The Wandering Tribes of the Aegean


In the following material I have decided to reproduce ,in whole, most of Lecture 5 of H.R. Hall’s 1928 book The Civilization Of Greece In The Bronze Age

(L.M. I-II-II, 1500–1200 B.C.) for the benefit of the reader.

This also includes additional material provided by myself, in the hope that by following H.R Hall’s and my own reasoning and examples we can start to get closer in our quest to understand the origins of The Sea Peoples.

This Entry will extensively cover what I believe to be material of great importance in our understanding of just how populations moved, settled and flourished in the Aegean and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region ,and how the unique techniques of manufacturing artefacts and specifically pottery allows us to see these unmistakeable “fingerprints” , left by successive phases of colonising peoples and thus help us see just how to recognise and distinguish the presence of the Sea Peoples from that of other related cultures of the Bronze Age Aegean Greek World .


The Late Minoan II period ended with the catastrophic destruction of Knossos by a foreign enemy. Possibly her thalassocracy was no more popular than that of the Athenians was to be, a thousand years later.

The fall of Knossos took place between 1450 and 1400 B.C. This date is indicated by Egyptian evidence. Five tombs of the first half of the fifteenth century B.C. At Egyptian Thebes have pictures of Minoan Cretan envoys bearing splendid metal vases of Minoan work as gifts, those of Sennemut or Senmut (circa 1500 B.C. , in the reign of Hapshetsut, of User or Useramon, another vezier, not much later; of Rekhmire, the vezier of Thutmosis III, who lived into the reign of Amenhotep II circa 1440 B.C.) ; of Puimre, and of Menkheperresenb, who was born in the reign of Thutmosis III.


Sennemut’s Minoans (fig.1), carry a bronze vase of a well known pithoid Minoan type with two rows of handles, which is paralleled to some extent, though without the lower handles, by a vase,(possibly of foreign marble, though judging by the form of the base, of Egyptian make) with the name of Hatshepsut in the Cairo museum (fig.2.), Also they bear gigantic vases of Vapheio type, with decorations of gold bulls’ heads on silver and with gold spiral ornamented rims, and other Minoan vases (fig.1).


The vases are represented as gigantic only in order to exhibit their form and design more clearly, they were really of the usual size. Menkheperre’senb’s men also have vases of similar type, not so well drawn, a great bull-rhyton, like those from Mycenae and Knossos (fig.3a. & .3b.), and a definitely Minoan figure of a bull (fig.4.), as also do User’s men (fig.5.). Rekhmire’s carry great “fillers” with shoulders, a variant type known in pottery, and Minoan jugs as well as ingots of copper (figs.6. & .7. (along with Figures.7a.-7m)).







These Cretans are clearly recognizable by the details of their dress, especially the important detail of the hair, with its characteristic long locks to the waist and fantastic curls on the top of the head (fig.8.). The high boots or putted sandals, and the fringed waist cloth or kilt with its projecting sheath or codpiece ( the latter especially in the tombs of of Sennemut (fig.9.). And User).

(Figure.7a.). Thebes fresco in tomb №71. of Senmut — Cretans with presents.

(Figure.7b.).Thebes. Cretan and Syrian ambassadors offering presents from fresco of №131 Tomb of Amenuser. Period of Thetmosis III (1501–1448 B.C.).

(Figure.7c.). Thebes, Painted relief of a “Keftiu” from the Tomb of Puiemre, (1501–1448 B.C.).

(Figure.7d.). The “Keftiu” from the Tomb of Puiemre in better detail.

(Figure.7e.).Thebes Syrians and Cretans offering presents, fresco from Tomb №86. of Mencheperreseneb (1501–1448 B.C.).

(Figure.7f.). Partial view of frescos from the Tomb of Mencheperreseneb (1501–1448 B.C.).

(Figure.7g.). Another partial view of frescos from the Tomb of Mencheperreseneb (1501–1448 B.C.). Centre of the lower row.

(Figure.7h.).Another partial view of frescos from the Tomb of Mencheperreseneb (1501–1448 B.C.). Upper row, right.

