Our final visit on the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece was to Mycenae, the site of a grand palace and fortification built over three thousand years ago. I find it astonishing that these structures and graves were preserved, buried for millennia, until modern excavations just a couple hundred years ago. It has impressive scale and scope, remarkably with several major structures still intact, notably the Lions’ Gate entrance and tholos/treasury. Read on, and check out the photo gallery.
Although there is evidence of habitation in the Neolithic era, the site’s impressive structures were constructed by migrants from Crete as early as 1600 BC. “Mycenae developed into a major power during … 1550–1450 BC and is believed to have become the main centre of Aegean civilisation … to the extent that the two hundred years from c. 1400 BC to c. 1200 BC … are known as the Mycenaean Age” [Wikipedia].
One of the most impressive features, seen above from the inside, is the entrance gate, aka Lions’ Gate, which was erected “around 1250 BC, [and] is the sole surviving monumental piece of Mycenaean sculpture, as well as the largest sculpture in the prehistoric Aegean. It is the only monument of Bronze Age Greece to bear an iconographic motif that survived without being buried underground, and the only relief image which was described in the literature of classical antiquity, such that it was well known prior to modern archaeology” [Wikipedia] At right is how it looks to someone entering the walls surrounding the palace complex.
The complex includes a palace, several gravesites from which many beautiful gold artifacts were recovered during 19th century excavations, and quarters for both the leadership and for artisans. In the rear is an impressive covered stairwell leading to an underground cistern 18 meters under the hill.
Nearby is the tholos (beehive-shaped tomb) known as the Treasury of Atreus. Although looted long ago, it has remained visible throughout the centuries. It is an impressive piece of architecture, made massive limestone blocks stacked in progressively smaller circles. Today, the main structure is covered in soil, but the entrance alone is an impressive sight. Check out the photo gallery for interior photos, and more from Mycenae.
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