Greek archaeologists have discovered a pre-classical era Greek palace at Aghios Vassilios hill dating from the Mycenaean Age, which some researchers believe is the long-lost palace of Sparta. Important archaic inscriptions found at the site may help to shed light on the political, administrative, economic and societal organisation of the Mycenaean society around Sparta where the discovery was made.
The Greek Culture Ministry said that the palace, which had around 10 rooms, was probably built around the 17th to 16th centuries BC, in a statement reported by the Phys.org website. The archaeologists also discovered a number of important artifacts at the site, including objects used for religious ceremonies, clay figurines, a cup adorned with a bull’s head, swords and fragments of murals.
New excavations at a site near historical Sparta may have uncovered the lost ruins of a Mycenaean Spartan palace. Among the treasures found at the site was this bull's head. Credit: Greek Ministry of CultureExcavations in the area, conducted since 2009, have revealed inscriptions on tablets, written in the Linear B script, relating to religious practices and also names and places. Linear B is the oldest script to be discovered in Europe and first appears in the historical timeline in Crete from around 1375 BC. It took until the mid-20th century for experts to decipher it properly.
The palace was probably destroyed by fire at some point in the late 14th or early 13th century, according to available evidence.
A photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on Aug. 25 shows an excavation site near Sparta in the Peloponnese region with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period.The Mycenaean era was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece and is characterised by palatial city-states, works of art and writing. It was at this time that the city-states began to become established, including Pylos, Tiryns, Midea in the Peloponnese, Orchomenos, Thebes, Athens and Iolcos in Thessaly. The most prominent of them was Mycenae in Argolid which was the influence for other settlements in Epirus, Macedonia and on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant and in Cyprus and Italy. Mycenaean Greece collapsed at the end of the Bronze Age and the most popular theory concerning its demise places the blame of the mysterious ‘people of the sea’ (or Sea Peoples). Other theories focus on the Dorian invasion or on natural disasters and climate change. Much ancient Greek literature is based on heroes and deities from the Mycenaean era, the most notable of which is the Trojan Epic Cycle.
Homer writes that the Mycenaean era was dedicated to Agamemnon, the king who led the Greeks in the Trojan War. The Mycenaean’s were keen traders, establishing contacts with countries across the Mediterranean and Europe. They were also excellent engineers and are also known for their characteristic ‘beehive’ tombs which were circular in shape with a high roof, consisting of a single stone passage leading to a chamber in which the possessions of the tomb’s occupant were also laid to rest.
Grave circle and main entrance of the citadel at Mycenae, one of the major centres of the Mycenaean civilization. (Wikipedia)Mycenaean craftsmen produced distinctive items of pottery and bronze, as well as carved gems, jewellery, vases made from precious metals and glass ornaments. Oil and wine were among the major commodities traded by them.
Not much is known about the religious practices of the time, but it is likely that the Mycenaean’s practiced ritual animal sacrifice and enjoyed communal feasting. Images of the double axe in art suggest links with the Cretan Minoan culture. Robert Graves also drew much of his inspiration for his books on the Greek Myths, and later on The White Goddess, from the Mycenaean culture, casting a more romantic slight on the period. It was during this period that the tales of deities such as Dionysus, Hephaestus, Poseidon, Artemis, Hera and Potnia began to emerge. The later Greeks regarded many of the deities in the Mycenaean pantheon more as heroes or demi-gods rather than powerful gods and goddesses in themselves and so undoubtedly there were many interesting tales that were lost to history as a result.
"Tradition tells us that Sparta was an important site in the Mycenaean period," Hal Haskell, an archeologist who studies the ancient Mycenaean culture at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, told Live Science. Yet no palace had been unearthed in the Spartan plain. Haskell believes the new site could be that lost Spartan palace.
Featured image: A handout photo released by the Greek Ministry of Culture shows the excavations site with remains of a palace of the Mycenaean period, bearing important inscriptions in archaic Greek, discovered near Sparta in the Peloponnese region of Greece. Image credits: Greek Ministry of Culture
By Robin Whitlock