. The giants elected by the Greek imagination were the one eyed titans known as the Cyclopes. That is why the term Cyclopean masonry is used to describe it. In some ways, these citadels, for the Greeks of the fifth through first centuries, are roughly the equivalent of Teotihuacan in America for the Aztecs or the Anasazi cities for the Navajo.

Contextual Analysis: The Lions Gate at Mycenae
The way things are carved in the masonry, such as in this relief carving above the post and lintel doorway of the gateway into Mycenae tells us something about what the Mycenaeans were trying to communicate to visitors as well as the people who lived there. This is one of those gateways that would’ve been very defensible. As you enter into it you’re funneled into a fairly wide passageway that has large Cyclopedia masonry walls on which defenders could stand and fling nasty things down on your head. It also serves as a bit of a waiting room for those who are waiting to get through the gates. Above the large post and lintel doorway is a relief carving that amplifies the architecture in some ways.
Formal Analysis
There are large alternating ashlars of 4 foot to 5 foot tall blocks of stone that have been laid in alternating courses. The stone is native and would’ve been carved probably on site and fitted together on site. A large post and lintel doorway exists out of three eleven to twelve foot long blocks of solid stone. Above this is a carved plaque or stelae in a triangular form.

The large plaque is made of a limestone and more finished or “dressed” then the rougher masonry that surrounds it. The overall shape of the plaque, which is similar to the tympanum found on Christian churches, is roughly triangular and designed to fit in with the triangular spaces above many of the doors at Mycenae. You might describe the arch above if it was complete as a corbel arch.

The stelae represents lion bodies flanking a column that has a capital at the top and entablature that looks very similar to the columns from Knossos. In fact the shape of the column is that above the columns capital is a flat entablature decorated with what looks like patterns and forms that are similar to the ones that we see at Knossos. They are patterns based on geometric forms circles and rectangles. The lion or feline animals are missing their heads. We don’t know if the original heads depicted lions.

It’s possible, and probably very likely, that this sculpture was painted with some sort of encaustic paint. Encaustic paint is one of the earliest forms of paint that was used to decorate buildings and sculptures. Encaustic is made from melting beeswax and mixing it with mineral pigments. The melted wax is applied while still hot and then when it dries it becomes a semi-permanent wax coating with color. Since beeswax is organic only traces of color exist in most ancient sculptures that been painted with it.

The lion bodies are very naturalistic and seem to be based on some sort of observation of cats bodies. It’s also possible, since there are very few kinds of liens except for mountain lions in ancient Greece that these liens were modeled on some sort of art that was imported.

Many buildings throughout the world have animals at the gates to it or on the steps to it. For example there are kinds of dog dragons that are on the front of some Chinese temples. There are also lions on the steps of the New York City public library. In most cases we think of these things is purely decorative but they do have some sort of symbolic significance.

In Knossos we encountered a griffin that was a compound creature made of the body of a lion and had Eagles or predatory birds heads and wings. We’ve also encountered liens in ancient Egypt as well as in our own culture in which liens often represent some sort of King or monarch.

The mask is a stylized portrait of a mature male. The arching eyebrows and straight nose are reminiscent of some of the objects found at Tell Asmar and Knossos. The mask is made of a thinly beaten sheet of gold which was hammered from the backside. This technique, known as repousse, is different from the other metal working processes, such as the cire perdue method (lost wax).

Iconographic Analysis
The attribution that this was an actual representation of the ancient Greek King Agamemnon is probably incorrect. When Schliemann excavated this he had already in his mind decided that the sites he was excavating were both cities from the ancient document of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The reality is probably that this is not any King that Schliemann could’ve named, and the fact that we don’t have any primary documentation such as Linear B texts. The masks were most likely meant as royal portraits of the deceased they covered. The beard and handlebar mustache are emblems of maturity and wisdom.

Iconographic Analysis: The Representation of Kings

Looking at the so-called mask of Agamemnon in comparison this cire perdue a representation of Sargon, will help us to understand some of the basic concepts involved in making art for royalty. In both of these cases they share quite a bit of formal stuff. The arching eyebrows the beard and the fact that they’re both portrayed as idealized and handsome is no mistake. In most cases in which rulers are represented, such as in the case of the Mesopotamian effigy, the idea is to represent them at their best. So in this case it’s probably standard iconography in most cultures to represent them as bearded. It’s also possible, really more of a theory, to link some of the stylistic traits between these two representations. In order to do this we need to look at context and form together.

Contextual and Formal Analysis Concerning The Representation of Kings

Art historians have a term, that’s actually outdated and outmoded but is still used today, called Orientalism or orientalized. When they use the term orientalized they are referring to the stylization that we see from Mesopotamia and sometimes in Egypt in which the eyebrows terminate in the bridge of the nose in an almost on naturalistic way. The term orientalized was used by art historians to describe any work that they deemed came from the East. This includes the near East, such as Persia and Mesopotamia, and sometimes can include places like Asia minor and others. Basically, that vocabulary term is a little bit Eurocentric. It’s based on what Europe’s concept of what the East is. So in this way we see that Sargon on with his regular geometric sized curves in his beard and the way the face is stylized is a good example of the orientalized style. It’s possible that the mask and some of the art that we see from Mesopotamia as well as Knossos and Mycenae were influenced by trade and some of the artist picked up some of the stylistic traits that they saw in some of the import goods from Asia Minor, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.

