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The story of Prometheus / Amirani

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 16, 2013

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Gibil in Sumerian mythology is the god of fire, variously of the son of An and Ki, An and Shala or of Ishkur and Shala. He later developed into the Akkadian god Gerra, the Babylonian and Akkadian god of fire.

In some versions of the Enûma Eliš Gibil is said to maintain the sharp point of weapons, have broad wisdom, and that his mind is “so vast that all the gods, all of them, cannot fathom it”. Some versions state Gibil, as lord of the fire and the forge, also possesses wisdom of metallurgy.

Nusku was the name of the light and fire-god in Babylonia and Assyria, indistinguishable from Girra – formerly Gibil. Nusku is the symbol of the heavenly as well as of the terrestrial fire. As the former he is the son of Anu, the god of heaven, but he is likewise associated with Enlil of Nippur as the god of the earth and regarded as his first-born son.

A centre of his cult in Assyria was in Harran, where, because of the predominance of the moon-cult, he is viewed as the son of the moongod Sin, though Nusku was with Enlil when Sin wasn’t born yet, and Enlil hadn’t married Ninlil – Sin’s mother.

Nusku is by the side of Ea, the god of water, the great purifier. It is he, therefore, who is called upon to cleanse the sick and suffering from disease, which, induced by the demons, was looked upon as a species of impurity affecting the body.

The fire-god is also viewed as the patron of the arts and the god of civilization in general, because of the natural association of all human progress with the discovery and use of fire. As among other nations, the fire-god was in the third instance looked upon as the protector of the family. He becomes the mediator between humanity and the gods, since it is through the fire on the altar that the offering is brought into the presence of the gods.

While temples and sanctuaries to Nusku-Girru are found in Babylonia and Assyria, he is worshipped more in symbolical form than the other gods.

For the very reason that his presence is common and universal he is not localized to the same extent as his fellow-deities, and, while always enumerated in a list of the great gods, his place in the systematized pantheon is more or less vague.

The conceptions connected with Nusku are of distinctly popular origin, as is shown by his prominence in incantations, which represent the popular element in the cult, and it is significant that in the astro-theological system of the Babylonian priests Nusku-Girru is not assigned to any particular place in the heavens.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus, known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind, is a Titan, culture hero, and trickster figure who is credited with the creation of man from clay, and who defies the gods and gives fire to humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilization, a theme that recurs in many world mythologies.

According to some versions of the story, Prometheus thought the gods were being cruel to withhold fire so that they could keep those little humans warm, cook their food and keep wild animals from eating them up, so he disobeyed the Olympian injunction. And according to some stories, Prometheus brought more than fire to humans – he taught them writing, mathematics and craft.

This made Zeus, king of the gods, cross, because fire was one of the gods’ secrets, along with lightning and thunder and stuff. The punishment of Prometheus as a consequence of the theft is a major theme of his mythology, and is a popular subject of both ancient and modern art. Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced the Titan to eternal torment for his transgression.

The immortal Prometheus, in eternal punishment, was bound to a rock, in the Caucasus, Kazbek Mountain, a dormant stratovolcano and one of the major mountains of the Caucasus located in the Kazbegi District of Georgia and North Ossetia (Russia), where each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver, which would then grow back to be eaten again the next day due to his immortality.

It is the third highest mountain in Georgia (after Mount Shkhara and Janga) and the seventh highest peak in the Caucasus Mountains. The summit lies directly to the west of the town of Stepantsminda and is the most prominent geographic feature of the area. Mt. Kazbek is the highest peak of Eastern Georgia. The name in Georgian, Mkinvartsveri, translates to “glacier”. The Vainakh name Bashlam translated as Molten Mount.

Haplogroup J-M172 is found mainly in the Fertile Crescent, the Caucasus, Anatolia, the Balkans, Italy, the Mediterranean littoral, and the Iranian plateau. The highest reported frequency of J-M172 ever was 87.4%, among Ingush in Malgobek.

J-M172 – Associated with Mediterranean, South Caucasian and Fertile Crescent populations, with its peaks at 87.4% in Ingushetia and 72% in Georgia’s Kazbegi region (near Mount Kazbek). In the North Caucasus, the largest frequencies are those of Nakh peoples (Chechens (56.7%) and Ingush (88.8%).

Other notable values were found among North Caucasian Turkic peoples (Kumyks (25%) and Balkars(24%). It is notable that according to both Nasidze’s study in 2004 and then a later study on Dagestani peoples by Yunusbaev in 2006, J-M172 suddenly collapses as one enters the territory of non-Nakh Northeast Caucasian peoples, dropping to very low values among Dagestani peoples.

The overwhelming bulk of Chechen J-M172 is of the subclade J-M67), of which the highest frequencies by far are found among Nakh peoples- Chechens were 55.2% according to the Balanovsky study, while Ingush were 87.4%.

The location of the imprisonment of Amirani later became the site of an Orthodox hermitage located in a cave called “Betlemi” (Bethlehem) at around the 4000 meter level. According to legends, this cave housed many sacred relics, including Abraham’s tent and the manger of the infant Jesus.

In ancient Greece, the liver was thought to be the seat of human emotions. The liver is also a regenerative organ. In some stories, Prometheus is freed at last by the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules), which slays the eagle and frees Prometheus from his chains because he needed his cunning mind to help him steal apples from the Gardens of the Hesperides.

