1.1.4.9 Aegean: Mycenaean Art (1,650-1,100 BCE)

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Dagger blade, lion hunt
Gold cup from Grave IV/V
Gold Agamenon Mask
Mycenaean jug
Mycenaean vase, bulls and birds
Mycenean octopus brooch
Vapheio Cup
Gold kantharos
Terracotta chariot krater

Mycenae is located in Peloponnese Greece on a peninsu, the only known monumental sculpture of Bronze Age Greecela south of Crorinth and 120 kms south-west of Athens. In the second millennium BCE Mycenae was a major centre of Greek civilization, from there a militaristic community dominated much of southern Greece, Crete, the Cyclades and parts of southwest Anatolia. Historians place the Mycenaean period from 1,600-1,100 BCE, reaching its peak at 1,350 BCE.

Entry into the 32 hectare city was through the Lion Gate, the only known monumental sculpture of Bronze Age Greece.

Image source: greeka.com

The third Aegean Art sector is the Mycenaean, this art movement took forward the Minoan traditions in frescoes, jewelley and pottery.

Mycenaean art was more ambitious in scale and in the use of a broader range of materials. It used even more abstract imagery and had an influence on Greek Art in the Archaic and Classical periods.

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Image source: britishmuseum.org
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A bronze dagger from Mycenae known as the ‘Lion Hunt dagger’. One side has five men with shields and weapons attacking three lions. Two lions run away, but one is fighting back and a warrior is under its paw. The other side shows a lion and five deer. The lion is mauling one of the deer as the others run away.
A number of gold grave goods were found at Grave Circles A and B in the Bronze Age city of Mycenae.
This golden cup is decorated with spirals made by repoussé (hammered into reliefs). It is on show at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Another item of grave goods from Mycenae is this funeral ‘Mask of Agamemnon’ One expert calls it the Mona Lisa of prehistory. The German archaeologist who discovered the artefact in 1876, believed he had found the body of the Mycenaean king Agamemnon, leader of the Achaeans in Homer’s epic of the Trojan War, the Iliad, But the mask dates to about 1,600 BCE, predating the period of the legendary Trojan War by some four centuries.
Popular Mycenaean vessel forms include stemmed cups, one-handled teacups, tankards and jugs. This highly decorated jug. Mycenaean clay has been assessed as superior in quality to Minoan. Their pottery was fired at higher temperatures and some clay vessels were tin-plated, to imitate more costly silver and bronze wares.
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Image source: britishmuseum.org
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Mycenaean pottery took as popular subjects animals, birds, and griffins, often arranged heraldically and themselves decorated with pattern designs, possibly imitating contemporary textile designs. This one shows bulls and birds. Plants were also popular, but the subject matter became more abstract and more space was left in their designs.
Mycenaean jewellers used gold, glass, faience, precious and semi-precious stones and amber in producing necklaces, pendants, rings, earrings, pins, brooches, and diadems. This gold brooch depicts an octopus.
Image source: ancient.eu
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Image source: pinterest.com
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Mycenaeans became superb gold workers and a large number of cups have been discovered. Two cups from Vapheio are considered the finest. Both have embossed scenes of men trying to capture bulls. Both are in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
This gold kantharos is a drinking cup with two high vertical handles, an early design that was first popular from 2,000-1,600 BCE. However this one is dated to 1,550-1,500 BCE and Mycenae. It appears to be a recycled and reworked item.Image source: metmuseum.org
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Image source: metmuseum.org
Terracotta kraters were mixing vessels used for the dilution of wine with water. This one, dated 1,300-1,230 BCE and 42 x 31 cm, has a very popular chariot motif. It is believed these were used in funerary practices.

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