Context Analysis
Originally this mask would have been molded to form around the head of the corpse serving as a replacement or protection for the deceased features. This mask and others like it were found in the unlooted shaft graves inside grave circle A. The title or attribution that this is the mask of the legendary king from the "Iliad" Agamemnon is false. Schliemann chose to name it this based on his conjecture and desire that he link this site and these graves to Homer's works.

The context in which these were found is that they were found in one of the grave shaft’s that had not been plundered by earlier treasure seekers. The actual date is probably around 1200 but there is no way to accurately date these objects. This is one of the few remaining treasure cachets that Schliemann found. So in a way in order to support his theories he had to name this Agamemnon’s mask. Further problems are that some art historians have accused Schliemann a remolding the mask especially the mustache to conform to his idea of what Agamemnon looked like.

Form: The beehive style tomb was entered into through a 20 foot wide and 120 foot long dromos (passageway) constructed of ashlars that was open to the sky. The entrance to the dromos terminated in another 34 high entrance facade that contained an 18 foot tall door faced with marble and bronze. The panel above the lintel, empty in this photograph, would have been ornamented with a similar style limestone or marble panel to the one above the lintel at the "Lion's Gate." Inside the tomb, at 43 feet high, this dome or tholos (tholoi plural) was the largest dome of its time. The interior of the igloo style dome was constructed from a series of corbeled ashlars that terminated at the top in a pointed cone like shape. These tombs were originally covered by large mounds of earth.
Iconography: The use of the technology itself is rather iconic of the advanced quality of the engineering and of the wealth of the individual who was buried inside. This "conspicuous consumption" would have been symbolic of the power of the individual.

Context: Over 100 tombs like this have been found in the area of Tiryns and Mycenae. However, these tombs, almost all which have been looted, were not the tombs in which Schliemann and others found their treasures. The earlier shaft graves are the sources for the repousse masks.

Again, as in the case with the mask, this tomb was misnamed the "Treasury of the Atreus" because archaeologists wanted to make the claim that this site was linked to the places and names in the
Formal Analysis

The beehive style tomb was entered into through a 20 foot wide and 120 foot long dromos (passageway) constructed of ashlars that was open to the sky. The entrance to the dromos terminated in another 34 high entrance facade that contained an 18 foot tall door faced with marble and bronze. The panel above the lintel, empty in this photograph, would have been ornamented with a similar style limestone or marble panel to the one above the lintel at the "Lion's Gate." Inside the tomb, at 43 feet high, this dome or tholos (tholoi plural) was the largest dome of its time. The interior of the igloo style dome was constructed from a series of corbeled ashlars that terminated at the top in a pointed cone like shape. These tombs were originally covered by large mounds of earth.

Iconography: The use of the technology itself is rather iconic of the advanced quality of the engineering and of the wealth of the individual who was buried inside. This "conspicuous consumption" would have been symbolic of the power of the individual.
Context: Over 100 tombs like this have been found in the area of Tiryns and Mycenae. However, these tombs, almost all which have been looted, were not the tombs in which Schliemann and others found their treasures. The earlier shaft graves are the sources for the repousse masks.
Again, as in the case with the mask, this tomb was misnamed the "Treasury of the Atreus" because archaeologists wanted to make the claim that this site was linked to the places and names in the "Iliad."

Vapheio Cup (also spelled Vaphio) c1500 BCE found at Vapheio near Sparta, Greece Mycenaean possibly Minoan

Formal Analysis:
This repousse cup features a double walled construction. It was made out of two sheets of thin gold. The outer sheet was molded and the details formed (some by engraving). Then this ornamented sheet was attached to a thin sheet of gold so that the interior of the cup was smooth. These joined pieces were then bolted to or riveted to a handle.

re.pous.se adj [F, lit., pushed back] (1858) 1: shaped or ornamented with patterns in relief made by hammering or pressing on the reverse side--used esp. of metal 2: formed in relief ²repousse n (1858) 1: repousse work 2: repousse decoration

The details of the ornamentation show a surprisingly illusionistic and naturalistic scene of a youthful, thin waisted, broad shouldered young man wrestling with a bull snared with a rope. In this scene there is some space created by the figures overlapping the scenery behind them. The naturalism and stylization of the figures recall many of the frescos at Knossos.

Iconographic Analysis
The scene itself is a genre scene similar to those found in murals at Knossos. The figures appears to be in ideal physical condition and the scene could represent the ideal of youthful strength and prowess as he heroically triumphs over a bull. The beautiful landscape and the fine animals are possibly reminders or symbols of the property one who is wealthy and strong may acquire.


The bull, as in the story of the Minotaur, Mesopotamian art and literature, cave painting and even in Chattel Huyuk represents a powerful, almost divine creature full of male potent energy. If one conquers such a creature it may demonstrate a mastery over these qualities.

Context Analysis
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this work is its context. Although the work was found in a tomb on the Greek mainland, many scholars believe that this work is stylistically and iconographically linked to Minoan art. Several textbooks and scholars suggest that this work was manufactured somewhere in the Cyclades or on Crete and then exported or that a traveler who visited this region brought it back as one of his or her treasures.

