The Entrance to the Citadel
According to tradition, the citys founder was the legendary hero Perseus, and the later Greeks attributed its fortifications of tremendous stones to mythical giants, the one-eyed Cyclopes. It was for Eurystheus, a later king of Mycenae, that Heracles performed his twelve labors. One of the citys last heroic kings was Agamemnon, commander of the pan-Hellenic expedition against Troy. Upon his return from that long war, his queen and her paramour murdered him in the palace, for which crime his children, Orestes and Electra, took their terrible revenge.(1)
First excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s, in one of the earliest systematic campaigns at a Late Helladic (LH) center, Mycenae is one of the most thoroughly excavated and studied places in the world. For over a century now, German, Greek and British prehistorians have revealed a wealth of archaeological information, as well as costly and beautiful artifacts. Work still continues there on a yearly basis.
Since the absolute dates for Mycenae and the entire East Mediterranean Late Bronze Age come directly from Egypt,(2) if Immanuel Velikovskys revised chronology is valid, one should expect, that numerous 500 to 700-year problems trouble those who deal with Mycenae and the Mycenaean Agewhich is the topic of the present essay.
In the present volume, Velikovsky treated the Lion Gate of Mycenae (Fig. 1, A), and brought out how, and why, late nineteenth-century art historians and excavators, who studied the stone carving and the gateway it surmounts, originally ascribed them to the eighth century B.C.; he also showed how adherents to Egyptian chronology pushed the date back by half a millennium to ca. 1250 B.C. The debate over those 500 years, long ago resolved in favor of the Egyptian time scale, still presents problems for modern archaeologists. Thus, John Boardman, who does accept a thirteenth-century attribution for the gate, recently concluded that more than five hundred years were to pass before Greek sculptors could [again] command an idiom which would satisfy these aspirations in sculpture and architecture. (3)
The Lion Gate was the main entrance-way of Mycenae. Between the Gate and the building known as the Granary (Fig. 1, C), A. J. B. Wace dug a test trench in 1920. The location was ideal for two reasons. First, being near the gate and along the main street into the city, the spot collected all tangible evidence of those who passed along the route.(4) Second, the area was a perfect sedimentation trap, enclosed by three walls, with the fourth side open to the steeply sloping ground of the citadel, so that it also collected the material that constantly rolled or washed down from above. Since that trench provides the best stratigraphical section of the site, and is the main basis for trying to date the fall of Mycenae, (5) the findings are of particular interest to us. Wace differentiated thirteen layers, which had collected between the fortification wall, the gate, and the Granary, all constructed in the middle of the Late Helladic (LH) III B period (ca. 1250 B.C.).(6) The bottom ten layers belonged exclusively to the period of construction until late in the pottery phase known as LH III C (set at 1250 - 1100/1050 B.C.), at most 150-200 years.(7) On the average, then, each of those layers represented ca. 15-20 years.
The eleventh layer from the bottom, in addition to eleventh-century LH III C pottery, contained a significant number of fragments of Orientalizing ware (i.e., seventh to sixth century B.C.). That layer, which, by the accepted scheme, must represent the passage of ca. 500 years, was only about 1/6 the total thickness of the ten layers beneath it, which represent only 150 to 200 years. It was, in fact, thinner than one of the earlier layers representing ca. 15-20 years.
It is very important to note that the eleventh layer contained no pottery dated to 1050-700 B.C. If people continued to inhabit, enter, and leave Mycenae between the eleventh century and the seventh, one would expect some evidence of that fact to appear in that trench near the gate, yet none does. Even if the site was abandoned for centuries, one would still expect a layer of wash, consisting of ashes and dissolved mud brick from ruined structures on the citadel to lie above the eleventh-century pottery and below that of the seventh,(8) but there was none. Neither was there a seventh-century layer distinguishable from the eleventh-century one, as if centuries of debris and/or wash had been removed before the seventh-century pottery was deposited. One thin layer contained pottery of two styles customarily separated by hundreds of years, yet the trench showed no evidence that those centuries actually transpired.(9)
In the 1920s, Wace considered the eleventh layer, its seventh-century pottery, to be the last true Mycenaean stratum, (i.e., it followed immediately after the tenth layer, and began to form in the twelfth century).(10) Some thirty years later, however, disturbed by the 400-year-later material, he changed his mind, and reduced the age of the entire layer, proposing that its LH III C contents were deposited centuries after they were made.(11) That solution, however, still runs into the same problem as beforeunless removed (for no apparent reason), the evidence of centuries duration, either as pottery or as wash, should still appear somewhere in the sectionif not within the eleventh layer, then beneath it and the tenth. Other scholars(12) do not accept Waces redating, but follow his original assessment, that, despite the seventh-century material, the eleventh layer belongs mainly to the twelfth century.
If Mycenaean pottery had not received its absolute dates from Egypt, then, on the basis of that and other stratigraphical sections from Prosymna, Tiryns, Pylos, Athens, Sparta (Therapne), Kythera, Crete (Vrokastro), Chios, Troy, Italy (Taranto), etc.,(13) and also, as we shall presently see, on the basis of style, one might sayas numerous scholars once didthat LH III B-C pottery (1350-1100/1050 B.C. by Egyptian reckoning) immediately preceded the seventh-sixth century Orientalizing ware.