08. November 2018 – 09. November 2018

Synchronizing the Destructions of the Mycenaean Palaces

Workshop organized by Reinhard Jung and Eleftheria Kardamaki

The destructions of Mycenaean administrative centers have continued to occupy international scholarly research ever since the first excavations of the different palaces back in the 19th century. Synchronizing the various sequences extending from the foundation of the earliest to the final downfall of the latest palace is of paramount importance for writing the history of the earliest state administration on the European continent. We are therefore organizing a workshop on this topic for November 8th and 9th 2018 in Vienna, at the Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology (OREA, Austrian Academy of Sciences).

During past research, it quickly became clear that the Mycenaean palaces fell victim to severe destructions often connected with extensive fires, though not all inventories in the relative destruction levels are of similar character. In addition, scholars realized that several palaces were destroyed more than once in their history. They also found out that the different destructions could not be ascribed to general horizons affecting the Greek mainland and Mycenaean Crete at the same time.

Over the last decades, the international scholarly community has dealt with very important discoveries that have increased our knowledge of the Aegean Late Bronze Age in general and of the Mycenaean kingdom(s) in particular. Among these, the identification and partial excavation of the Mycenaean palace at Ayios Vasileios in Laconia has a prominent position. It forces us to reconsider the entire political map of Mycenaean civilization. At the same time, important new research and fieldwork is currently in progress at other palatial centers and in other Aegean regions providing deep insight into various aspects of Mycenaean culture.

Pottery studies provide the backbone for establishing chronological order at each individual site as well as for super-regional synchronization. Therefore, the assessment of ceramic chronologies will occupy a central place in our workshop.

In view of this, the goal of the scheduled workshop is to put into perspective the latest results of research at each palace site in comparison with older data. In this way, we can re-examine previous theories with a special focus on (1) pottery studies, (2) correlation of significant historical events, specifically the destruction horizons, and (3) the historical conclusions we can draw from these results.

The envisaged chronological framework spans the period from the establishment and major expansion of the palaces to their final destruction. It also includes the earliest postpalatial phase and extends from approximately 1450 to 1180 BCE. During the largest part of this period, one may argue for the existence of parallel developments, but a closer look may also reveal regional differences between various palatial sites. This is also the case in pottery production. A precise correlation between the site sequences of the different palaces still represents a major desideratum. Considering all this, we will try to address the following questions:

  • Character and extent of destruction events
  • Existence of major destructions prior to 1200 BCE and their impact
  • Synchronization of each specific site with other palatial sites in terms of chronological correlation between (1) the different building phases and (2) destruction horizon(s)
  • The development of the pottery at each palace during the 14th–13th centuries BCE, differences and similarities with other regions
  • Historical implications resulting from the chronological sequence of events