These 2 cups were found tholos tomb about 5 miles away from Sparta. It’s hard to figure out the date of these pieces, especially since they were excavated in 1889 which predates some of the archaeological methods that we would use ordinarily to do some kind of dating system including relative dating and stratigraphy. The fact that these were found in a tomb means that they were linked to some kind of luxury good and were treasures placed in a tomb for an important person. Because of the style of these cups, and the iconography on them, it’s very possible to extrapolate that they might’ve been import items from Crete. However the circumstances under which they were found gives us no real evidence for this theory.

The theories behind these 2 cups makes sense but their unprovable. The theory more or less, is that these cups because of the fact that they represent bowls and people who look like the representations from Knossos that these were imported, either that or some sort of loot that was brought back to the mainland, and therefore a type of treasure. Taking these theory further archaeologists have suggested an extensive trade network between Crete and Mycenae. Taking into account the evidence of the written language from Mycenae being found at Knossos and this evidence suggesting that the Mycenaeans took over the island of Crete does somewhat support this.

Another theory is that Mycenae was somehow a vassal state to Crete and that the column represented in the Lion Gate at Mycenae and objects like these cups suggest that there was at least a close connection between the two.

Frescoes from the Mycenaean Culture

To write this text have been doing quite a lot of research and reading some of the original text books and documents from the 1930s and 1940s. It’s interesting to note how thesis driven most of these books were. The author begins with the theory or hypothesis, for example one author was discussing evidence that would allow one to believe that the Minoan culture was almost like a pirate Navy that controlled most of the Aegean sees and was constantly invading Mycenae and mainland cities like Tiryns. Compared against the latest evidence that suggests the Mycenaeans invaded Knossos the evidence suggests a completely different iconography.

The safest way to learn about these ancient civilizations is to learn as many facts based on primary evidence and text as possible and not draw any conclusions about the historical data until we can find a written record that supports either theory. In approaching these two frescoes below I’ll tell you little bit about the theories that people used to explain the iconography and may be take them apart a little bit.

Formal Analysis Mycenaean Frescoes

In terms of looking at the frescoes the two groups Mycenaeans and Minoans both have a very similar vocabulary in terms of representing animals and space. They tend to make things flat diagrammatic, there are outlines run most of the figures, and fairly bright colors made from the same kinds of pigments are used. In looking at a cross-section of the two groups it seems that the Minoans used red more. The subject matter between the two civilizations is very similar in most cases showing even the same kinds of women however, soldiers and battle scenes, as far as I know, have not been found at Knossos. We do have the so-called Naval Scene but that doesn’t show war it shows ships on the sea and the island culture.
(Upper left hand corner has a lion chasing after some antelopes.)

Contextual and Iconographic Analysis

One of the ideas, that’s really more of a theory, that is in most survey level art history texts is the fact that the dogs scene is a violent scene and depicts an aggressive world at Mycenae. I’m not really sure if this is accurate because at Thera they found hunting scenes and there are even some hunting scenes in the Naval Fresco. So the iconographic analysis of the hunting scene, while it’s obvious it’s dogs hunting and animal, does not necessarily prove out the warlike theme. A notable exception to this is the iconography on the Mycenaean krater with the hoplite soldiers depicted on it. A more provocative comparison is that there is a fresco found at Tiryns depicts something that could be a bull vaulting fresco.


Mycenae, Warrior's Vase, c1500 Helladic Period/Civilization

Even though many people have interpreted this as a bull vaulting fresco it’s possible that it is not that. We don’t really have enough of the fresco left for us to make a clear determination. If it is a bull jumping fresco that would only indicate even more of a link between the two cultures and would improve whether or not Mycenae was conquered by Knossos or the reverse.


Mycenaean Shield Fresco - History


Plan of Mycenae

The citadel of Mycenae was built on a hill with a commanding view of the plain of Argos. Within massive fortifications the citadel were built a palace and other buildings. Most of the rest of the town, however, lay outside the walls. In about 1250 BCE, the walls of the citadel was extended to the northeast to include Grave Circle A (which was originally outside the citadel) and the famous Lion Gate was built. Fifty years later, around 1200 BCE, the wall was extended again to incorporate the water supply.


View of the walls of Mycenae


View of the walls of Mycenae in the early 19th century
(tinted drawing in E. Dodwell, Views in Greece,1821)

The palace was sited on top of the hill within the citadel and included a rectangular megaron with the entrance in the centre of the short side. A porch with two columns in antis (i.e., between the antae or the broadened ends of walls) led to a vestibule and thence to a large hall with a throne, a hearth, and columns.

On the slope of the hill outside the palace was a shrine area where a cult room embellished with a staircase, columns, and platforms was located. On one of the platforms evidently stood a female terracotta figurine almost two feet high.

Sixteen other female idols of the same size or smaller, plus a pair of coiled terracotta snakes, were in another chamber nearby. A chamber connecting the spaces was decorated with frescoes that included a woman holding what may be wheatsheaves. Elsewhere, the decorations included a frieze of solid discs beneath Minoan-style "horns of consecration." An L-shaped third room contained vases, some partly carved ivories, and a shrine with figures painted on a platform in one corner.

The entrance to the citadel of Mycenae is through the Lion Gate. It is defended by a bastion which projects forward for some 15 yards (14 m) on one side, parallel to the line of the wall itself on the other.