The precise region of origin for haplogroup J-M172 remains a topic of discussion. However, at least within a European context, Anatolia and the Aegean seem to be source regions, with Hg J2 having perhaps arisen in the Levant (Di Giacomo 2004) / Middle East (Semino 2004) with the development of agriculture.

As to the timing of its spread into Europe, Di Giacomo points to events which post-date the Neolithic, in particular the demographic floruit associated with the rise of the Ancient Greek world.

Semino et al. derived older age estimates for overall J2 (having used the Zhivitovksy method c.f. Di Giacomo), postulating its initial spread with Neolithic farmers from the Near East.

However, its subclade distribution, showing localized peaks in the Southern Balkans, southern Italy, north/ central Italy and the Caucasus, does not conform to a single ‘wave-of-advance’ scenario, betraying a number of still poorly understood post-Neolithic processes which created its current pattern. Like Di Giacomo, the Bronze Age southern Balkans was suggested to have been an important vector of spread.

In Georgian mythology, Amirani is a culture hero who challenged the chief god, and like Prometheus was chained on the Caucasian mountains where birds would eat his organs.

In Georgian mythology, Amirani is a hero, the son of the goddess Dali, a Caucasian goddess of the hunt, and a mortal hunter, but he was removed prematurely from her womb and raised by a hunter Sulkalmah and his wife Darejan, alongside the latter’s two natural sons Badri and Usup.

According to the Svan version, the hunter’s wife learned about her husband’s affair with Dali and killed her by cutting her hair while she was asleep.

At Dali’s death, the hunter extracted from her womb a boy whom he called Amirani. The child had marks of his semi-divine origins with symbols of the Sun and the Moon on his shoulder-blades and a golden tooth.

Georgian myths describe the rise of the titan Amirani, who fights devis (ogres), challenges the gods, kidnaps Kamar (the daughter of gods), and teaches metallurgy to humans.

Together with Badri and Usup, Amirani fought evil spirits and defeated a three-headed giant whose several heads metamorphosed into snakes. Amirani battles with dragons. He is swallowed by the Black Dragon. Amirani cuts the dragon’s belly and comes out.

While battling other evil spirits in his search for a bride, his two mortal brothers were killed, and Amirani attempted suicide, but discovered to his dismay that he returned to life. Thereafter, Amirani abandoned his search for a bride, and empowered by the highest God, Ghmerti (later the name of the Christian deity), he took on another giant, and then Ghmerti himself.

In response for this insolence, Ghmerti punished him in three stages: he fastened Amirani to a post driven deep in the earth; second, Ghmerti buried him in chains under a mountain pass, which formed a cave-like dome over him; and third, for one night each year, the mountain opened to reveal Amirani suspended in air where a human attempted in vain to release him, and the mountain closed again in consequence of the excessive talk of a woman.

As in the myth Amirani defies God by introducing to the human kind the use of metal, and just like with Prometheus, the gods (in some versions, Jesus Christ) punish him by chaining him on a cliff in the Caucasus Mountains (or an iron pole) with his cursed dog Kursha, where the titan continues to defy the gods and struggles to break the chains. Similar to the Prometheus myth, an eagle eats his liver in the day, but it heals itself every night.

Amirani’s loyal dog, meantime, licks the chain to thin it out, but every year, on Thursday or in some versions the day before Christmas, the gods send smiths to repair it. In some versions, every seven years the cave where Amirani is chained can be seen in the Caucasus.

In some parts of Caucasian Iberia, the alternative account as reflected in the Greek myth, in which the hero is attacked daily by an eagle sent by the deity, was for a long time commemorated by the destruction of eagles nests, as the enemies of Amirani. The Svan version of the myth represents Amirani’s story most precisely and clearly.

Various versions of the myth reveal a process through which the myth was transformed over time, but scholars agree that this folk epic about Amirani must have been formed in the third millennium BCE, and later went through numerous transformation, the most important of them being morphing pagan and Christian elements after the spread of Christianity.

The myth could have been assimilated by the Greek colonists or travelers and embodied in the corpus of the famous Greek myth of Prometheus. In the Georgian literature and culture, Amirani is often used as a symbol of the Georgian nation, its ordeals and struggle for survival.

In another of his myths, Prometheus establishes the form of animal sacrifice practiced in ancient Greek religion. Evidence of a cult to Prometheus himself is not widespread. He was a focus of religious activity mainly at Athens, where he was linked to Athena and Hephaestus, other Greek deities of creative skills and technology.

In the Western classical tradition, Prometheus became a figure who represented human striving, particularly the quest for scientific knowledge, and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences.

The myth of Prometheus has been a favorite theme of Western art and literature in the post-renaissance and post-enlightenment tradition, and occasionally in works produced outside the West.

In particular, he was regarded in the Romantic era as embodying the lone genius whose efforts to improve human existence could also result in tragedy: Mary Shelley, for instance, gave The Modern Prometheus as the subtitle to her novel Frankenstein (1818).

Prometheus

Amirani – Wikipedia

Epic “Amirani” – Georgia: Past, Present, Future

Greek mythology

Georgian mythology

Armenian mythology

Ossetian mythology

Persian mythology

Vainakh mythology

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Greek Civilization

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 3, 2013

Little is known about the arrival of Proto-Greek speakers. The Mycenaean culture commenced circa 1650 BCE and is clearly an imported steppe culture. The close relationship between Mycenaean and Proto-Indo-Iranian languages suggest that they split fairly late, some time between 2500 and 2000 BCE.