Figure.7i.).Thebes ,A ‘Keftiu’ man in Tomb №100. of Rechmere. Period of Thetmosis III (1501–1448 B.C.) and Amenophis II 91448–1420 B.C.).

(Figures.7j-7l.). Drawings after the frescos in the Tomb of Rchmere. Ambassadors of the “Keftiu” and of “The Islands of the Sea” with their tribute.




(Figure.7m.). Thebes. Syrian with his family visiting the Egyptian royal Physician Nebamon. The servants handling the fees in the shape of vessels and metal ingots. Period of Thetmosis III (1501–1448 B.C.) or Amenophis II (1448–1420 B.C.).

(Figure.8.). Minoan in the Tomb of Rekhmere.

(Figure.9.). Detail of Minoan Dress — Tomb of Sennemut.

In (fig.3a.). The distinction between the Minoan ( bearing the bull-rhyton) and the three Asiatics that precede him, in all characteristics of ethnic type and clothing, is most marked : in complexion too he is, as usual, a deep red, almost like an Egyptian, not yellow, like a Semite.

These Minoans are described on Rekhmire’s tomb as men of Keftiu or Kaphtor and “the Isles of the Sea”, and from their appearance it is evident that Crete was included in the designation “Keftiu”.

It has been argued that Keftiu and “the Isles” are two different things, “the Isles” being Crete and the Aegean, while Keftiu was Cilicia, because Keftians are sometimes represented as bringing Syrian vases to Egypt.

But we have no valid reason to dichotomize the expression “men of Keftiu and the Isles of the Sea” by which all the obvious Minoans of Rekhmire’s paintings are described. Which of these are men of the Isles and which Keftians?

All are Minoans. To the Hebrews Kaphtor, which is undoubtedly Keftiu, meant primarily Crete, though since the Philistines, who were certainly not Cretans, are said to have come from “ the Isles (or coasts) of Kaphtor,” the Hebrew term no doubt included S.W. Asia Minor as well, and may just possibly have extended as far as Cilicia. But even if Kaphtor did include Cilicia, which is not certain, we have no proof that Rekhmire’s Keftians were Cilician Keftians, because we have as yet no archaeological proof that Minoans ever lived in Cilicia.

The fact that Syrian vases are sometimes shown as brought to Egypt by Keftians does not necessarily prove that these Keftians lived in a country immediately bordering on Syria, as has been supposed. Keftian seafarers might well bring Syrian vases to Egypt ( Keftian ships are mentioned as visiting Phoenicia), and, besides, the Egyptians were not too accurate in their descriptions of foreigners, and Egyptian painters might well confuse the products of Syria with those of Keftiu or any other country of the North.

In some of the representations of Keftians (not those in the tombs of Sennumet,User, and Rehkmire, who are very accurately costumed Minoans), they certainly look as if their appearance had been confused to some extent with that of Syrians or Anatolians. Still, since it is not impossible that Kaphtor-Keftiu did cover the whole of the the southern coast of Asia Minor as far east as Cilicia there may in Cilicia bordering on Syria have lived “Syro-Keftians,” so to speak, who brought “Syrizing” objects of art to Egypt, though as yet we have no direct proof of their existence, and I personally do not yet believe in their existence as real Minoans, though a mixed art of Syrian, Hittite, and Minoan affinities seems to have existed in or near the Cilician region at this time.

Rehkmire’s “men of Keftiu and the Isles,” however, are obviously not such hypothetical “Syro-Keftians” at all but genuine Minoans of Crete, as also are those of Sennemut’s tomb, and of User’s.

Nobody could suppose that User’s men, with their dress, and their figure of a running bull, are not Cretans! And if Rehkmire’s men are as much Keftians as men of the Isles, User’s must be Keftians as well as Men of the Isles,too.