Mycenaean Wall Painting in Context: New Discoveries, Old Finds Reconsidered. ΜΕΛΕΤΗΜΑΤΑ 72

With a preface and 14 lavishly illustrated chapters, Mycenaean Wall Painting in Context: New Discoveries, Old Finds Reconsidered presents, as its title suggests, recent discoveries and current research on Mycenaean wall paintings excavated from both palatial and non-palatial contexts on the Greek mainland, specifically Mycenae, Tiryns, Argos, Iklaina, Pylos, Thebes, Orchomenos, and Gla. The volume publishes a workshop organized by the volume’s editors, who, as outlined in the Preface, were motivated to undertake the project by their own continuing study of wall paintings from the Mycenaean palace at Pylos. This focus on previously unpublished material means that the material presented in this volume is new to scholarship, and thus highly significant for the study of ancient painting. The volume is clearly and consistently organized. Each chapter features a site plan marking find spots of wall paintings and includes written descriptions of archaeological and architectural contexts, observations on technical aspects of the paintings, stylistic and iconographic analysis, and discussions of possible meanings of the various compositions. With its systematic presentation of the archaeological material and the abundant large scale, full color photographs and drawings, this volume represents a major publication of Mycenaean painting.

The contents are organized geographically into four sections: Mycenae, Tiryns/Argos, Messenia, and Boiotia. This is preceded by introductory chapters intended to establish the conceptual and geographical contexts of Mycenaean painting, beginning with John Bennet’s discussion (Ch. 1) of problems scholars face today when seeking to contextualize Mycenaean paintings within their specific cultural and social milieus. For Bennet, “behind the wall” studies of painting technology that recognize chaînes opératoires complement “on the wall” investigation of representation and signification. Bennet’s essay emphasizes the importance of Mycenaean paintings not only as “‘windows on the Mycenaean world,’ but [also] as some of the most complex products that draw in multiple aspects of practice within that world, helping us to reach a richer understanding of what it meant to be ‘Mycenaean’” (33).

Andreas Vlachopoulos’s investigation of Mycenaean elements in Cycladic painting (Ch. 2) challenges commonplace assumptions of monolithic ethnic identities (“Minoan,” “Cycladic,” and “Mycenaean”) by awarding Mycenaeans active rather than passive roles in the creation and maintenance of visual and material culture from the beginning of the Late Bronze (LB) Age. Vlachopoulos argues that Theran artists made dynamic contributions to the formation of Aegean koine art, first in ceramic painting during the Middle Cycladic (MC) period and later in wall paintings of Late Cycladic (LC) I, contemporary with Neopalatial Crete. For Vlachopoulos there is not one correct answer to the question of ethnic identity rather, the question itself needs rephrasing. This essay is valuable for its thoughtful discussion of recent trends in scholarship and for its fine illustrations of new finds from Akrotiri, particularly MC pictorial vases found in excavations for the new site shelter and a frieze depicting life- size boar’s tusk helmets—a motif often associated with Mycenaean art.

Santo Privitera’s contribution (Ch. 3) offers a valuable summary of recent investigations into the Late Minoan (LM) III paintings of Ayia Triada, Crete, excavated early in the twentieth century. Careful archival work identifies find spots of plaster deposits and their chronology. Of particular interest is the restoration of the late LM IIIA2 Great Procession and the Woman and an Altar to an extensively painted hall of ceremonial and cultic character, Room A in Casa VAP. The evidence from Ayia Triada suggests the presence of a local painting workshop—a “Messara school”—as early as LM IIIA1, one that continued to be active after the fall of Knossos, likely in LM IIIA2.

The section on paintings from Mycenae opens with Heleni Palaiologou’s study of a painted plaster female figurine excavated from a chamber tomb at Asprochoma, north of the acropolis (Ch. 4). This is the only chapter which does not deal directly with wall paintings, yet the techniques used to shape and decorate the plaster figure draw from relief fresco as well as techniques of clay modeling and ivory-, bone- and wood-carving. Details of style and iconography reveal affinities with Minoan art, but comparisons with the famous painted plaster head from Mycenae, the female statues from Kea, and Mycenaean terracotta figurines suggest it was produced by a Mycenaean palatial workshop in Late Helladic (LH) IIIA and probably represented a deity.

Kim Shelton’s overview of LH IIIA frescoes excavated in 2006-2008 from the LH IIIA Petsas House at Mycenae returns the volume’s focus to wall painting (Ch. 5). While conservation and study of these paintings continue, recognizable motifs include splash patterns, tricurved arches, rockwork, and argonauts. The presence of high- quality paintings in non-palatial contexts is notable. Similarly, figurative paintings decorated the LH IIIB1 West House at Mycenae, excavated in the 1950s but only recently the subject of study by Iphiyenia Tournavitou (Ch. 6). Fragments depict male hunters carrying spears, hunting dogs, vegetation (plants and trees), and horse- drawn chariots which share stylistic and iconographic similarities with the Boar Hunt Fresco from Tiryns. A fragmentary ritual scene with a female figure and two heraldic animals (a possible stag and a mystery creature) is new to Mycenaean iconography. Themes featuring sport and ritual, previously believed to have been restricted to palaces, are now known to have decorated nonpalatial buildings visually, they link the occupants of the West House with the central authority of the palace at Mycenae.