Archeologically, Mycenaean chariots, spearheads, daggers and other bronze objects show striking similarities with the Seima-Turbino culture (c. 1900-1600 BCE), of the northern Russian forest-steppes, known for the great mobility of its nomadic warriors (Seima-Turbino sites were found as far away as Mongolia). It is therefore likely that the Mycenaean descended from Russia to Greece between 1900 and 1650 BCE, where they intermingled with the locals to create a new unique Greek culture.

Seima-Turbino refers to burial sites dating around 1500 BC found across northern Eurasia, from Finland to Mongolia. The buried were nomadic warriors and metal-workers, travelling on horseback or two-wheeled chariots. These nomads originated from the Altai Mountains. The culture spread from these mountains to the west. Although they were the precursor to the much later Mongol invasions, these groups were not yet strong enough to attack the important social sites of the Bronze Age.

These cultures are noted for being nomadic forest and steppe societies with metal working, sometimes without having first developed agricultural methods. The development of this metalworking ability appears to have taken place quite quickly.

Mycenae is an ancient Greek city located in the north-eastern Peloponnese. What started off as a small fringe settlement grew to groups of villages on the slopes of hills to, eventually, the dominating culture of Ancient Greece.

Mycenaeans rose in prominence ca. 1600 BC and stayed in control of Greece until about 1100 BC. Evidence shows that they spoke an early form of Greek. They took control of Crete ca. 1450 BC. An abundance of Mycenaean pottery is found in Italy and Sicily, suggesting that they were in contact and traded with the Mycenaeans. Due to the influence of Minoan Crete the further south the site, the more the pottery is influenced by Minoan styles.

Mycenaean Greek, named after Mycenae, one of the major centres of Mycenaean Greece, is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, spoken on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in the 16th to 12th centuries BC, before the hypothesised Dorian invasion which was often cited as the terminus post quem for the coming of the Greek language to Greece.

The language is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script first attested on Crete before the 14th century BC. Most instances of these inscriptions are on clay tablets found in Knossos in central Crete, and in Pylos in the southwest of the Peloponnese. Other tablets have been found at Mycenae itself, Tiryns and Thebes and at Chania in Western Crete.

The tablets remained long undeciphered, and every conceivable language was suggested for them, until Michael Ventris deciphered the script in 1952 and by a preponderance of evidence proved the language to be an early form of Greek.

Compared with later Ancient Greek, Mycenaean preserves a number of archaic features of its Indo-European heritage. It also preserves PIE forms. This means that determining the actual pronunciation of written words is often difficult, and makes use of a combination of the PIE etymology of a word, its form in later Greek, and inconsistent spelling. Even so, for some words the pronunciation is not known exactly, esp. when the meaning is unclear from context or the word has no descendants in the later dialects.

The Dorian invasion is a concept devised by historians of Ancient Greece to explain the replacement of pre-classical dialects and traditions in southern Greece by the ones that prevailed in Classical Greece. The latter were named Dorian by the ancient Greek writers after the historical population that owned them, the Dorians.

Despite nearly 200 years of investigation, the historicity of the Dorian invasion has never been established. The meaning of the concept has become to some degree amorphous. The work done on it has mainly served to rule out various speculations. The possibility of a real Dorian invasion remains open.

Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea. There are three distinct but communicating and interacting geographic regions covered by this term: Crete, the Cyclades and the Greek mainland. Crete is associated with the Minoan civilization from the Early Bronze Age. The Cyclades converge with the mainland during the Early Helladic (“Minyan”) period and with Crete in the Middle Minoan period. From ca. 1450 BC (Late Helladic, Late Minoan), the Greek Mycenaean civilization spreads to Crete.

According to Greek mythology and legendary prehistory of the Aegean region, the Minyans were an autochthonous group inhabiting the Aegean region. However, the extent to which the prehistory of the Aegean world is reflected in literary accounts of legendary peoples, and the degree to which material culture can be securely linked to language-based ethnicity have been subjected to repeated revision.

Greeks did not always clearly distinguish the Minyans from the Pelasgian cultures that had preceded them. Greek mythographers gave the Minyans an eponymous founder, Minyas, perhaps as legendary as Pelasgus (the founding father of the Pelasgians), which was a broader category of pre-Greek Aegean peoples. These Minyans were associated with Boeotian Orchomenus, as when Pausanias relates that “Teos used to be inhabited by Minyans of Orchomenus, who came to it with Athamas” and may have represented a ruling dynasty or a tribe later located in Boeotia.

Herodotus asserts several times that Pelasgians dwelt in the distant past with the Athenians in Attica, and that those Pelasgians driven from Attica in turn drove the Minyans out of Lemnos. The same historian also states that Minyans from Amyklai settled on the island of Thera in 800 BC.

Minyan ware is a broad archaeological term describing varieties of a particular style of Aegean pottery associated with the Middle Helladic period.

In the history of Aegean prehistoric archaeology, Heinrich Schliemann was the first person to coin the term “Minyan” after he discovered a distinct variety of dark-burnished pottery at Orchomenos (the mythical home of King Minyas).

Some of his contemporaries referred to the pottery as “Orchomenos Ware”. However, the term “Minyan Ware” ultimately prevailed since it romantically recalled the glorious (though tenuous) Minyans of Greek mythology.

At first, Alan Wace and Carl Blegen did not yet associate Minyan Ware with the “advent of the Greeks”. Both archaeologists regarded the sudden appearance of Minyan Ware as one of two interruptions in the unbroken evolution of Greek pottery from the Neolithic up until the Mycenean era. Ultimately, they concluded that “Minyan Ware indicates the introduction of a new cultural strain.”

