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Video transcript

we're looking at a gold mask that Schliemann referred to as Agamemnon he actually when this was unearthed said I have gazed into the face of Agamemnon Oh Agamemnon was the great Greek hero of Homer's Iliad we know now that this is not a command on but what a great publicity stunt what we do have is an enormous cache of gold objects from the grave circles where we found many bodies surrounded by precious objects and in a number of cases a figure would be wearing a gold mask they were found fastened to the faces of the deceased people in these gray and if you look closely just next to the ear you can see small holes where we think there was some sort of string that kept it fast to the face now there are too grave circles at Mycenae that Schliemann found and excavated grave circle a and then also brave circle B - Lima was a businessman and a kind of amateur archaeologist so some art historians have questions especially of the one very fine mask that he referred to as Agamemnon there's speculation that Schliemann may have over restored it and made it a little more attractive to nineteenth-century sensibilities but there's also many art historians and archaeologists who find this completely authentic so we just want to have a little bit of caution what we do know is that the vast majority of the cash that was found is authentic and gives us our clearest understanding of this Bronze Age culture the technique that was used here is a hammering of the gold so that it becomes very thin and very flat and then it was probably hammered against a wooden mold in order to create the kind of sculptural form that we see Sleeman worked on these two grave circles which had many shaft graves in them and in those shaft graves buried with what were obviously very important powerful families were enormous amounts of gold objects not only these gold masks but also necklaces bracelets cups boxes crowns breast plates there were also swords and daggers the estimate is that there was some 30 pounds of that were found well and it's important to think about where Mycenae is Mycenae is a citadel fortified palace hilltop and it overlooks a vast valley the Citadel of Mycenae gives its name to this entire culture on the mainland that we call Mycenaean because this culture dominated the mainland of Greece and traded far and wide across the Mediterranean right Mycenae is one of the three primary cultures of ancient a gene culture that is these Bronze Age cultures that come before the ancient Greece that we all know of of the Parthenon of the Greek gods etc this is the period that was the stuff of legend to the Greeks that we know better what we know of Mycenaean culture comes from these physical artifacts from the citadel itself from their various other outposts and from these treasures and that's because there was so little writing that we have discovered there was a little bit of what we call Linear B script but we do not have the kinds of records that we have from ancient Egypt or that we have from Mesopotamia some art historians and archaeologists have referred to this culture as being more like especially in opposition to Minoan culture which is seen to be more peaceful well there are reasons for this for one thing Mycenaeans lived in heavily fortified cities whereas the Minoans had great palaces that were much less fortified we find a lot of weapons but whether or not that was offensive or defensive we don't know so it's very hard to make generalizations I think about the character of these people but one can only imagine the kind of extraordinary delight when Schliemann unearthed these graves you