The third section features chapters on paintings from Tiryns and Argos. Alkestis Papadimitriou, Ulrich Thaler and Joseph Maran present a fragmentary but important new LH IIIB composition excavated in 1999 from secondary contexts in the Western Staircase of the citadel at Tiryns (Ch. 7). As restored, the painting features “Pomegranate Bearers”: small female figures (statuettes or children?) grasping pomegranate branches, each held by a larger female personage and accompanied by processional escorts. The authors review evidence supporting every detail of the composition’s restoration before discussing its intriguing iconography. Ultimately, interpretation hinges on whether one understands the pomegranate bearers as living girls or effigies, and since neither identification can be made with certainty, the authors leave the question open.

Paintings discovered in a megaron-like building dated to LH IIIA2, uncovered in rescue excavations in Argos during 1971-1973, form the subject of Ch. 8, co-authored by Iphiyenia Tournavitou and Hariclia Brecoulaki. A fragment preserving the lower legs of three walking figures will be of interest to scholars investigating the Aegean color convention, according to which red-painted skin signifies male gender whereas white skin identifies female. In this fragment, the leading figure’s left leg is rendered in red outline, the central figure has solid red legs, and the third figure has a white leg (but no skirt or robe). Other fragments from the site preserve a twisting charioteer with naturalistically rendered musculature, a long-necked bird interacting with a hissing snake, two over-life-size yellow scorpions, and a seascape with octopuses. These extraordinary additions to the Mycenaean corpus make the fragments depicting female figures—even one carrying a caprid upside-down—seem ordinary.

The next three essays present paintings from Messenia, beginning with Michael Cosmopoulos’s overview of painted plasters discovered in 2009 at Iklaina, near Pylos (Ch. 9). Found in the LH IIB-IIIA1 Cyclopean Terrace Building, these paintings are among the earliest to survive from Mycenaean Greece. Of the 1181 excavated fragments, however, only 60 preserve recognizable patterns, the most interesting of which belong to a naval scene and depict part of a crescent-shaped ship decorated with spirals and occupied by three figures (two oarsmen and a man seated in a cabin), and two dolphins swimming beside vessel. Two additional fragments preserve parts of female figures and may belong to a procession fresco. The Iklaina paintings are significant for their adaptations of Minoan and Cycladic prototypes and for their embrace of artistic style associated with later Mycenaean painting (e.g., highly stylized dolphins). Cosmopoulos suggests that artists working in Messenia likely played significant roles in establishing the Mycenaean artistic idiom and shares the view that mainland artists were first exposed to painting in the Cyclades (especially Thera, Kea).

The two following essays focus on wall fragments from the palace at Pylos. In Ch. 10, Hariclia Brecoulaki, Sharon Stocker, Jack Davis, and Emily Egan offer a preliminary study and restoration of a LH IIIB naval scene excavated in 1953, now restorable to the northwest wall of Hall 64. Three overlapping, crescent-shaped ships sail on a fish-filled purple sea, propelled by oarsmen, framed above and below by a black-and-white checkerboard pattern a fourth ship is distinguished by its hull’s decoration with argonauts, and probably belongs to a separate composition. Unlike many well-known Mycenaean paintings painted in blue, red and yellow (in addition to black and white), this scene’s color palette was restricted to iron-based ochres (for the ships) and murex purple mixed with grains of Egyptian blue (for the sea). These pigments were applied a secco to dry plaster using egg and vegetable gum binders. For the authors, the Naval Scene underscores Pylian state interest in maritime affairs, already evidenced by Linear B tablets from the site.

Egan and Brecoulaki’s co-authored essay (Ch. 11) takes a closer look at painted argonauts, which appear on 53 wall fragments from the Pylos palace. A good deal of confusion surrounds the argonaut motif, since it is commonly misidentified as the nautilus, a different marine species. The authors argue convincingly that argonauts are not merely decorative in meaning but emblematic of seafaring and naval strength and perhaps symbolic of political and religious power. Here, photographs of the actual animals—argonaut and nautilus—would have enhanced this study, as the painted creatures are heavily stylized and non-naturalistic in appearance.

The fourth and final section of the volume features paintings from Boiotia. Vassilis Aravantinos and Ioannis Fappas present recent discoveries of paintings from Thebes, where paintings were found in ten locations across the fortified acropolis (Ch. 12). Motifs include spiral friezes and birds in landscape settings. The Treasury Room of the Kadmeia, in contexts datable to the mid-13th century, produced border motifs (rosettes, spirals, and imitation stonework), spiral designs incorporating papyrus sprays, and fragments preserving string lines and an incised compass-drawn circle. Theodoros Spyropoulos’s contribution on paintings from the palace at Orchomenos, excavated by the author in the 1970s and 1980s (Ch. 13), presents fragments from an extensive Boar Hunt Fresco similarities with the well known Boar Hunt composition from Tiryns point to the existence of travelling artists. Other painting fragments seem religious in content and are identified as male worshippers with raised arms and palm trees in a fenced temenos populated by deer these motifs are linked rather daringly with the later temenos of the Charites which possibly gave Orchomenos its name (364-365). The plume of a griffin and the head of a young “prince” with a possible ivory throne are rare examples of wall paintings described in the text but not illustrated in this volume. Lastly, Christos Boulotis offers an updated analysis and restoration of a fragmentary Dolphin Frieze found at Gla outside Room N1 in the east wing of the South Enclosure, together with information on three wall painting fragments from the same deposit, identifiable as large-scale argonauts (Ch. 14).