Prior to 1960, Minyan Ware was often associated with northern invaders having destroyed Early Helladic culture (1900 BC) and introducing Middle Helladic culture into the Greek peninsula. However, John L. Caskey conducted excavations in Greece (i.e. Lerna) and definitively stated that Minyan Ware was in fact the direct descendant of the fine gray burnished pottery of Early Helladic III Tiryns culture.

Caskey also found that the Black or Argive variety of Minyan Ware was an evolved version of the Early Helladic III “Dark slipped and burnished” pottery class. Therefore, Minyan Ware was present in Greece since between 2200 and 2150 BC.

There is nothing particularly “northern” regarding the ceramic progenitors of Minyan Ware. The exception, however, entails the spread of Minyan Ware from central Greece to northeastern Peloponnese, which can be seen as “coming from the north” with respect to the Peloponnese. Currently, there is uncertainty as to how Minyan Ware arrived in Greece or how it was indigenously developed.

The Late Helladic phase may be associated with the arrival of Indo-European speakers as overlords; Greek technical terms for pottery are not Indo-European, suggesting a continuity of potters and their techniques from earlier times.

Pottery very similar to Grey Minyan ware is known in Anatolia, dated around 14th–13th centuries BC. It has been suggested that “North-West Anatolian Grey Ware” should be used for this type of pottery. Around 2002, the term “Anatolian Grey Ware” became utilized by scholars.

Multivariate analyses of craniometric data derived from Helladic skeletal material indicate a strong morphological homogeneity in the Bronze Age osteological record, disproving the influx of foreign populations between the Early Helladic and Middle Helladic periods; ultimately, the Bronze Age inhabitants of mainland Greece represent a single and homogeneous population of Mediterranean provenance.

Mycenaean civilization originated and evolved from the society and culture of the Early and Middle Helladic periods in mainland Greece. It emerged at ca. 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete.

Mycenaean Greece was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece (ca. 1600–1100 BC). It takes its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in Argolis, Peloponnese, southern Greece. Other major sites included Tiryns in Argolis, Pylos in Messenia, Athens in Attica, Thebes and Orchomenus in Boeotia, and Iolkos in Thessaly, while Crete and the site of Knossos also became a part of the Mycenaean world. Mycenaean settlement sites also appeared in Epirus, Macedonia, on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant, Cyprus, and Italy.

Mycenaean civilization perished with the collapse of Bronze-Age civilization in the eastern Mediterranean, which is commonly attributed to the Dorian invasion, although alternative theories propose also natural disasters and climatic changes. This period of Greek history is the historical setting of much ancient Greek literature and myth, including the epics of Homer.

Mycenae is an ancient Greek city located in the north-eastern Peloponnese. What started off as a small fringe settlement grew to groups of villages on the slopes of hills to, eventually, the dominating culture of Ancient Greece.

Mycenaeans rose in prominence ca. 1600 BC and stayed in control of Greece until about 1100 BC. Evidence shows that they spoke an early form of Greek. They took control of Crete ca. 1450 BC. An abundance of Mycenaean pottery is found in Italy and Sicily, suggesting that they were in contact and traded with the Mycenaeans.

Mycenaean Greece was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece (ca. 1600–1100 BC). It takes its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in Argolis, Peloponnese, southern Greece. Other major sites included Tiryns in Argolis, Pylos in Messenia, Athens in Attica, Thebes and Orchomenus in Boeotia, and Iolkos in Thessaly, while Crete and the site of Knossos also became a part of the Mycenaean world. Mycenaean settlement sites also appeared in Epirus, Macedonia, on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant, Cyprus, and Italy.

Mycenaean civilization perished with the collapse of Bronze-Age civilization in the eastern Mediterranean, which is commonly attributed to the Dorian invasion, although alternative theories propose also natural disasters and climatic changes. This period of Greek history is the historical setting of much ancient Greek literature and myth, including the epics of Homer.

Mycenaean civilization originated and evolved from the society and culture of the Early and Middle Helladic periods in mainland Greece. It emerged at ca. 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete.

The Mycenaean Greeks reached Crete as early as 1450 BCE. Greek presence on the mainland, however, dates to 1600 BCE as shown in the latest shaft graves. Other aspects of the “Minyan” period appear to arrive from northern Greece and the Balkans, in particular tumulus graves and perforated stone axes. John L. Caskey’s interpretation of his archaeological excavations conducted in the 1950s linked the ethno-linguistic “Proto-Greeks” to the bearers of the “Minyan” (or Middle Helladic) culture. More recent scholars have questioned or emended his dating and doubted the linking of material culture to linguistic ethnicity.

Mycenaean artifacts have been found well outside the limits of the Mycenaean world: namely Mycenaean swords are known from as far away as Georgia in the Caucasus, an amber object inscribed with Linear B symbols has been found in Bavaria, Germany and Mycenaean bronze double axes and other objects dating from 13th century BC have been found in Ireland and in Wessex and Cornwall in England.

Quite unlike the Minoans, whose society benefited from trade, the Mycenaeans advanced through conquest. Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy. Around 1400 BC, the Mycenaeans extended their control to Crete, center of the Minoan civilization (which had been crippled by the eruption of Santorini), and adopted a form of the Minoan script (called Linear A) to write their early form of Greek in Linear B.

