Mycenae, the Danube and
Homeric Troy

In Danube in Prehistory, Gordon Childe tells of the “fierce controversy” occasioned by the various attempts at dating the Hungarian urnfields. Did they belong to the Late Bronze Age (before ca. 1100 B.C.) as some authorities argued, or should the indications of their close relation to the Iron Age or the Halstatt period that begins ca. 800 B.C. be considered decisive, as another group of scholars urged?1 There is much to be said for the Iron Age dating—the objects from the Hungarian urnfields have numerous parallels in the Iron Age pottery of Silesia and Hallstatt. “Near the urnfields or settlements themselves we have noticed objects ofuncontestably Iron Age date,” wrote Childe. “On this line of reasoning the urnfields just described would . . . last from 1000 to 600 B.C.” Yet, “Aegean connections . . . are scarcely compatible with the low chronology.”2 Several lines of evidence converged to date the urnfields “on the whole to the epoch between 1400 and 1000 B.C.”3 even while it had to be admitted that this high chronology, which Childe favored, involved “difficulties” which could not be disguised.

Certainly, Aegean and Anatolian connections both pointed in the direction of a higher chronology: Decorative motifs on pottery related some of the urnfield cultures to Hittite and Minoan ware, and there were convincing links to Macedonian Bronze Age pottery; also, analogies of pottery decoration from the earlier urnfields with motifs of Mycenaean ware dated to the fourteenth century were undeniably present. “The scheme based on the Aegean connections, however, involves serious difficulties when relations with Italy come to be considered.”4 The period in which Villanovan culture, predecessor of the Etruscan (whose introduction into Italy is usually placed in the eighth century), spread its influence to the north and east toward the Danube cannot be put earlier than the eleventh century.5 There is an obvious affinity between the Villanovan pottery types and some of the finds from the urnfields, showing that they were “roughly contemporary.”

Pulled in two opposite directions, trying to respond “to the clamours of the Italian archaeologists” and also “meet the needs of the Aegean prehistorians,”6 Childe reluctantly opted for an early dating, accepting the antiquity of some finds to be as high as 1400 B.C., and letting others be as late as 1000 B.C. He acknowledged that dates five hundred or more years lower were plausible: “We therefore only adopt the higher dating provisionally until excavations at other stratified sites—of which there are plenty—have settled the issue.”7

A good illustration of the predicament faced by Childe and by all other scholars in the field is the chronological placement of the key Vattina culture of the Hungarian plain. Some scholars are convinced that the later phases of the Vattina culture should be dated approximately to between 700 and 400 B.C.8—Childe notes what he terms a “striking correspondence with the pottery of the inhabitants of Troy VIIa”9 the very stratum which Carl Blegen later identified as the remains of the Troy of Homer, and accordingly dated to the mid-thirteenth century.10 At the time that Childe wrote, the stratum was known as a settlement of squatters and was dated by Wilhelm Doerpfeld to slightly before 700 B.C.


  1. Childe, The Danube in Prehistory (London, 1929), pp. 291-295, 386-387, 416-417. The Halstatt period in Europe corresponds to the Geometric period in Greece and the early Iron Age in general. See A. Mahr, et al., Prehistoric Grave Material from Carnida, etc. (New York, 1934), pp. 9-11.

  2. Ibid., p. 92.

  3. Ibid., p.295.

  4. Ibid., pp.293ff.

  5. Ibid., p. 294.

  6. Ibid., p. 417.

  7. Ibid., p. 387.

  8. Childe cites, especially, B. Milleker, Vattinai oestelep (Temesvar, 1905).

  9. Childe, op.cit., p.386.

  10. C. W. Blegen, Troy and the Trojans (New York, 1963).