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The "Palace" and Grave Circle A, Mycenae

Video transcript

we're on the top of a small mountain looking over a valley and the Aegean Sea at the Citadel at Mycenae now Mycenae is the name of this place but that name also refers to the culture that dominated the Greek mainland between about 1600 and 1100 BCE so we have three dominant cultures during the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean of Cycladic and the Cycladic islands Minoan on the island of Crete and what we call Mycenaean culture here on the mainland this citadel was built at the height of Mycenaean power and was expanded several times and you can see why they chose this spot we're not only on a mountain but we're overlooking a vast valley they chose a site that would allow them to view any potential enemies from very far away and be very well prepared and there are also enormous walls here this was also on a direct route between the Aegean and the Gulf of Corinth which would have been a critical spot in trade between say Italy and the Near East Mycenaean merchants traded Goods all over the Mediterranean from the Near East all the way to Spain so we've walked up a steep hill and passed through a huge wall of enormous boulders and under the lion gate to our right we passed grave circle a which was enclosed when the city walls were expanded and then we walked up a steep series of pathways to the palace itself what we think was the palace but here at the top we see a series of rooms and the final room is called the megaron we think this was an audience hall for the king you pass into a large courtyard at the far end we can just make out the basis of what were two substantial columns that would have supported a porch covering and if you passed under that you would walk into a vestibule and then from there into the megaron in the center of the megaron were four columns and a hearth and this is an architectural arrangement that we find repeated in other Mycenaean Citadel's this was only rediscovered in the 19th century by Jay a businessman named Heinrich Schliemann he was convinced that much of what Homer wrote had some basis in history and Homer associates Mycenae with gold and so you can imagine why actually MIT wanted to find this legendary city and they did find Mycenae and they did find gold fact engrave circle a which we passed by Lehmann excavated the shaft grave there and Mycenaean elite were buried with fabulously rich objects but it turns out that this was not coincident with homers epics and in fact dates to a slightly earlier period so when we see titles like the gold mask of Agamemnon we really need to take that with a grain of salt right he did ascribe the names from Homer to what he found and this became a real sensation sure you go down have another look at grave circle a and the nearby lion gate let's do it as we walk down the hill to our left we pass a very large grave circle archaeologists refer to this as grave circle a and this is one of the great circles that had shaft graves most of which were excavated by schliemann's team and was originally outside of the city walls but was enclosed by the city around 1250 BCE the circle itself is comprised of a series of large limestone blocks that are relatively flat and that were covered with other slabs so that you had this enclosed space that circles the graves themselves and so this lovely circular shape gives us an idea of how important this space was there was perhaps ideas of honoring the ancestors that were buried here but for all of its former grandeur these are ruins all we've got left are the foundations and some of the walls Mycenaean culture as a whole fell into a dark age and Citadel's like this were destroyed you