The present book, richly illustrated, offers up-to-date insights into many new discoveries and research of Mycenaean wall painting. Among its many important contributions, a few points deserve repeated emphasis. First, fragments from Iklaina, Argos, and Mycenae offer new information on the earlier phases of Mycenaean painting and help fill chronological gaps in the study of painting. Second, the new finds underscore that fact that Mycenaean painting was widespread as an art form and not restricted to the palaces. Third, naval scenes and marine themes—largely unrecognized in earlier studies of Mycenaean painting—now seem to appear everywhere, as evidenced by new compositions from Argos, Iklaina, Gla, Mycenae and Pylos. In sum, this volume represents a major effort to bring together new work on Mycenaean painting, in a format that is easily accessible to a broad audience and lavishly illustrated with large format, high quality color images. It would be a welcome addition to any prehistorian’s library.

Table of Contents

Preface by the editors 13-17
Conceptual and Geographical Contexts
John Bennet, Telltale Depictions: A Contextual View of Mycenaean Wall-Paintings 21-34
Andreas G. Vlachopoulos, Detecting “Mycenaean” Elements in the “Minoan” Wall-Paintings of a “Cycladic” Settlement. The Wall-Paintings of Thera and Τheir Iconographic Koine 37-65
Santo Privitera, A Painted Town: Wall Paintings and the Built Environment at Late Minoan III Ayia Triada 66-90
Mycenae
Heleni Palaiologou, A Female Painted Plaster Figure from Mycenae 95-125
Kim Shelton, LH IIIA Frescoes from Petsas House, Mycenae: Splatters, Patterns and Scenes 126-143
Iphiyenia Tournavitou, Sport, Prestige, and Ritual Outside the Palaces: Pictorial Frescoes from the West House at Mycenae 145-169
Tiryns and Argos
Alkestis Papadimitriou, Ulrich Thaler and Joseph Maran, Bearing the Pomegranate Bearer: A New Wall-Painting Scene from Tiryns 173-211
Iphiyenia Tournavitou and Hariclia Brecoulaki, The Mycenaean Wall-Paintings from Argos. A Preliminary Presentation 212-245
Messenia
Michael B. Cosmopoulos, A Group of New Mycenaean Frescoes from Iklaina, Pylos 249-259
Hariclia Brecoulaki, Sharon R. Stocker, Jack L. Davis, and Emily C. Egan, An Unprecedented Naval Scene from Pylos: First Considerations 260-291
Emily C. Egan and Hariclia Brecoulaki, Marine Iconography at the Palace of Nestor and the Emblematic Use of the Argonaut 292-313
Boiotia
Vassilis Aravantinos and Ioannis Fappas, The Mycenaean Wall Paintings of Thebes: From Excavation to Restoration 316-353
Theodoros Spyropoulos, Wall Paintings from the Mycenaean Palace of Boeotian Orchomenos 355-368
Christos Boulotis, Reconstructing a Dolphin Frieze and Argonauts from the Mycenaean Citadel of Gla 371-403


Reconstructing a Mycenaean Tower Shield

This is going to be a long-term project involving a number of posts, because of the nature of the beast. The goal is to recreate a tower shield based on artistic representations - most notably from a fresco in Akrotiri and the inlay on the "lion hunt dagger" from Mycenae, both of which date to approximately 1600 BCE.

The inspiration for this project is the most basic material necessary for the construction of the shield. Arundo donax is a reed that is endemic worldwide, but is recognized as being native to the Mediterranean basin since at least prehistoric times. There is evidence of ancient Egyptians using it for various purposes, and in Classical Greece it was favored for making flutes. It is still the preferred material for making some parts of modern wind instruments. Arundo donax is one of eleven species in the Arundo genus, but is by far the most common worldwide and the most associated with human uses.

In North America A. donax is considered an invasive species, as it easily dominates riparian habitats if its growth is unchecked. Here in California it is commonly referred to as "giant reed" or "false bamboo," and there are numerous projects to remove it from natural ecosystems. Currently I work part-time for the Reedley College Forestry & Natural Resources department doing habitat restoration along the Kings River here in the San Joaquin Valley, and although arundo (as we casually refer to it) has been mostly put in check along our riparian corridor, there are still one or two mature stands that have yet to be dealt with.

On Friday, with the beginning of spring break, I decided to take a typical stroll down the river when I began thinking about the arundo. Knowing its use in the ancient world, and of its utility for weaving into various objects both past and present, I was inspired to take a closer look at some of the growth behind the campus. I took a hand axe with me.

This is a view of the mature stand about five yards from the river's edge, and about ten yards below the trail. I had to climb under, over, and through a variety of downed willow trees, elderberry, and the arundo itself to reach this vantage point, which I found most suitable for examining and harvesting the arundo. It is easy to see why the species has common names such as giant reed and false bamboo, as it can grow to be over five meters in length and has the characteristic culm and knot growth features.

Using my little axe I began chopping down a number of reeds based on their width, straightness, and height. I decided to cut a variety of practical looking pieces down for the sake of experimentation.

I had to push the cut reeds up through the thick growth and debris that stood between me and the trail, then climb back and pull it up from the top. I did this twice with approximately thirty large lengths of reed, and a few smaller pieces. Near the middle of the stand I also found some suitably straight and strong pieces that were already very dry, probably having been long choked for life by their younger siblings.