Not only did the Mycenaeans defeat the Minoans, but according to later Hellenic legend they defeated Troy, presented in epic as a city-state that rivaled Mycenae in power. Because the only evidence for the conquests is Homer’s Iliad and other texts steeped in mythology, the existence of Troy and the historicity of the Trojan War is uncertain. In 1876, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann uncovered ruins at Hissarlik in western Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) that he claimed were those of Troy. Some sources claim these ruins do not match well with Homer’s account of Troy, but others disagree.

The Mycenaeans buried their nobles in beehive tombs (tholos tombs), large circular burial chambers with a high vaulted roof and a straight entry passage lined with stone. They often buried daggers or some other form of military equipment with the deceased. The nobility were frequently buried with gold masks, tiaras, armor, and jeweled weapons. Mycenaeans were buried in a sitting position, and some of the nobility underwent mummification, whereas Homer’s Achilles and Patroclus were not buried but cremated, in Iron-Age fashion, and honoured with a gold urn, instead of gold masks.

From a chronological perspective, the Late Helladic period (LH, 1550–1060 BC) is the time when Mycenaean Greece flourished under new influences from Minoan Crete and the Cyclades. Those who made LH pottery sometimes inscribed their work in Linear B, a syllabic script recognizable as a form of Greek. LH is divided into I, II, and III; of which I and II overlap Late Minoan ware and III overtakes it. LH III is further subdivided into IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.

Late Helladic pottery typically stored such goods as olive oil and wine. LHI ware had reached Santorini just before the Thera eruption. LHIIB began during LMIB, and has been found in Egypt during the reign of Tuthmosis III. LHIIB spanned the LMIB/LMII destruction on Crete, which is associated with the Greek takeover of the island.

During the end of the 3rd millennium BC (circa 2200 BC), the indigenous inhabitants of mainland Greece underwent a cultural transformation attributed to climate change, local events and developments (i.e. destruction of the “House of Tiles”), as well as to continuous contacts with various areas such as western Asia Minor, the Cyclades, Albania, and Dalmatia.

These Bronze Age people were equipped with horses, surrounded themselves with luxury goods, and constructed elaborate shaft graves. The acropolis of Mycenae, one of the main centers of Mycenaean culture, located in Argolis, northeast Peloponnese, was built on a defensive hill at an elevation of 128 m (420 ft) and covers an area of 30,000 m2 (320,000 sq ft).

The Shaft Graves found in Mycenae signified the elevation of a native Greek-speaking royal dynasty whose economic power depended on long-distance sea trade. Grave Circles A and B, the latter found outside the walls of Mycenae, represent one of the major characteristics of the early phase of the Mycenaean civilization.

Mycenaean shaft graves are essentially an Argive variant of the rudimentary Middle Helladic funerary tradition with features derived from Early Bronze Age traditions developed locally in mainland Greece. Grave Circle A, formed circa 1600 BC as a new elite burial place, was probably first restricted to men and seems to be a continuation of the earlier Grave Circle B and correlates with the general social trend of higher burial investment taking place throughout entire Greece that time.

The Grave Circle A site was part of a larger funeral place from the Middle Helladic period. At the time it was built, during the Late Helladic I (1600 BC),[2] there was probably a small unfortified palace on Mycenae, while the graves of the Mycenaean ruling family remained outside of the city walls. There is no evidence of a circular wall around the site during the period of the burials. The last interment took place circa 1500 BC.

Grave Circle A in Mycenae is a 16th-century BC royal cemetery situated to the south of the Lion Gate, the main entrance of the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae, southern Greece. This burial complex was initially constructed outside the fortification walls of Mycenae, but was ultimately enclosed in the acropolis when the fortifications were extended during the 13th century BC. Grave Circle A and Grave Circle B, the latter found outside the walls of Mycenae, represent one of the major characteristics of the early phase of the Mycenaean civilization.

The circle has a diameter of 27.5 m (90 ft) and contains six shaft graves, where a total of nineteen bodies were buried. It has been suggested that a mound was constructed over each grave, and funeral stelae were erected. Among the objects found were a series of gold death masks, additionally beside the deceased were full sets of weapons, ornate staffs as well as gold and silver cups. The site was excavated by the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1876, following the descriptions of Homer and Pausanias. One of the gold masks he unearthed became known as the “The Death Mask of Agamemnon”, ruler of Mycenae according to Greek mythology. However, it has been proved that the burials date circa three centuries earlier, before Agamemnon is supposed to have lived.

Immediately after the last interment, the local rulers abandoned the shaft graves in favour of a new and more imposing form of tomb already developing in Messenia, south Peloponessus, the tholos.

Around 1250 BC, when the fortifications of Mycenae were extended, the Grave Circle was included inside the new wall. A double ring peribolos wall was also built around the area. It appears that the site became a temenos (sacred precinct), while a circular construction, possibly an altar was found above one grave.

The burial site had been replanned as a monument, an attempt by the 13th century BC Mycenean rulers to appropriate the possible heroic past of the older ruling dynasty. Under this context, the land surface was built up to make a level precinct for ceremonies, with the stelae over the graves being re-erected. A new entrance, the Lion Gate, was constructed near the site.

The Mask of Agamemnon is an artifact discovered at Mycenae in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann. The artifact is a funeral mask crafted in gold, and was found over the face of a body located in a burial shaft, designated Grave V, at the site “Grave Circle A, Mycenae”. Schliemann believed that he had discovered the body of the legendary Greek leader Agamemnon, but modern archaeological research suggests that the mask is from 1550–1500 BC, earlier than the life of Agamemnon, as tradition regards it. The mask is currently displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

A shaft tomb or shaft grave is a type of burial structure formed from a deep and narrow shaft sunk into natural rock. Burials were then placed at the bottom. A related group of shaft and chamber tombs also incorporate a small room or rooms cut laterally at the base of the shaft for the placing of the dead.

