MYCENAE: THE PREHISTORIC CEMETERY

    The burials which have been found on and around the citadel at Mycenae reflect almost every phase of the site’s history from Early  Helladic to Hellenistic. Some of the earliest of these graves, which date to the Middle Helladic and early Mycenaean periods, cluster on the lower western and northwestern slopes of the acropolis hill, within and without the later fortification wall.

    The graves in Grave Circle A, excavated by Schliemann in 1876, were the first and remain the richest group of graves to be discovered, but it was Chr. Tsountas who realised from the presence of simpler graves in the area that the Circle belonged to an extensive early cemetery - the  Prehistoric Cemetery.

    With this lead A.J.B. Wace was encouraged to carry out tests in the 1920's followed by the systematic investigations which took place between 1939 and 1953 especially in the area between the Lion Gate and the Tomb of Aegisthus but also underneath the House of the Warrior V and the Ramp House. During this later period the second rich group of graves, Grave Circle B, was found and excavated by I. Papademetriou and his colleagues, towards the western end of the area. Exploration of the levels below parts of the Citadel House Area and to the south of Tsountas  House (W.D. Taylour in 1968, 1969 and G. E. Mylonas in 1973) revealed more graves to add to the total of well over 100 already known from the area as a whole.

 

Most of the graves in the prehistoric cemetery were simple rectangular pits cut into the ground or the underlying rock. Rarely as much as 1.5 m in length, the burials were usually made in the contracted position (right).

Offerings were usually simple, and could include one or two pottery vessels, stone beads and other ornaments.

The graves had usually been disturbed - or intentionally robbed - during the construction of later buildings and few of the offerings remained in situ.

Only occasionally did the covering slabs remain in position (left).

 

(This account of the Prehistoric Cemetery is based on Well Built Mycenae: Fascicule 7: The Prehistoric Cemetery: Pre-Mycenaean and Early Mycenaean Graves, by M. Alden, Oxbow Books 2000, and the illustrations are taken from the images on the accompanying CD-Rom/Microfiche).

 

West slope The Prehistoric Cemetery
Cult Centre  Grave Circle A
Room with the Fresco Complex   South House
Temple Complex Hellenistic
Mycenae index page Publication

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