We know fro archaeology that direct relations had existed between Crete and Egypt from the earliest times. The name of Keftiu was familiar in Egypt long before the time of the XVIIIth Dynasty, as we see from the “Prophecies of Ipuwer”, an Egyptian papyrus of the time between the VIth and XIIth Dynasties, in which it appears for the first time. And archaeology tells us that direct relations between Egypt and Crete still existed at this time, that of the XVIIIth Dynasty.

The Minoan or rather Mycenaean colony in Cyprus, to which we shall presently refer, perhaps was not founded till a few years later, though relations between Crete and Cyprus already existed.

So probably enough of these Keftians were actual envoys from Knossos bearing gifts to Egypt, which was just now making such a noise in the world by her conquest of Syria in revenge for her oppression by the Syrian “Hyksos” Kings, Khayan for example, of whom a relic in the shape of an inscribed alabastron-lid was found in Middle-Minoan III Knossos.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmase or Tahutmossis III spoke of Keftiu and the Isles as being I n fear of him, but we have no record that he ever carried war into Crete; he did not even reach Cyprus. Like the Cyprian king of Yantinai, the Minos of Knossos sent gifts, but acknowledged no overlordship thereby.

The identity of these Keftians with “Mycaeneans”, first pointed out by Steindorff in 1892, sprang to the eye in 1901 when Sir Arthur Evans discovered at Knossos the famous fresco of the Cup-Bearer, which we can assign to the Late-Minoan I period . Here we had at once the Minoan original of the ambassadors of Sennemut and Rekhmire, a Cretan youth carrying as a gift a great silver “filler” like the “Gladiator Vase”, arrayed in kilt and wearing the long waving hair of his race just as the Egyptian artists depicted him and his fellows. Gifts of this royal kind could be brought by the ambassadors of Crete. Behind them we can see a whole apparatus of regular commercial relations, which has existed for centuries, at least since the time of the VIth Dynasty (Early-Minoan II period).

To Egypt, Crete must have exported her staple , Olive-Oil, and such things as Wine and Honey, as well as a certain amount of pottery, while she no doubt acted as middleman for the silver of the Hellespontine region, for copper, and probably for bronze from the Pontiac coast.

To Crete, Egypt no doubt sent, first and foremost, gold, and then linen fabrics and corn, alabaster and other fine stones, worked and unworked, and apparently also black soldiers.

If Egypt was wealthy, so also was Crete now. Her gifts were those of a great and rich power. Here palaces and their adornment testify to the wealth and even luxury of the dynasts of Knossos and Phaistos, and to the capacity and taste of their architects and artists. The stores of inscribed tablets of this period from Knossos with their Linear script testify not only to the development of the writing since Middle-Minoan times but also to a highly organized chancery and scribal system, with regular accounts, dockets, and lists for palace use and we doubt not, also, as in Babylonia, used for commercial purposes. Weights and scales did, but actual money of course did not exist in Crete, or anywhere else, yet.

Then suddenly the whole of this fabric passed away. At the end of Late-Minoan II period Knossos was destroyed by an enemy, and for a time deserted.

To Egypt no more envoys and no more products of Crete at this period cam. With Knossos perished Keftiu. It is a most significant circumstance that the Keftians, the Minoans of the Late-Minoan I and II periods who brought Cretan gifts to Egypt under the XVIIIth Dynasty, cease to be mentioned by the Egyptians almost contemporary with the fall of Knossos or not long after it. Under the XIXth and XXth Dynasties they are only mentioned once or twice, and there are no representations of them.

Under the XXth Dynasty the word Keftiu only occurs once in a garbled form which shows that it is a mere corrupt copy of an older instance of the name. Already under the XIXth Dynasty the place of the Keftians is taken by the “Peoples of the Sea” when the Egyptians are referring to the Mediterraneans. We cannot doubt that the Keftians were indeed the old Minoan Cretans of the great days now gone. But though Keftiu disappeared as a power, relations with the Greek lands continued uninterruptedly.