The practice of digging shaft tombs was widespread but the most famous examples are those at Mycenae in Greece which date to between 1650 BC and 1500 BC, associated with the arrival of the Greeks in the Aegean (in some scenarios, with a second wave of Greek arrivals, assuming a Proto-Greek migration in the 23rd to 22nd centuries at the beginning of the Early Helladic III horizon). These shaft tombs were around 4m deep with the dead placed in cists at the bottom along with rich grave goods. The position of the shaft was sometimes marked by a stone stele.

Mycean-Greek language

The Proto-Greek language is the assumed last common ancestor of all known varieties of Greek, including Mycenaean, the classical Greek dialects (Attic-Ionic, Aeolic, Doric and Arcado-Cypriot), and ultimately Koine, Byzantine and modern Greek. Some scholars would include the fragmentary ancient Macedonian language, either as descended from an earlier “Proto-Hellenic” language, or by definition including it among the descendants of Proto-Greek as a Hellenic language and/or a Greek dialect.

Proto-Greek would have been spoken in the late 3rd millennium BC, most probably in the Balkans. The unity of Proto-Greek would have ended as Hellenic migrants, speaking the predecessor of the Mycenaean language, entered the Greek peninsula either around the 21st century BC, or in the 17th century BC at the latest.

The evolution of Proto-Greek should be considered with the background of an early Palaeo-Balkan sprachbund that makes it difficult to delineate exact boundaries between individual languages. The characteristically Greek representation of word-initial laryngeals by prothetic vowels is shared by the Armenian language, which also shares other phonological and morphological peculiarities of Greek. The close relatedness of Armenian and Greek sheds light on the paraphyletic nature of the Centum-Satem isogloss.

Greek is a Centum language, which would place a possible Graeco-Aryan protolanguage before Satemization, making it identical to late PIE. Proto-Greek does appear to have been affected by the general trend of palatalization characteristic of the Satem group, evidenced for example by the (post-Mycenaean) change of labiovelars into dentals before e (e.g. kʷe > te “and”), but the Satemizing influence appears to have reached Greek only after Greek had lost the palatovelars (i.e. after it had already become a Centum language).

Proto-Greek inherited the augment, a prefix é- to verbal forms expressing past tense. This feature it shares only with Indo-Iranian and Phrygian (and to some extent, Armenian), lending some support to a “Graeco-Aryan” or “Inner PIE” proto-dialect. However, the augment down to the time of Homer remained optional, and was probably little more than a free sentence particle meaning “previously” in the proto-language, that may easily have been lost by most other branches.

Graeco-Aryan (or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan) is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family, ancestral to the Greek language, the Armenian language, and the Indo-Iranian languages. Graeco-Aryan unity would have become divided into Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian by the mid 3rd millennium BC. The Phrygian language would also be included. Conceivably, Proto-Armenian would have been located between Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, consistent with the fact that Armenian shares certain features only with Indo-Iranian (the satem change) but others only with Greek (s > h).

Graeco-Armeno-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists for the Indo-European Homeland to be located in the Armenian Highland. Early and strong evidence was given by Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal flection.

Used in tandem with the Graeco-Armeno-Aryan hypothesis, the Armenian language would also be included under the label Aryano-Greco-Armenic, splitting into proto-Greek/Phrygian and “Armeno-Aryan” (ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian).

In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, Greco-Aryan is also known as “Late PIE” or “Late Indo-European” (LIE), suggesting that Greco-Aryan forms a dialect group which corresponds to the latest stage of linguistic unity in the Indo-European homeland in the early part of the 3rd millennium BC. By 2500 BC, Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had separated, moving westward and eastward from the Pontic Steppe, respectively.

If Graeco-Aryan is a valid group, Grassmann’s law may have a common origin in Greek and Sanskrit. (Note, however, that Grassmann’s law in Greek postdates certain sound changes that happened only in Greek and not Sanskrit, which suggests that it cannot strictly be an inheritance from a common Graeco-Aryan stage. Rather, it is more likely an areal feature that spread across a then-contiguous Graeco-Aryan-speaking area after early Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had developed into separate dialects but before they ceased being in geographic contact.)

Close similarities between Ancient Greek and Vedic Sanskrit suggest that both Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian were still quite similar to either late Proto-Indo-European, which would place the latter somewhere in the late 4th millennium BC, or a post-PIE Graeco-Aryan proto-language. Graeco-Aryan has little support among linguists, since both geographical and temporal distribution of Greek and Indo-Iranian fit well with the Kurgan hypothesis of Proto-Indo-European.

Helladic civilization

Helladic is a modern archaeological term meant to identify a sequence of periods characterizing the culture of mainland ancient Greece during the Bronze Age. The term is commonly used in archaeology and art history. It was intended to complement two parallel terms, Cycladic, identifying approximately the same sequence with reference to the Aegean Bronze Age, and Minoan, with reference to the civilization of Crete.

The scheme applies primarily to pottery and is a relative dating system. The pottery at any given site typically can be ordered into early, middle and late on the basis of style and technique. The total time window allowed for the site is then divided into these periods proportionately. As it turns out, there is a correspondence between “early” over all Greece, etc. Also some “absolute dates” or dates obtained by non-comparative methods can be used to date the periods.