Each piece was covered in different amounts of leaves, buds, and shoots, which I patiently stripped down by hand and occasionally with the aid of my axe. I did not want to carry excess material with me, and also needed to pull much of the growth off to reveal the true nature of the solid culms, which could sometimes be split along the grain (especially near the bottom) due to growing pressures.

Eventually I was left with a very neat pile of what seems like largely useful arundo, a majority of which will need some time to cure. The average diameter for the outer culms ranges between 2-4cm in what I consider to be prime sections, and although almost all of these pieces have a good amount of bend across their length, most have sections that could be cut relatively straight.

It took me three trips to carry all of the material up the trail, over the bluff, and into the campus wood lot where we do our milling and chain saw exercises. I was about half a mile away at the spot where the arundo was growing. It took nearly four hours from the moment I began cutting to the time I finished stripping and relocating all of the reeds. I plan to do one more outing with an eye towards similar results before bringing a trailer over to haul the wood home and begin proper work.

I think I already have enough wood to make a shield or two, but believe that a great deal of practical experimentation will be necessary to achieve satisfactory results.


Mycenaean Shield Fresco - History

Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 13e

What is the Iliad, and how did it impact the art history of the Aegean?

Answer: Considered by many to be the finest epic poem ever written, it recounts the abduction of Helen and the destruction of Troy however, it also led Heinrich Schliemann, a nineteenth century amateur archaeologist to uncover and excavate many of the cities Homer described in his Iliad .

Which of the following is a palace on Crete?

  • Identify the geographic area known as the Aegean.
  • Discuss the visual aspects and possible context of the Cycladic sculptures.
  • Discuss Minoan society and architecture.
  • Understand visual aspects of Minoan art.
  • Understand the link between culture and architecture of Mycenae
  • Identify important Mycenaean architectural achievements.
  • Discuss the relationship between Minoan and Mycenaean art and culture

Significant numbers of small marble figurines representing naked women with arms folded over abdomens have been found in:

  • Identify the geographic area known as the Aegean and the specific area of the Cycladic Islands.
  • Discuss the visual aspects and possible context of the Cycladic sculptures
  • Describe the visual aspects of the Cycladic female and male figures. Why are these figures popular and highly collectible now?

Figure 4-2 Figurine of a woman, from Syros (Cyclades), Greece, ca. 2500–2300 BCE. Marble, 1’ 6” high. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

Cycladic figurines having the same form took on different meanings in different contexts. What accounts for this?

  • found in both cemeteries and settlements
  • found in royal houses and royal cemeteries
  • specific figurines were buried in urns
  • only those standing figurines had a different identity

Figure 4-3 Male lyre player, from Keros (Cyclades), Greece, ca. 2700–2500 BCE. Marble, 9” high. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

4.2 Minoan Culture and Art

  • Discuss the mythology behind the Minoan culture and architecture.
  • Understand the elements and nature of Minoan palace architecture.
  • Examine the medium, methods, and imagery of Minoan wall painting.
  • Explore the developments of Minoan pottery.
  • Discuss the Greek bronze age mythology behind Minoan culture and architecture.
  • What light has Aegean archaeology shed on the mythological stories?

Who or what was the Minotaur?

c. a bull with eagle’s wings

The Old Palace Period in Minoan art came to an end around 1700 BCE. What was the probable cause?

  • invasion by the Egyptians
  • invasion by the Mycenaeans
  • tidal wave
  • earthquake

Figure 4-4 Aerial view (looking northeast) of the palace at Knossos (Crete), Greece, ca. 1700–1400 BCE.

Figure 4-5 Plan of the palace at Knossos (Crete), Greece, ca. 1700–1400 BCE.

What features of the architecture of the Palace at Knossos are thought to have given rise to the Greek myth of the labyrinth?

Answer: The complexity of the palace plan and the scores of rooms.

Define labrys and its importance in Minoan architecture.

Answer: Means double-ax and it is a recurring motif in Minoan palace architecture, it refers to sacrificial slaughter.

Which of the following elements showed that the new palace at Knossos was carefully planned?

  • thick walls composed of cement
  • little attention paid to rainwater drainage
  • single story building rambled across the landscape
  • attention paid to illumination and ventilation

Figure 4-6 Stairwell in the residential quarter of the palace at Knossos (Crete), Greece, ca. 1700–1400 BCE.

Figure 4-7 Minoan woman or goddess ( La Parisienne ), from the palace at Knossos (Crete), Greece, ca. 1450–1400 BCE. Fragment of a fresco, 10” high. Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

Minoans coated the rough surface of their rubble walls with a fine white lime plaster that required rapid execution and great skill. Which painting method was used with this type of fabrication?

  • Understand the elements and nature of Minoan palace architecture.
  • What was the “labyrinth” of the Minotaur and how does the palace at Knossos fit that description?
  • Describe some of the remarkable achievements of Minoan architecture.
  • What is the subject matter and style seen in Minoan wall paintings?
  • What materials and methods were typically used?
  • Compare the fresco in the next slide with Egyptian wall painting.

Figure 4-8 Bull-leaping, from the palace at Knossos (Crete), Greece, ca. 1450–1400 BCE. Fresco, 2’ 8” high, including border. Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

What ancient painting convention was followed to distinguish men from women?

