Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns Heritage Site
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Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north. From the hill on which the palace was located one can see across the Argolid to the Saronic Gulf.In the second millennium BC Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilization, a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece. The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae.
Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in the prefecture of Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nauplion.
Tiryns was a hill fort with occupation ranging back seven thousand years, from before the beginning of the Bronze Age. It reached its height between 1400 and 1200 BC. Its most notable features were its palace, its cyclopean tunnels and especially its walls, which gave the city its HOMEric epithet of "mighty walled Tiryns". In ancient times, the city was linked to the myths surrounding Heracles, with some sources citing it as his birthplace.
The famous megaron of the palace of Tiryns has a large reception hall, the main room of which had a throne placed against the right wall and a central hearth bordered by four Minoan-style wooden columns that served as supports for the roof. Two of the three walls of the megaron were incorporated into an archaic temple of Hera.
The site went into decline at the end of the Mycenaean period, and was completely deserted by the time Pausanias visited in the 2nd century AD. This site was excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in 1884-1885, and is the subject of ongoing excavations by the German Archaeological Institute at Athens and the University of Heidelberg.
Tiryns was recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites in 1999.
The Acropolis was first excavated by the German archaeologist Tirs in 1831. In 1876, Heinrich Schliemann considered the palace of Tiryns to be medieval, so he came very close to destroying the remains in order to excavate deeper for Mycenaean treasures. Fortunately, the next period of excavation was under Wilhelm Dorpfeld, a director of the German Archaeological Institute, so this time the ruins were estimated and reflected on properly. The excavations were repeated later by Dorpfeld and with the cooperation of other German archaeologists, who continued his work until 1938. After World War II, the work was continued by the Institute and the Greek Archaeological Service.
The archaeological site
The walls extend to the entire area of the top of the hill. Their bases survive throughout all of their length, and their height in some places reaches 7 meters, slightly below the original height, which is estimated at 9,10 m. The thickness of the wall is very large, usually reaches the 6 meters, while at the points that are opened the famous tunnels up to 17 m. A strong transverse wall is separating the acropolis in two sections -the south includes the palatial buildings, while the northern protects only the top of the hill area. In this second section, which dates to the end of the Mycenaean times, from time to time are opened small gates and many tunnels, covered with a triangular roof, which is served as a refuge for the inhabitants of the lower city in times of danger.
The entrance of the citadel has always been on the east side, but had a different position and form in each of the three construction phases. In the second phase the gate had the form of the Lion Gate of Mycenae. Left there was a tower and to the right was the arm of the wall, so the gate was well protected, since the attackers were forced to cross a very narrow corridor, while the defense could hit them from above and from both sides. In the third phase the gate was moved further out. The palace of the king, inside the citadel, similar to that of Mycenae, dimensions 11.80 x 9.80 m, consists of three areas: the outer portico with the two columns, the prodomos (anteroom) and the Domos (main room) with the cyclical fireplace that was surrounded by 4 wooden columns. The lateral compartments of the palace seems to have a second floor.
Rich was the decoration of the walls of the outer arcade. They had a zone at the bottom of alabaster slabs with relief rosettes and flowers. The rest was decorated with frescos. Three doors lead to prodomos and then another to Domos. In the middle of the eastern wall is visible in the floor the place that corresponded to the royal throne. The floor was rich decorated with different themes in the area around the walls and the space between the columns of the fireplace. Of course, here the walls were decorated with paintings.
In the ruins of the mansion, which burned during the 8th century BC, the inhabitants of the Geometrical period age built a Doric temple, a smaller size than the mansion, with two parts, the prodomos and the cella. The width of the temple, is just beyond the half of the width of the mansion, while the back wall of the temple is reaching the height of the rear columns of the fireplace. Three springs, one in the western side of the large courtyard, where could be accessed by a secret entrance, and two at the end of north side of the wall, to which the access could be done by two tunnels which were opened in the wall, similar to those that used as shelters, are witness for the care which was taken here, as in other Mycenaean acropolises, to the basic problem of water - at a siege time.
The first excavations at Mycenae were carried out by the Greek archaeologist Kyriakos Pittakis in 1841. He found and restored the Lion Gate. In 1874 Heinrich Schliemann arrived at the site and undertook a complete excavation. Schliemann believed in the historical truth of the HOMEric stories and interpreted the site accordingly. He found the ancient shaft graves with their royal skeletons and spectacular grave goods. Upon discovering a human skull beneath a gold death mask in one of the tombs, he declared: "I have gazed upon the face of Agamemnon".
Since Schliemann's day more scientific excavations have taken place at Mycenae, mainly by Greek archaeologists but also by the British School at Athens. The acropolis was excavated in 1902, and the surrounding hills have been methodically investigated by subsequent excavations.
The Athens Archaeological Society is currently excavating the Mycenae Lower Town (as of 2011), with support from Dickinson College and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory.
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