Absolute dates are preferable whenever they can be obtained. However, the relative structure was devised before the age of carbon dating. Most of the excavation was performed then as well. Typically only relative dates are obtainable. They form a structure for the characterization of Greek prehistory. Objects are generally dated by the pottery of the site found in associative contexts. Other objects can be arranged into early, middle and late as well, but pottery is used as a marker.

The three terms Helladic, Cycladic, and Minoan refer to location of origin. Thus Middle Minoan objects might be found in the Cyclades, but they are not on that account Middle Cycladic. The scheme tends to be less applicable in areas on the periphery of the Aegean, such as the Levant. Pottery there might imitate Helladic or Minoan and yet be locally manufactured.

The “early”, “middle” and “late” scheme can be applied at different levels. Rather than use such cumbersome terms as “early early”, archaeologists by convention use I, II, III for the second level, A, B, C for the third level, 1, 2, 3 for the fourth level and a, b, c for the fifth. Not all levels are present at every site. If additional levels are required, another “early”, “middle” or “late” can be appended. The Helladic period is subdivided as:

Period – Era

Early Helladic I: 2800–2500

Early Helladic II: 2500–2300

Early Helladic III: 2300–2100

Middle Helladic: 2100–1550

Late Helladic I: 1550–1500

Late Helladic II: 1500–1400

Late Helladic III: 1400–1060

The Early Helladic period (or EH) is generally characterized by an agricultural population using basic techniques of bronze-working first developed in Anatolia with which they had cultural contacts. Their emergence from a pre-existing Neolithic population is the beginning of the Bronze Age in Greece.

The EH period corresponds in time to the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Important EH sites are clustered on the Aegean shores of the mainland in Boeotia and Argolid (Lerna, Pefkakia, Thebes, Tiryns) or coastal islands such as Aegina (Kolonna) and Euboea (Lefkandi, Manika) and are marked by pottery (i.e. “Lefkandi I”) showing influences from western Anatolia and the introduction of the fast-spinning version of the potter’s wheel. The large “longhouse” called a megaron is introduced in EH II. The infiltration of Anatolian cultural models was not accompanied by widespread site destruction.

The Early Helladic I period (or EHI), also known as the “Eutresis culture”, is characterized by the presence of unslipped and burnished or red slipped and burnished pottery at Korakou and other sites (metal objects, however, were extremely rare during this period). In terms of ceramics and settlement patterns, there is considerable continuity between the EHI period and the preceding Final Neolithic period (or FN); changes in settlement location during the EHI period are attributed to alterations in economic practices.

The transition from Early Helladic I to the Early Helladic II period (or EHII) occurred rapidly and without disruption where multiple socio-cultural innovations were developed such as metallurgy (i.e. bronze-working), fortifications, and monumental architecture. Changes in settlement during the EHII period were accompanied with alterations in agricultural practices (i.e. oxen-driven plow).

The Early Helladic II period came to an end at Lerna with the destruction of the “House of Tiles”, a corridor house. The nature of the destruction of EHII sites was at first attributed to an invasion of Greeks and/or Indo-Europeans during the Early Helladic III period (or EHIII); however, this is no longer maintained given the lack of uniformity in the destruction of EHII sites and the presence of EHII–EHIII/MH continuity in settlements such as Lithares, Phlius, Manika, etc.

Furthermore, the presence of “new/intrusive” cultural elements such as apsidal houses, terracotta anchors, shaft-hole hammer-axes, ritual tumuli, and intramural burials precede the EHIII period in Greece and are in actuality attributed to indigenous developments (i.e. terracotta anchors from Boeotia; ritual tumuli from Ayia Sophia in Neolithic Thessaly), as well as continuous contacts during the EHII–MH period between mainland Greece and various areas such as western Asia Minor, the Cyclades, Albania, and Dalmatia.

Changes in climate also appear to have contributed to the significant cultural transformations that occurred in Greece between the EHII period and the EHIII period (ca. 2200 BCE).

In Greece, the Middle Helladic period (or MH) begins with the wide-scale emergence of Minyan ware, which may be directly related to the people whom ancient Greek historians called Minyans; a group of monochrome burnished pottery from Middle Helladic sites was conventionally dubbed “Minyan” ware by Troy’s discoverer Heinrich Schliemann.

Gray Minyan ware was first identified as the pottery introduced by a Middle Bronze Age migration; the theory, however, is outdated as excavations at Lerna in the 1950’s revealed the development of pottery styles to have been continuous (i.e. the fine gray burnished pottery of the EHIII Tiryns culture was the direct progenitor of Minyan ware). In general, painted pottery decors are rectilinear and abstract until Middle Helladic III, when Cycladic and Minoan influences inspired a variety of curvilinear and even representational motifs.

The Middle Helladic period corresponds in time to the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. Settlements draw more closely together and tend to be sited on hilltops. Middle Helladic sites are located throughout the Peloponnese and central Greece (including sites in the interior of Aetolia such as Thermon) as far north as the Spercheios River valley. Malthi in Messenia and Lerna V are the only Middle Helladic sites to have been thoroughly excavated.

The Late Helladic period (or LH) is the time when Mycenaean Greece flourished, under new influences from Minoan Crete and the Cyclades. Those who made LH pottery sometimes inscribed their work with a syllabic script, Linear B, which has been deciphered as Greek. LH is divided into I, II, and III; of which I and II overlap Late Minoan ware and III overtakes it. LH III is further subdivided into IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC. The table below provides the approximate dates of the Late Helladic phases (LH) on the Greek mainland.