Answer: Women were portrayed with fair skin (yellow) and men were portrayed with dark skin (red).

4-8A Sarcophagus, from Hagia Triada (Crete), Greece, ca. 1450–1400 BCE. Painted limestone, 4’ 6” long. Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

Figure 4-9 Landscape with swallows ( Spring Fresco ), from Room Delta 2, Akrotiri, Thera (Cyclades), Greece, ca. 1650 BCE. Fresco, 7’ 6” high. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

Spring is the first pure landscape. Which of the following best defines landscape ?

a. It has no humans and a narrative element.

b. It has a narrative element.

c. It has no humans and no narrative element.

4-9A Flotilla, detail of Miniature Ships Fresco, from room 5, West House, Akrotiri, Thera (Cyclades), Greece, ca. 1650 BCE. Fresco, 1’ 5” high. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

How do the frescoes found on the island of Santorini (ancient Thera) shape our understanding of Minoan fresco painting?

Answer: These frescoes are better preserved (a result of the volcanic eruption) than those fragments found at Knossos they indicate an artistic relationship, as well as a possible political connection with Knossos. Equally interesting is the fact that the Thera frescoes decorate house walls, not just palace walls.

4-9B Crocus gatherers, detail of the east wall of room 3 of building Xeste 3, Akrotiri, Thera (Cyclades), Greece, ca. 1650–1625 BCE. Fresco, 8’ 1/8” high. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

The Development of Minoan Pottery

  • Describe the materials used in the making of pottery in the Minoan culture.
  • What is the predominant imagery in the painted images in Minoan pottery?

Figure 4-10 Kamares-ware jar, from Phaistos (Crete), Greece, ca. 1800–1700 BCE. 1’ 8” high. Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

The Kamares style of Minoan pottery exhibited:

a. sophisticated shapes and monochromatic style

b. naive shapes and polychromatic style

c. sophisticated shapes and polychromatic style

d. naive shapes and monochromatic style

Figure 4-11 Marine Style octopus jar, from Palaikastro (Crete), Greece, ca. 1500 BCE. 11” high. Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

Figure 4-12 Snake Goddess , from the palace at Knossos (Crete), Greece, ca. 1600 BCE. Faience, 1’ 1 1/2” high. Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

Figure 4-13 Young god(?), from Palaikastro (Crete), Greece, ca. 1500–1475 BCE. Ivory, gold, serpentine, and rock crystal, restored height 1’ 7 1/2”. Archaeological Museum, Siteia.

Figure 4-14 Harvester Vase , from Hagia Triada (Crete), Greece, ca. 1500 BCE. Steatite, originally with gold leaf, greatest diameter 5”. Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.

Explain the uniqueness of the Harvester Vase .

Answer: the Minoan artist created a vibrant, moving group by using curving line and gesture to create the “riotous crowd singing and shouting”, the sculptor has also paid very careful attention to the musculature and skeletal structure of the human body, one of the first instances this has been prominent.

4.3 Mycenaean Culture and Art

  • Relate significant aspects of archeological excavations at Mycenae.
  • Understand the link between culture and architecture of Mycenae.
  • Discuss the relationship between Minoan and Mycenaean art and culture.

Mycenean Art and Architecture

  • Describe how the Mycenean palaces are different from the Minoan palaces.
  • Discuss the relationship between Minoan and Mycenaean art and culture.

d. a shrine to the Minoan goddess

Figure 4-15 Aerial view of the citadel at Tiryns, Greece, ca. 1400–1200 BCE.

Figure 4-16 Corbeled gallery in the walls of the citadel, Tiryns, Greece, ca. 1400–1200 BCE.

Figure 4-17 Three methods of spanning a passageway:
(a) post and lintel,
(b) corbeled arch,
(c) arch.

Figure 4-18 Plan of the palace and southern part of the citadel, Tiryns, Greece, ca. 1400–1200 BCE.

4-18A Restored view of the megaron, Palace of Nestor, Pylos, ca. 1300 BCE (watercolor by Piet de Jong).

Describe the megaron and its importance in Aegean architecture.

Answer: A reception hall which had the throne against the right wall and a central hearth bordered by four Minoan style wooden columns, which served as supports for the roof. A vestibule with a columnar façade preceded the throne room. The importance of this element is that a variation appeared later as a core element in early Greek temple plans, thus suggesting an architectural continuity that followed the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization

4-18A Restored view of the megaron, Palace of Nestor, Pylos, ca. 1300 BCE (watercolor by Piet de Jong).

What does this reconstruction reveal to us about the colorful and lavish palace design?

Answer: Restored view of the megaron (Figure 4-18A). American archaeologists uncovered sufficient evidence to permit a watercolor reconstruction of the Pylos king’s megaron. The palace’s rooms had rubble walls faced on the exterior with limestone blocks and plastered on the interior and then painted. The columns supported a timber balcony and a painted wooden ceiling. Frescoes decorated the walls. On the right wall (at the rear in the restored view) was the king’s throne, facing the hearth and flanked by painted griffins, the same mythological beast that accompanies the goddess in one of the Akrotiri frescoes (FIG. 4-9B). The bright frescoes and paved floors of Nestor’s megaron provided a suitably regal setting for the reception of emissaries seeking an audience with the Mycenaean king, who could entertain his guests with tableware of gold (FIG. 4-23A).


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