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Department of History and Archaeology


Spring Semester, Optional module, 10 ECTS

Instructor: Vassilis Petrakis



The course focuses on the material culture of the Bronze Age Greek Mainland, with special emphasis placed on the Late Bronze Age (termed the Late Helladic or Mycenaean period, c. 1600-1050 BCE). Following a brief survey of the Early and Middle Bronze Age on the Greek Mainland (c. 3000-1600 BCE), in our meetings we will comprehensively overview key aspects of the Mycenaean material culture: domestic and funerary architecture, topography of key sites, including Mycenae, Tiryns, Pylos and Thebes, mortuary practices, arts and crafts, palatial administration, religion, and evidence for contact with regions beyond the Aegean with special emphasis on the relations with Egypt and Anatolia. Focus will be placed on the significance of textual evidence (in the form of palatial clay records bearing inscriptions in an early form of Greek rendered in the syllabic Linear B script) and its potential integration with the material archaeological record. The material of the aforementioned presentation is used as a basis for reconstructing Mycenaean social organization, economy and politics, focusing on the aspirations and structure of palatial administrations, the possible reasons behind the rise and collapse of the Mycenaean palatial polities and an assessment of the relationship between the Late Bronze Age Aegean world and the world of the heroes as represented in the Homeric epic.

Learning outcomes

Through attendance of these presentations and participation in discussions, participants should be acquainted with the main features of Mycenaean material culture (including some key sites) and the main debates about how we understand the Mycenaean world, its historical development and its structure.

Through working alone or in groups, students will be practiced in the study and interpretation of a rich and diverse archaeological record and in assessments over such key topics as secondary state formation and the emergence of the first literate administrations on the Greek Mainland. Critical analysis and assessments of previous scholarship will be strongly encouraged throughout the course.


Participants are expected to produce one written essay (3,500-5,000 words) to be preceded by a mandatory oral presentation during our penultimate or final meeting. Advice on the extent, scope and structure of the essay will be provided throughout the course. A list of indicative topics will be formulated, but students are strongly encouraged to discuss, modify or even propose any essay topic in collaboration with the course instructor.

The quality of participation in discussions during the meetings will also be evaluated. Special presentations or discussions on select publications may also be assigned subject to an arrangement with the course instructor.


Students are advised to familiarize with the following works:

Chadwick, J. 1976. The Mycenaean World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cline, E.H. (ed.) 2010. The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca. 3000-1000 BC). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapters 7, 10, 15-18, 20-21, 25, 27, 31-33, 35-36. Chapters 50-52 and 54 include good introductions to the sites of Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes and Tiryns respectively.

Dickinson, O.T.P.K. 2006. The Aegean from Bronze Age to Iron Age: Continuity and Change Between the Twelfth and Eighth Centuries BC, London: Routledge, Chapters 2-3.

Galaty, M.L. & W.A. Parkinson (eds.) 2007. Rethinking Mycenaean Palaces II. Revised and Expanded Second Edition. The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Monograph 60. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA.

Rutter, J.B. 1993. “The Prepalatial Bronze Age of the southern and central Greek Mainland”, AJA 97:4, 745-797.

Shelmerdine, C.W. (ed.) 2008. The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapters 2, 10-15.

Shelmerdine, C.W. 1997. “Review of Aegean Prehistory VI: The Palatial Bronze Age of the southern and central Greek Mainland” American Journal of Archaeology 101:3, 537-585.

Voutsaki, S. & J.Τ. Killen (eds.) 2001. Economy and Politics in the Mycenaean Palace States. Proceedings of a Conference Held on 1-3 July 1999 in the Faculty of Classics. Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society Supplement 33. Cambridge: The Cambridge Philological Society.