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Mycenae, 1968

  • Lord William Taylour

The principal object of the campaign was to demolish the great baulk that had purposely been left unexcavated from the very beginning to provide a record of the stratigraphy of the site.* This earth was now required by the Restoration Department of the Greek Archaeological Service to secure and safeguard the mud brick walls that were destroyed in a great fire in Late Helladic IIIB towards the end of the 13th century BC. The intensity of the fire had served to preserve these walls in their original state, though off axis, and they are the most complete examples of their kind on any Mycenaean site. The second object of the excavation was to uncover the rest of the plan of the LH IIIB walls which in the western sector of the site are buried below the postdestruction walls of LH IIIB/IIIC. The second objective was only in part accomplished because of the remarkable and outstanding finds that were brought to light, mostly under the great baulk. The work of their recovery sIowed down the excavation considerably. At the east central end of the great baulk a small room, c. 2 m. x 2 m., was uncovered that was filled with a great variety of clay objects in considerable disarray (PL. xra; see plan, FIG. I,I). Outstanding among these were idols from 0.50 to 0.60 m. in height of a kind that had never been found on the Greek mainland before, although somewhat similar examples are known from Gazi in Crete [I]

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* I am first of all indebted to Professor Marinatos for his encouragement and support, to Professor Mylonas for his help and advice on this excavation, to Mme Deilaki, Ephor of the Argolid, for all the facilities put at my disposal, and to Mr Deilakis for his technical assistance. Conservation and study of the pottery and finds were undertaken by Mrs Elizabeth French, assisted by Mrs Craig, Principal of Somerville College, Oxford, Mrs Sebastian Payne, and Mrs Heywood. To all of these I owe a special debt of gratitude. My thanks are due for the able work of the architect, Mr Michael Roaf of Christ Church, Oxford. I am also grateful to all those who supervised the work in the trenches: Mr Luke Readman of Corpus Christi College, Oxford (area i), Mr John Curtis of London University (area 2), Mr Anthony Harding of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (areas 3 and 4); and to Mr John Watson of King’s College, Cambridge, Mr Joost Crouwel of Amsterdam University, and Miss Marion Gram of Harvard University who worked on other areas.

The excavation would not have been possible without the financial help of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, the British Academy, and the Mediterranean Archaeological Trust. This is a material debt as well as one of gratitude.

* The idols excavated by Professor Levi at Gortyna are similar to the ones at Gazi [4]; he dates them to Late Minoan I. An idol from W. Crete, however, is unique in having the same kind of pot base as those from Mycenae [5].

A somewhat similar figure was found by Professor Mylonas at Mycenae [6].

The head of pl. XIb ‘has close resemblances to figurines of LH IIIA I and technologically there are advances in the manufacture’. Information kindly supplied by Mrs Elizabeth French.

* A closer analogy perhaps is the three broad steps built against the wall of the court of the ‘megaron’ at Nirou Khani, Crete [10], but these again are symmetrically laid out and the treads are low. For the latest account of Mycenaean sanctuaries see [11].

* Not datable more closely than MM I to LM I according to Dr Peter Warren.

There are very few Mycenaean ivories in the round. For an incomplete list see [14].

For men in women’s apparel compare the Camp Stool Fresco [15]. The lyre player on the Hagia Triada sarcophagus also appears to wear a woman’s dress (or hieratic attire) [16].

§ Compare the upper half-columns on the façade of the Treasury of Atreus [17].

|| Compare the posture of the goddess on the ivory relief from Minet el-Beida [19]. I am grateful to Mr J. Boardman for drawing my attention to this, and to Mrs Craig for a reference from Mycenae [20].

** I owe this suggestion to Mr Norman Hammond. This interpretation seems to be confirmed by the ‘sheaves of corn’ held by the goddess (see [19]).


[1] Sp. Marinatos, , Archaiologiki Ephemeris, 1937, 278.

[2] LM III (ibid., 289); LM IlIb/IIIc according to S. Alexiou ( Kretika Chronika, XII, 1958, 191 ); Sub-Minoan according to Nilsson, M. P. (The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion, 2nd ed. (1950), 100). For other sanctuaries with goddesses see ibid., 77.

[3] Caskey, J. L., ‘Excavations in Keos’, Hesperia, XXXI, 1962 , frontis. facing p. 221; XXXIII, 1964, 328; XXXV, 1966, 369.

[4] Bollettino d’Arte, XLIV, 1959, 245 , fig. 14, and 262, fig. 35.

[5] BSA, LXII, 1967, 203 .

[6] Ergon, 1962, 97, fig. 116.

[7] Archaiologiki Ephemeris, 1902, 1 and pls. 1 and 2. The head of the ‘sphinx’ is about three and a half times as big as that of the figure described.

[8] M. P. Nilsson, op. cit. [2], 325. See also Evans’s long discussion, The Palace of Minos, IV, 138.

[9] The Palace of Minos, II, i, 333.

[10] Archaiologiki Ephemeris, 1922, 4, fig. 2.

[11] Hägg, Robin, ‘Mykenische Kultstätten in archäologischen Material’, Opuscula Atheniensia (Lund), VIII, 1968, 39.

[12] Ergon, 1963, 67, fig. 67.

[13] Archaiologiki Ephemeris, 1891, 18 and pl. 3: 3,4. Information kindly supplied by Mrs W. J. Craig.

[14] Mycenae: two women and child (A. J. B. Wace, Mycenae, fig. 101); two idols, incomplete, found by Mylonas (Ergon, 1963, 68, fig. 68; ibid., 1965, 69, fig. 82b); the fragment of an ‘idol’ found by Tsountas (Archaiologiki Ephemeris, 1888, 146 and pl. 8:5); C. W. Blegen, Prosymna, figs. 729–31: an almost complete figure. With the exception of the ‘trio’ all these are much smaller than the couchant lion.

[15] The Palace of Minos, IV, ii, 388, fig. 323.

[16] Sp. Marinatos and M. Hirmer, Crete and Mycenae, 65, pl. XXVII.

[17] G. E. Mylonas, Ancient Mycenae, fig. 26.

[18] See [16], 67, pl. XXVIII.

[19] Syria, X, 1929 , pl. lvi.

[20] Archaiologiki Ephemeris, 1888, pl. 8: 1, 3.

[21] See [16], 67, pl. XXVIII and 69, pl. XXIX A (the second from left). Compare also 73, pl. XXX.

[22] See [17].

[23] See [16], 67, XXVIII.

Lord William Taylour's sixth season at Mycenae was carried out under the general direction of Professor George E. Mylonas of Washington University, St Louis, under the auspices of the Greek Archaeological Society. In 1968 he worked the Citadel House (as Professor Wace has it, or ‘Wace's House’ as Mylonas refers to it in his reports). The archaeological world has been staggered by his finds in 1968: pottery figurines unique for the Greek mainland, and serpentine figures unparalleled, so far, in the Aegean. A brief account, with pictures, was published in The Illustrated London News for 4th January 1969. We are grateful to Lord William for providing us with a fuller account of his excavations.

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