Archaeology shows us that the great age of Crete ( Late-Minoan I-II) was followed by the period Late-Minoan III ( = Mycaenean III Period), in which the centre of the Greek civilization was not Crete, but the mainland and the eastern islands of the Aegean, Rhodes and her neighbours. Now about 1380–1360 B.C. We find Greek pottery, not of the Cretan, but of the fully developed mainland Mycaenean ( = Late-Minoan IIIa) style (like that of Ialysos in Rhodes), at el-Amarna in Egypt, in the ruins of the city built by the heretical king, Akhenten, of whom we have heard so much lately, in connection with the tomb of his Son-in-Law, Tutankhamen.

His city Akhenaten, was deserted soon after his death, and never reoccupied, so that this pottery must date to his time.

In connection with the Mycenaean pottery at Amarna, great interest attaches to certain casts from the faces of living subjects, made for a sculptor’s use, that were found in his studio at Amarna and are now at Berlin. Most of these extraordinary interesting portrait-masks are Egyptians, including many of the royal family, but three illustrated here (figs.10a. & .10b.& .11.) are in my opinion non-Egyptian and specifically European in type. (Fig.10a.) is of a young man or woman; the sex is uncertain, as the ears were then bored in the case of both men and women, and the hair proves nothing, except that the person was not Egyptian.




The type is surely Nordic. (Fig.10b.) might be rugged, brutal visage of one of the shardina barbarian bodyguard and (fig.11). is definitely that of a southern European woman, a Greek , Italian, or southern Frenchwoman. I see in these three portraits of Northerners : the lady may actually have been a Cretan.

At about the same date, or a little earlier, we find pottery of the same kind (fig.17.), with gold jewellery (fig.12.) and Egyptian rings and scarabs with the names of King Amenhetep III and his wife Tiyi, the parents of Akhenaten, (circa 1412–1376 B.C.), AND Akhenaten himself (circa 1376–1360 B.C.), with Egyptian XVIIIth Dynasty faience (fig.13.), and imitations of it, at Enkomi in Cyprus, where the Minoan or Mycenaean culture now suddenly appears, without any preparation, as an intruder from without into a realm of the native Cyprian Bronze Age culture.


Egyptian objects of the same reign have been found at Ialysos in Rhodes with Late-Minoan III period pottery of the same kind as that found at Amarna, and Mycenae (fig.14.), with at least one object, a small figure of a monkey(figure.15.), of an earlier reign, that of Amenhetep II ( circa 1447–1421 B.C.). Nothing of Late-Minoan I or II is found with these things at Ialysos or Amarna, and very little at Enkomi or elsewhere In Cyprus,and we can hardly avoid the conclusion that the destruction of Knossos which brought the Late-Minoan II period to an end happened some time after 1450 B.C.


The Minoan or rather Mycenaean settlement in Cyprus at this time is of great interest in this connection. I have hitherto said nothing of the old native culture of Cyprus, which lay outside the main stream of Greek development then as later. Its pottery is connected primarily with that of Anatolia and northern Syria, though it always possessed distinctive characteristic of its own, with its great dull-red bowls ( the oldest of all), its fantastic horned vases and “milk-bowls” of white slip ware with geometrical decoration in dark paint, and its red or black shiny pots with deeply incised ornament (fig.16.).



Of other art we see nothing in Cyprus at this time. Nothing fine was developed, and the Minoan culture had so little influence on that of Cyprus, that it is most difficult to get any ceramic synchronism with Crete that would tell us the date of the early Cyprian wares. Late-Minoan I pottery was imported into the island occasionally, but that is the earliest sign of Cretan influence.


The comes suddenly the appearance, obviously due to sudden transplantation from the west, of Late-Minoan III culture in the island, with its typical pottery. This has been thought to be due to a wholesale immigration from Crete after the fall of Knossos, but it is just as possible that the immigration came from the Greek mainland, and was part of a wave of expansion and conquest that radiated at this time from Greece, overthrew Knossos, and reached Cyprus. This would agree with the style of the Late-Minoan III pottery of Cyprus, which is of the Ialysian and Mycenaean rather than the Cretan type (fig.17.), and would be more in accordance with Greek tradition, which, as we know, brought Arcadian colonists to Cyprus.


