Near the modern town of Pylos in Messenia in the southwestern Peloponnesus, a Mycenaean palace and town, taken to be the ancient Pylos of which Homer sang, were uncovered. According to legend, Nestor, its aged king, fought in the Trojan War. Carl W. Blegen, the excavator of both Troy and Pylos, assigned absolute dates to a burned layer at the site of Hissarlik in Northwestern Turkey, which he assumed to represent the Greek destruction of King Priam’s Troy, and to the Palace of Nestor, also destroyed by fire. The absolute dates were furnished by Mycenaean pottery in and under both destructions. Blegen found Mycenaean pottery in the destruction layer of Pylos obviously representing “the ceramic shapes and styles that were in normal current use on the very day the palace was set afire and destroyed”.1 “The collection as a whole reflects chiefly the latest stage in the style of Mycenaean III B” but there were quite a few pieces belonging to the III C period.2 Arne Furumark set the transition from the one style to the other at ca. 1230 B.C., about the time of the death of Pharaoh Ramses II.3 Blegen revised this downward by about 30 years, setting the date of Pylos’ destruction at ca. 1200 B.C.4

In the debris of the palace he also found a great deal of pottery which was dated not by Egyptian criteria but on the internal evidence from Greece itself. This ware he ascribed to ca. 600 B.C.5 Blegen saw that after the fire ”the site was obviously abandoned and thenceforth left deserted.”6 To account for the mass of later pottery he acknowledged that ca. 600 B.C. “there was fairly widespread activity on the site”.7

This later pottery appeared in many rooms of the palace, often, in fact, in the same layer as the pottery dated 600 years older8 so that the earlier sherds must have percolated up. In one case the later sherds were found together with the earlier ones in a layer ”which rested on the stucco pavement of the court” and “unquestionably represents the latest phase of occupation of the palace.” Since, by the accepted chronology, they are six centuries too young to have been in use “on the very day the palace was set afire and destroyed” (see note 1 above), they “must somehow have penetrated from above”9 through however much dirt settled and vegetation grew over 600 years, then slipping through ”a compact layer of smallish stones closely packed in blackish earth”10 .15 - .25 m. thick, they finally forced their way into a .03 -.10 m. thick “clayey deposit” (see note 9 above), for how else could they have gotten there?

Two sets of pottery are involved here: a group dating to the 7th century on internal grounds, and a group dating to the 13th century on external grounds - the time of Ramses II of Egypt, with whose scarabs Mycenaean III B and C pottery is found.11 Though the two groups were found together in the same strata, because of the supposed passage of 600 years, the “late Geometric” pottery was branded part of “an intrusive deposit”12 and the Mycenaean was used as a dating criterion for the fire. Velikovsky has postulated that Ramses II reigned ca. 600 B.C., not in the 13th century B.C.13 This would solve a problem at Pylos. No pottery percolated. None “penetrated from above.” The two styles were contemporaneous. Both were used in the palace before the fire and buried by the debris.


  1. C. W. Blegen, The Mycenaean Age, The Trojan War, The Dorian Invasion, and Other Problems (Cincinnati, Ohio, 1962), p. 18.

  2. C. W. Blegen and M. Rawson, The Palace of Nestor at Pylos in Western Messenia (henceforth PN), vol. I (Princeton, 1966), p. 421.

  3. A. Furumark, The Chronology of Mycenaean Pottery (Stockholm, 1941), p. 115.

  4. PN 421. S. E. Iakovides, Perati, vol. B (Athens, 1970), p. 468, brings down the date a bit further. The evidence for reducing the date is not at all secure, and, if anything, the change now seems to me to have preceded Ramses’ death.

  5. In “The Palace of Nestor Excavations of 1956,” American Journal of Archaeology, 61 (1957), 130, Blegen cautiously said, “perhaps of the seventh century B.C.” but see PN 177, 184 for his most recent view. He constantly called these sherds “late Geometric” (PN 64, 175, 229, 294-6, 300, 329, 332 and see AJA 1957, p. 130). More recent analysis by J. N. Coldstream, Greek Geometric Pottery (London, 1968), p. 330, established ca. 750-680 B.C. as the limits for the Late Geometric phase in this area, but Coldstream seems unsure whether Blegen’s finds are “late Geometric” (408)-either the term is incorrect in the light of this more recent analysis or the pottery precedes 680 B.C.

  6. PN 422.

  7. PN 294.

  8. PN 181, 184, 185, 294, 300, 303.

  9. PN 294.

  10. AJA (1957), p. 130. Above the black layer the earth was plowed (PN 294) and much disturbed (AJA, 1957, p. 131) and there is a discrepancy whether the black layer was ”immediately below the surface” (AJA 130) or under “a stratum of plowed earth, ca. 0.15 m. deep” (PN 294) or if the two descriptions mean the same thing. This being the case, especially since the surface down to perhaps. 15 m. was disturbed (PN 294. AJA 131) it would be difficult to say how much dirt would settle and vegetation grow over the 600 years (see PN 422 for vegetation growth) but one would expect both processes to have occurred if 600 years really did transpire. The small stones in the black layer were presumably from the collapse of rubble walls within the palace (PN 177). Such walls would most certainly have fallen at or soon after the time of the fire, not standing six centuries to topple onto later pottery.

  11. A. Furumark, The Chronology of Mycenaean Pottery (Stockholm, 1941), pp. 114-15. Iakovides, Perati, vol. A (1969), pp. 166, 382; vol. B (1970), pp. 467-68.

  12. PN 175.

  13. I. Velikovsky, Ramses II and His Time (New York, 1978).