Lesson 7: Meeting the Mycenaeans

Wall and Lion Gate. Citadel of Mycenae (1350-1330 BCE). Wall and Lion Gate were discovered in 1876-1877 by Heinrich Schliemann.

In today’s lesson, we began to explore the Mycenaean Civilisation. The Mycenaeans flourished from around 1600 BC to around 1100 BC, and the Linear B tablets at Knossos and on other sites are some of the pieces of evidence we have which show that they invaded these Minoan sites and took over their palaces.

We looked at some images of Mycenaean artefacts which have been found, and which can now been seen at the Ashmolean Museum in the Aegean World gallery. These included a golden mask, known as the “Mask of Agamemnon”, a Mycenaean hunting dagger which an intricate decoration of some warriors with full body shields fending off a lion, a pair of gold earrings, a helmet made from boar tusks, and a some jugs with images of warriors and chariots.

You all thought that these artefacts indicated a warlike civilisation which was wealthy and keen to display status. You correctly identified the mask as a ‘death mask’ for a warrior, and thought that the full body shields were impressive but perhaps difficult to carry!

After we had looked at these items, we explored the remains of the palace at Mycenae, including a thick defensive wall, and the famous “Lion Gate”. One of you thought that the walls looked like they had been built by giants. In fact, the Mycenaean masonry was called “Cyclopean” for this very reason! We also looked at the “Treasury of Atreus”, which many of you correctly identified as a tomb. It is a type of tomb called a tholos tomb where a king would have been buried.

We looked at some of the Mycenaean grave goods which had been found, before having a go at designing our own. We will get the opportunity to actually make these in a later lesson!

Finally, we also did some vocabulary and sentence practice, and finished the final few sentences of the story of the Flood in chapter three. These sentences created a vivid picture of a world transformed by water were fish (“pisces”) were able to swim through the doors and windows (“ianuas et fenestras”) of houses and palaces.

Next lesson, we shall debate whether Jupiter was right to flood the world!