Archaeologists to Investigate Pavlopetri, An Underwater Mycenaean City

Submerged off the southern coast of Greece, just a few feet below the surface, is an ancient city called Pavlopetri which it is believed was an important port during the Mycenaean age, ca. 1600-1100 BC.  This month, archaeologists will begin surveying the site with a new technology they hope will provide “major new insights into the workings of Mycenaean society.”

The Mycenaean world of over 3000 years ago was described by the legendary Greek poet Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey.  It was an age so long ago that weapons were made of bronze rather than iron.

The name Mycenaean is derived from Mycenae, a city of stupendous walls, strange beehive-shaped tombs, and the famous Lion Gate; some speculate it was the chief city of a sort of empire which eventually included present-day Greece, the Cyclades, Crete and parts of western Turkey.  It seems probable that the Mycenaeans numbered among the great powers of their day, along with others such as the Hittites and Egyptians. 

We know that they were Greek, for the decipherment of the Mycenaean script Linear B by Michael Ventris in 1952 proved that they spoke an archaic form of Greek.  Though the Mycenaean palace culture began to disappear more than seven centuries before the Periclean Golden Age of 5th century Athens, their story survived the interregnum of the Greek Dark Ages (ca. 1100-800 BC), passed down through a bardic tradition in which singing poets regaled their audiences with tales of Mycenaean heroism from the misty past.           

Returning to the sunken city of Pavlopetri, it seems likely that it may hold important clues as to trade contacts, as well as the extent of Mycenaean sea power.  Since most previous work has focused on inland sites, there is potential for startling discoveries.       

If you’re interested in the archaeology of Mycenaean Greece or the Greek Bronze Age, try some of these books from Greensboro Public Library:  The Mycenaeans by Lord William Taylour; The Tomb of Agamemnon by Cathy Gere; Greece in the Bronze Age by Emily Vermeule; Memoirs of Heinrich Schliemann:  A Documentary Portrait Drawn from His Autobiographical Writings, Letters, and Excavation Reports by Leo Deuel; and The Greek Stones Speak:  The Story of Archaeology in Greek Lands by Paul MacKendrick.

You can also try a keyword search for “Mycenae” or “Mycenaean” in the Gale Virtual Reference Library via NC Live.  All you need is a library card number to use this resource.

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