But Greek-speaking Arcadians can hardly have come yet, or at any time before the Achaean movement of the 13th Century. The Greeks will have come then. But there was a pre-Achaean movement, the Mycenaean immigration that founded the culture of Enkomi!

We may with great plausibility regard the fall of Knossos as due to invasion from the mainland, and the replacement of the Minoan by Mycenaean hegemony in the Aegean, shortly before the reign of Amenhetep III (1412 B.C.). The Mycenaean immigration into Cyprus was a result of this.

The Minoan connection with Sicily, of which we have unequivocal traces in the great island to the west, is more probably an older event, possibly contemporary with the westward movement of Aegean culture of which we see evidence in the spiral relief decorations of the sepulchral “temple” of Hal Tarxien in Malta, which on this evidence should be no older that about 2000B.C., and may not be neolithic. But at the same period as the undoubted Minoan immigration into Cyprus we find at Cozzo Pantato and elsewhere in Sicily Late-Minoan III vases as well as weapons of undoubted Aegean inspiration which may point to something more than commercial connection ; taken together with the legend of the expedition to Kamikos and Hyria “after the death of Minos” may they not be relics of a complementary westward movement after the fall of Knossos that brought actual Aegean immigrants to Sicily as to Cyprus?

For two centuries or more after the Cretan invasion of the mainland the minion civilization in greece proper, which we call Mycenaean, had developed, the great tholoi of Mycenae and Orchomenos had been built. The palace of Mycenae (fig.18.), perhaps a not unworthy imitation of Knossos, plus certain northern elements, such as a great Megaron, with Late-Minoan I and II frescoes (fig.19.), which was largely rebuilt in the succeeding period, perhaps the palace-fortress of Gla in Lake Kopais (fig.20. & .20a.) and that of Thebes with its frescoes (fig.21.),the older palace of Tiryns and its frescoes also (fig.22.).



We find its settlement in southern Peloponnese at Amyklai (Vapheio), in the south-west at the two Pyloi ; only in the north-west does it seem unrepresented : there except possibly in the islands, the native barbarism still existed, unsubjected to Cretan domination. And north of Othrys Thessaly still maintained its cultural independence. With the culture of Crete came its art of writing.


(Figure.20a.). The Massive Fortress of Gla, Lake Kopais. ( Donato Spedaliere).



“The painted inscriptions found on certain vases found at Thebes in Boeotia agree both in form and grouping with the script in use at Knossos in the latest Palace period (Late-Minaoan II) “, which argues identity of language as well as of script with Crete. Te art of the mainland in the early and middle Mycenaean periods (Mycenaean I-II, the Late-Helladic I-II of Wace, = Late-Minoan I-II) is hardly distinguishable from the Cretan. Even in the pottery we see few differences yet. The style known as “Ephyraean” (fig.23.) and claimed as distinctively “mainland” by Mr, Wace, may, Mr Forsdyke thinks, though it is found in quantity on the mainland, prove to be not peculiar to it, and be in fact of Cretan origin, like everything else in the way of good ceramic on the mainland.


The old barbaric native “matt-painted” pottery has disappeared swiftly before the oncoming of a developed ceramic, and the civilised Minyan ware of the preceding age, already degenerate in Middle-Minoan III period, now disappears also, but leaves behind it a partial legacy in the shape of the high-stemmed late Mycenaean Kylix (fig.24.), which probably developed on the mainland as a combination of an old Cretan form (high-stemmed goblets were made in Crete in early Minoan times) with the high-stemmed “Minyan” goblet, whose fluted or ribbed stem-decoration was imitated in bands of varnish-paint.

It was therefore a Minoan-Minyan form evolved on the mainland, but presumably by the Minoan conquerors, not by the Helladic Aborigines.

The Cyclades had preserved far more of their artistic independence. There we do not find, as on the mainland, a complete replacement of native by Minoan ceramic. Local ways persisted. The characteristic Cycladic local wares of Late-Cycladic I and II periods imitated the contemporary Cretan styles in a Cycladic medium using red paint on the porous native pottery to imitate the Cretan black varnish.