The LHI pottery is known from the fill of the Shaft Graves of Lerna and the settlements of Voroulia and Nichoria (Messenia), Ayios Stephanos, (Laconia) and Korakou. Furumark divided the LH in phases A and B, but Furumark’s LHIB has been reassigned to LHIIA by Dickinson. Some recent C-14 dates from the Tsoungiza site north of Mycenae indicate LHI there was dated to between 1675/1650 and 1600/1550 BCE, which is earlier than the assigned pottery dates by about 100 years. The Thera eruption also occurred during LHI (and LCI and LMIA), variously dated within the 1650–1625 BCE span.

Not found at Thera, but extant in late LHI from Messenia, and therefore likely commencing after the eruption, is a material culture known as “Peloponnesian LHI”. This is characterised by “tall funnel-like Keftiu cups of Type III”; “small closed shapes such as squat jugs decorated with hatched loops (‘rackets’) or simplified spirals”; “dark-on-light lustrous-painted motifs”, which “include small neat types of simple linked spiral such as varieties of hook-spiral or wave-spiral (with or without small dots in the field), forms of the hatched loop and double-axe, and accessorial rows of small dots and single or double wavy lines”; also, the “ripple pattern” on “Keftiu” cups. These local innovations continued into the LHIIA styles throughout the mainland.

The description of the LHIIA is mainly based on the material from Kourakou East Alley. Domestic and Palatial shapes are distinguished. There are strong links between LHIIA and LMIB. LHIIB began before the end of LMIB, and sees a lessening of Cretan influences. Pure LHIIB assemblages are rare and originate from Tiryns, Asine and Korakou. C-14 dates from Tsoungiza indicate LHII was dated to between 1600/1550 and 1435/1405 BCE, the start of which is earlier than the assigned pottery date by about 100 years, but the end of which nearly corresponds to the pottery phase. In Egypt, both periods of LHII correspond with the beginning of its “Imperial” period, from Hatshepsut to Tuthmosis III.

LHIII and LMIII are contemporary. Toward LMIIIB, non-Helladic ware from the Aegean ceases to be homogeneous; insofar as LMIIIB differs from Helladic, it should at most be considered a “sub-Minoan” variant of LHIIIB.

The uniform and widely spread LHIIIA:1 pottery was originally defined by the material from the Ramp house at Mycenae, the palace at Thebes (now dated to LHIIIA:2 or LHIIIB by most researchers) and Triada at Rhodes. There is material from Asine, Athens (wells), Sparta (Menelaion), Nichoria and the ‘Atreus Bothros’, rubbish sealed under the Dromos of the Treasury of Atreus at Mycenae as well. C-14 dates from Tsoungiza indicate LHIIIA:1 should be more nearly 1435/1406 to 1390/1370 BCE, slightly earlier than the pottery phase, but by less than 50 years. LHIIIA:1 ware has also been found in Maşat Höyük in Hittite Anatolia.

The LHIIIA:2 pottery marks a Mycenaean expansion covering most of the Eastern Mediterranean. There are many new shapes. The motifs of the painted pottery continue from LHIIIA:1 but show a great deal of standardization. In Egypt, the Amarna site contains LHIIIA:1 ware during the reign of Amenhotep III and LHIIIA:2 ware during that of his son Akhenaten; it also has the barest beginnings of LHIIIB. LHIIIA:2 ware is in the Uluburun shipwreck, which sank in the 14th century BCE. Again, Tsoungiza dates are earlier, 1390/1370 to 1360/1325 BCE; but LHIIIA:2 ware also exists in a burn layer of Miletus which likely occurred early in Mursilis II’s reign and therefore some years prior to Mursili’s eclipse in 1312 BCE. The transition period between IIIA and IIIB begins after 1320 BCE, but not long after (Cemal Pulak thinks before 1295 BCE).

The definition of the LHIIIB by Furumark was mainly based on grave finds and the settlement material from Zygouries. It has been divided into two sub-phases by Elizabeth B. French, based on the finds from Mycenae and the West wall at Tiryns. LHIIIB:2 assemblages are sparse, as painted pottery is rare in tombs and many settlements of this period ended by destruction, leaving few complete pots behind.

LHIIIB pottery is associated in the Greek mainland palaces with the Linear B archives. (Linear B had been in use in Crete since Late Minoan II.) Pulak’s proposed LHIIIA/B boundary would make LHIIIB contemporary in Anatolia with the resurgent Hittites following Mursili’s eclipse; in Egypt with the 19th Dynasty, also known as the Ramessides; and in northern Mesopotamia with Assyria’s ascendancy over Mitanni. The end of LHIIIB is associated with the destruction of Ugarit, whose ruins contain the last of that pottery. The Tsoungiza date for the end of LHIIIB is 1200/1190 BCE. The beginning of LHIIIC, therefore, is now commonly set into the reign of Queen Twosret.

The LHIIIC has been divided into LHIIIC:1 and LHIIIC:2 by Furumark, based on materials from tombs in Mycenae, Asine, Kephalonia, and Rhodes. In the 1960’s, the excavations of the citadel at Mycenae and of Lefkandi in Euboea yielded stratified material revealing significant regional variation in LHIIIC, especially in the later phases. Late LHIIIC pottery is found in Troy VIIa and a few pieces in Tarsus. It was also made locally in the Philistine settlements of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza.

History of Greece

Pelasgians

Aegean civilization

Minoan civilization

Mycenaean Greece

Cyclades

Proto-Greek

Mycenaean language

Linear B

Minyans

Minyan ware

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