S I I A S @ C S I Study Collection for Ancient and Medieval Civilizations
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Although the Franchthi Cave has yielded the earliest habitation site known in Greece (before 4000 BCE), the first civilizations arose in the Neolithic period, with Sesklo and Dimini in Thessaly already walled towns in the Late Neolithic period, ca. 3500 BCE.

Early Bronze Age settlements at Lerna in the Peloponnessos and Phylakopi on the island of Melos indicate that life was simple and towns remote from one another. Cities or city-states appeared in the Middle Bronze age, around 2000 BCE on Crete at Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia, and on mainland Greece at Mycenae, Tiryns, and Argos.

These civilizations are known as Minoan on Crete, after the legendary king Minos (the bull-leaping fresco from Knossos is shown at left), and Mycenaean on the mainland, after the Homeric hero Agamemnon (the warrior vase from Mycenae is shown at right).

Writing was known in the Minoan and Mycenaean world, but used only for administrative functions like keeping track of palace goods. The Minoans used a pictograph writing called Linear A, which is not yet deciphered. The Myceneans adapted this system, which is called Linear B (at left), and has been proven to be an early form of the Greek language.

For more about these prehistoric civilizations see the web page for the Dartmouth course, Prehistoric Archaeology of the Aegean http://projects.dartmouth.edu/history/bronze_age/, or Introduction to Archaeological Studies from Texas http://www.utexas.edu/courses/classicalarch/index.htm.

This map shows the areas controlled by the heroes of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Cooperation and alliances fluctuated depending on strong leaders, such as Agamenon of Mycenae, Menelaos of Sparta, or Odysseus of Ithaca.
For more about Homer's Greece, see http://home.att.net/~a.a.major/waroutline.html.


Between 1200 and 1100 BCE, around the time of the Sea Peoples attacks on Egypt and the Trojan War, a group of Indo-European peoples called Dorians (named later after a mythological ancestor, Doris) migrated from areas north of Greece into southern Greece as far as Crete. Their origin is cloudy, although they probably were speaking some form of Greek, but they brought iron tools and weapons with them, and helped to initiate the Iron Age in Greece.

These Dorians apparently caused many of the native Aeolians in Thessaly to move west to northern Asia Minor, and the Ionians in Attica to move west to southern Asia Minor.

For more about the Dorians, see the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute web page: http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1980/5/80.05.11.x.html


Click here for more maps of Greece and the Mediterranean

Geometric Jug

MacDonald Bequest
Terracotta, orange-brown paint. Athens (?) 8th-7th century BCE.

Mace Head

SIIAS A55.931
Bronze, 8th-7th century BCE (?)
Paddle-shaped, incised and hatched zig-zag and Greek-key pattern.

Male statuette

SIIAS inv. 84
Bronze, 8th-7th century BCE (?)
The statuette has the angular form of a male body, with arms held to the sides and legs together.


Thymiaterion (censer)

SIIAS X54.90.17 (at right)
MacDonald bequest
Terracotta, brown paint. 7th-6th century BCE



Stemmed Cup

SIIAS A 1663 (at left)
MacDonald bequest
A shallow, handleless cup with a tall stem and flaring foot. The exterior is painted with brown lines.


Stemless Kylix

SIIAS A 1652
MacDonald bequest
A shallow kylix (cup) with a flat base, painted on the exterior with brown lines and wavy lines on the interior.

Stemless Kylix

SIIAS A 1614
MacDonald bequest
Terracotta, reddish-brown paint. 6th century BCE
A shallow kylix with a flat base, painted on exterior with reddish-brown lines and a five-pointed star radiating from the base ring.


SIIAS A 1651
Terracotta, with brown paint. 6th century BCE



Archaic Statue of a Goddess or Priestess

SIIAS A 55-94.21 (at left)
Harold Rome bequest
Terracotta, buff fabric. East Greek (?) 6th century BCe

Cypriot Archaic Head

SIIAS 58-68.9 (at right)
Limestone, with traces of polychrome. Cyprus, 6th century BCE




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