This local style gave way but slowly to imported Cretan an Mycenaean ware, but eventually the mainland Late-Minoan III (Late Mycenaean) pottery too its place when the Koini of Mycenaean culture had been established all over the Aegean. In two centuries the colonial settlement of Minoans from Crete on the mainland had developed into a power capable of itself throwing out a colonial effort that not only was able, it would seem probable, to overthrow Knossos, but certainly succeeded in occupying Rhodes and even colonizing Cyprus, which the Minoans had never, so far as we can see, attempted to do.

And in Rhodes we find the pottery of Ialysos, contemporary with that of Armana, and Cyprus in the first half of the 14th century, of the same mainland Mycenaean style, which gradually varies from the Cretan, yet not so much as the Cycladic used to vary from the Cretan, and in no way as the Cretan formerly differed from the various pre-Minoan styles in Greece, Thessalian, Danubian, Urfirnis, Minyan, and Mattmalerei, whether we include all these under the term Helladic or confine it to the Mattmalerei, style alone.

Late Mycenaean ware, properly so-called, is distinguishable from Cretan Late-Minoan IIIa. Cretan culture did not disappear suddenly after the destruction of Knossos : an epoch of “partial reoccupation” of the palace followed, and we have remains of it in the 14th century. Some of the Zafer Paoura tombs may belong to this epoch at the beginning of the Late-Minoan III period.

And Cretan peculiarities in pottery are discernible to the end: even Cretan geometric pottery is quite characteristic. But notwithstanding this Cretan particularism the main features of the art of the Mycenaean period all over the Aegean area are the same, and we can now speak of an universal Mycenaean style and call it either “Late Mycenaean” ( = “Mycenaean III”) or “Late Minoan III” in ceramics and in all other branches of art.

We cannot call it “Helladic” because it is not Helladic, if al or any of the old individualistic pre-Minoan ceramic styles of mainland Greece are to be called Helladic.

Its base is Minoan-Cretan. In fact at the end of the 14th century B.C. We find that the Cretan Minoan, the Cycladic, and mainland “Mycenaean” cultures, with their artistic styles, have coalesced on the basis of the Minoan into one common culture and art of the late Bronze Age of Greece. The dynamic force of the Cretan, island and mainland civilization has expanded itself and come to rest in the static combination which we call generally the culture of the Late Mycenaean of Third Late Minoan period : a static culture that continued to exist, generally deteriorating during the second century of its existence, and in the third collapsing and falling to pieces under the onset of new dynamic forces from the North. From Palaikstro in Crete and from Ialysos in Rhodes we have great stores of Late- Minoan III pottery, which will illustrate the style of the new age in ceramic.

Of the mainland or Rhodian type Mycenaean IIIa = Late-Minoan IIIa) are the fragments of Mycenaean pottery found at Amarna in Egypt, which have already been mentioned, and date to about 1380–1350 B.C.

The decoration of the new style is fundamentally a degenerate form of the Late-Minoan I ornament. The naturalistic designs of the older period are stylized into a kind of shorthand. The octopus, triton-shell, and flowers progressively alter and deteriorate till they are hardly recognizable (fig.24.).

Bird-Designs, derived partly from the Late-Minoan I frescoes, partly from the decorative motives of Cycladic potters, with whom they had been very popular, appear, and gradually degenerate. The geese and ducks of the original tradition turn into birds looking like guinea-fowls and picking up food from the ground (figs.25.&.26.).



In the period of Late-Mycenaean b (Mycenaean IIIb = Late-Minoan IIIb) they become very characteristic . Forms of vases, however, remain good, and the decoration, though stylized and summary, is generally well placed and designed (fig.27.). This is especially the case in Crete, where characteristic designs imitated from the Late-Minoan II period architectonic and toreutic motives, — the triglyph and imitation chasing and embossing — (the latter typically Cretan), are not soon deteriorated. The deterioration in design is observable on the mainland and the islands earlier than in Crete, where the fine tradition still held sway for a time, and preserved the echo of its style till the end, even in geometric times.


