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The Mycenaean sanctuary at Phylakopi

  • Colin Renfrew

Professor Renfrew, who holds the Chair of Archaeology in the University of Southampton, has prepared for us an account of the sanctuary at the important site of Phylakopi in the Cycladic island of Melos, excavated by the British School of Archaeology at Athens from 1896 to 1899. The publication (Atkinson et al., 1904) was a landmark in the study of European prehistory. The person in day-to-day charge (although not nominally Director) was Duncan Mackenzie, who later assisted Evans at Knossos. Mackenzie's Daybooks have been preserved and are a useful source of stratigraphic information.

Excavation was resumed in 1974–7, directed by Professor Renfrew, for the British School of Archaeology at Athens, with the authority of the Greek Archaeological Service. The most important and altogether unexpected result has been the discovery of a sanctuary of the Mycenaean period, with a number of very beautiful finds (cf. Frontispiece)* as well as some highly unusual ones (male figurines). The only well-preserved Mycenaean shrine previously excavated is that at Mycenae itself, discovered by Lord William Taylour and first published in this journal (Taylour, 1969 and 1970).

The Phylakopi shrine is of great importance for the Mycenaean period in the Cyclades, for the understanding of Mycenaean cult and religion, and for the several works of art which it has yielded, including the Lady of Phylakopi, perhaps the most beautiful of the ceramic cult figures known from the Mycenaean world.

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