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the approach to Mycenae is substantial and if you were not a friend it was going to be tough to get in Mycenae is one of the great Citadel's of Mycenaean culture that is this Bronze Age culture on mainland Greece the traded throughout the Mediterranean and became quite wealthy and quite powerful between the years of about 1600 and 1100 BCE right and there were several cultures that thrived in this area during this Bronze Age period one being Socratic located on the socratic islands another being Minoan culture which was on the island of Crete so here on the mainland we refer to Mycenaean culture named after the most powerful of the Mycenaean city-states and that was Mycenae now Mycenae is located on the top of a small mountain it is a very steep approach and so it is naturally defensible in fact there are two larger mountains on the back a huge valley leading down to the Aegean Sea in front just a glorious space but also one where enemies approach can be seen at a very great distance walking up this ramp way we're surrounded by enormous blocks of stone creating very high walls on either side of us in fact they're so large that they were known as cyclopean masonry that is only the giant Cyclops was large enough to move stones this big right the cyclops was a legendary giant from Homer's Odyssey and so these became known as cyclopean because who could imagine moving these massive stone I have to tell you I can't imagine so as you said we're surrounded by these walls on three sides which means that we are completely unprotected if we were an enemy approaching it would be easy to rain arrows Spears anything down on us exactly I would have felt very safe I think in the Mycenaean Citadel so we're looking up at the famous so-called lion gate it is perched above a standard ancient building system of post and lintel on both sides we have uprights posts and span across a horizontal lintel the Mycenaean architects wanted to build this wall very high and they used a technique called corbelling that is they constructed the stones so that each successive higher layer moved in just slightly and that left the sub triangular space in the center right over the lintel the relief above the line gate is the first monumental sculpture that we found on mainland Greece and since we know what happens in ancient Greece and historical Greece much later we look back to this as our historians and say here is the earliest representation that we find from Greece this is in a sense the great-grandfather of the extraordinary work that the Greeks will produce in sculpture as Iranian sculpture and an architecture so here we have two animals facing on another their forepaws seem to be on to altar like tables and between them is a column that seems to get wider as it moves upward now that's opposite to the way we understand Greek architecture at a later period but it is very similar to the way that the Minoans constructed their architecture and so archaeologists often look at that and say this is a Minoan style column and we know that the Minoans really influenced Mycenaean culture so this makes sense in that capital also is reminiscent of Minoan culture now just below the capital archaeologists have hypothesized that the two blocks that the animals have their forepaws on and that the column rests on our two altars these are also of Minoan form we think and of course we have no written records we really have no solid evidence for any kind of interpretation but that hasn't stopped archaeologists and art historians from making a lot of very clever guesses about what this might represent well we do have objects from Mycenae we have objects that were found in the graves it does help us to conjecture what these animals were and what their lost heads looked like we can guess that the lost heads turned outward because of the way the dowel holes are placed in the stone and that they were likely of a different material placed on to the bodies of these animals and at least one scholar has suggested that they might have been bird heads and that these might have been Griffins and that the composite nature of the animal might also be reflected by the composite nature of the materials but again these are guesses what do the animals mean what does the column mean what do the alters mean why are they up on their forepaws you can see all the questions that arise there is a tradition of having powerful animals standing guard at a gate and so we might think of these as warding off evil also as a terrifying representations that might scare off and terrify enemies and so if they had that kind of supernatural power we might also conjecture that the column has meaning as well and we know that in some cases columns could represent deities now it also could be that the columns just represent a city or the idea of the king well the column is above the altar so there is that sense of divinity that seems logical and the fact that there are two altars has led some scholars to suggest that perhaps this has to do with coming together of two cultures but again these are all conjectures these animals do have leonine bodies or bodies like lions or lionesses and they are sculpted with great subtlety I'd get a sense of the muscles in the legs of the Lions and the kind of subtle modeling of the anatomy of these animals there's something else that's going on here these are not animals that are represented as animals are naturally that is they're not on all four paws they are standing upright they are becoming human-like there is a kind of nobility it's hard not to think that these also speak to the power of the king who resided inside the cyclopean walls here now at the end of 2013 the sense of power and majesty is clear to me one can only imagine how this felt to somebody in 1250 BCE you