But generally the simpler patterns of scales, chevrons, spirals, etc. all progressively, though very slowly, grow worse and worse. Characteristic shapes generally are the new Skyphos and Kylix, and the great open-mouthed krater that succeeds the great Cretan so-called “amphorae” of the Late-Minoan I-II periods. Of the older forms the most noticeable survival is the false-necked (stirrup) vase or Bugelkanne (fig.28.).


The latter and the kylix are the most universal and typical of all Late-Mycenean or Late-Minoan III vase forms, and are found everywhere throughout the Greek world at this time. The stirrup-vase was in the 14th century exported in thousands to Egypt, no doubt containing Olive-Oil .

It is constantly found in Egyptian tombs of the late XVIIIth and XIXth Dynasties ; it was, like the “filler”, imitated in Egyptian blue faience of these periods (with Egyptian designs in black) and I n alabaster (figs.29–33). Oddly enough, the equally characteristic kylix was not so imitated in Egypt.



We have great store of kylikes, with their characteristic decoration of debased octopods or triton-shells (fig.24.), from Enkomi in Cyprus, and from Ialysos, as well as from Crete and the mainland.

The pottery Larnakes were decorated in the same way. Examples have been found at Gournia, at Palaikastro, and at Milatos in Crete with the typical debased ornament of the time, a pale ghost of the marine and floral designs of the Late-Minoan I period, often imitating wooden chests with metal bands and rings, or even egyptianizing designs of spirals and papyrus-plants.




Egyptian influence is now often visible in the decoration of the Larnakes. A remarkable example of this is the magnificent painted larnax from Hagia Triada, which is of Late-Minoan III date (fig.34. & 34a-34h).


On it we see offerings being brought to the dead man who stands in front of his tomb, a conception obviously inspired by the well-known Egyptian scene of the offerings being made to the mummy, placed upright before the tomb. The details are purely Minoan, but the inspiration is evidently Egyptian.

Another (from Milatos) is very Minoan with its crude picture of the young god Velchanos descending from the sky on to the sea, with his hair streaming up on either side of his head as he falls, and also very Greek .

In Cyprus we have great amphorae or kraters which very soon show much barbarism in ornament : very typical being the crude groups of persons driving chariots (fig.35.). The idea of depicting the human figure on vases, which is non-Cretan, must have come from the Cyclades.

(Figure.34a.). The Hagia Triada Sarcophagus funeral rights.

(Figure.34b.). Ends of the Hagia Triada Sarcophagus showing women drawn in chariots by griffins and horses respectively.

(Figure.34c.). The Hagia Triada Sarcophagus — Total view of the right-side.

(Figure.34d.). The right-half of the Hagia Triada Sarcophagus shows two men dressed in fur skirts carrying bulls, a third carrying a boat to an alter approached by steps where the body of a deceased man stands supported and wrapped in a wool fur in front of an alter-house.

(Figure.34e.). The left-half scene in overall detail.

(Figure.34f.). The right-half scene beautifully reconstructed by Peter Connolly.

(Figure.34g.). A colourful detail of the left-half scene.

(Figure.34.h.). A wonderful reconstruction of the left-hand scene by Peter Connolly.


But from Cyprus also we have very fine examples of good Late-Minoan IIIa ware, and notable specimens of Minoan faience in the shape of the horse-head, ram-head and woman’s-head cups (one of the latter a Janus), besides smaller pottery from Enkomi (fig.36.- .39.), which are amongst the greatest treasures of the British Museum (making its collection to rank next after that of Athens in the matter of major examples of Minoan art) and are noteworthy to rank beside the older knossosian “Snake-goddess” and their attendant vases at Candia.

Curiously enough at far-away Ashur in Assyria, Kala’at Sherkat on the banks of the Tigris, Dr. Andrae has recently discovered exactly similar faience, identified by me,including the detachable top of a filler(?) vase of definitely Minoan type (fig.40.) and a woman’s head cup so absolutely identical with those from Enkomi, even in the smallest details, as to leave no doubt that it came from the same workshop, from the hands of the same potter as they.





It also is in the British Museum with the other objects of the Sherkat find, and is figured here (fig.41.). The find is to be published by the discoverer in extenso.


These things cannot be objects of Assyrian art imported into Cyprus. Their faience is characteristically Minoan. Like that of the “Snake-goddess”, pale blue and haematite-brown. The Ashur cup was then imported from Cyprus into Assyria. Dr.Andae would date the find not earlier than 1300, he tells me. And it is noticeable that the feminine coiffure of these heads from Enkomi and Ashur is different from that in vogue in Greece one or two centuries earlier than this: the loosely flowing or knotted curls of the older period are replaced by a stiff coil confined in a net. This may well point to a different in date as well as locality.


The graves of Enkomi, like other chamber-tombs, were constantly reused in later times, so that the Early-Mycenaean III pottery of Cyprus is found in them mixed with that of a later date. The same is the case with the fine bronze,ivory, and other objects from Enkomi, which included a plain silver cup of Vapheio type and beautiful bronze ewer (fig.42.), both possibly of Cretan origin.


But we can see that in Cyprus Minoan art lasted longer than in the Aegean ; probably the convulsion that was brought about by the tribes who brought iron and cremation into Greece was little felt there ; and the old civilization and art melted gradually into the Mischkunst of Syro-Phoenician, Egyptian and Greek elements which is characteristic of the island in the early classical period.

Cyprus was always old-fashioned and conservative : still in the 6th century Cyprian princes went to war in chariots, which in Greece had been relegated to the games two centuries before.

Perhaps characteristic of the beginning of the mixed arts is, if it is Cyprian at all , the ivory draught-board and box from Enkomi, with its hunting-scene, which shows bearded charioteers like Phoenicians, with a feather-crowned Philistine attendant on a box which might otherwise have been attributed to the best Minoan period (fig.43.). One would think it could hardly date much earlier than 1200 B.C., but it may be considerably earlier. The famous ivory mirror-handles found with it (fig.43.), carved, one with the group of an Arimaspian fighting a gryphon, the other with a fight between a bull and a lion, look older.

The Arimaspian wears the characteristic dress of the philistines or Shardina, the laminated cuirass, but a round helmet, without feathers. He wields the great Shardina sword. It is possible that all three objects are not Cyprian, but belong to a mixed art, owing its importance partly to Minoan, partly to Syro-Hittite models, with its (hypothetical) centre in Cilicia in the 14th-13th centuries B.C.


They are not genuinely Mycenaean, though the mirrors are more so than the draught-box. To the same art perhaps belongs the small group of a lion and bull fighting, carved in the round in red jasper, found at el-Amarna with the famous cuneiform tablets, and so dating to about 1370 B.C., the

British Museum, which was published by me as possible Mycenaean in my Oldest Civilization of Greece in 1901 and again recently in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (XI, p.159 ff.), though this seems to me now to be even less Minoan in feeling than the draught-box from Enkomi.

It possibly really comes from further east, perhaps from Mitanni : it partakes of both Minoan and Babylonian art, and has its ancestors in the carved groups of bulls and lions fighting which we find on the stone vase from Warka, of the older Sumerian period, in the British Museum ( Brit. Mus. Quarterly, ii.(1927), pl.v).

Characteristic of Cyprian conservatism was the retention into the classical period of the Cypriote syllabary for the writing of Greek : a syllabary which must have been merely a simplification of the older Minoan ideographs on the tablets of Knossos and Hagia Triada, and the inscription on the pottery ball from Enkomi in Cyprus itself (fig.44.). One would think that the easiest way to make out at any rate the sounds of Minoan-Cretan would be to identify the Cretan originals of the Cypriote syllabic signs.


We must now return to the Aegean. Of the middle of the Late-Mycenaean period in Greece proper we have the later palace of Tiryns, with its remarkable frescoes, which cannot be dated any earlier than the latter part of the 14th century B.C., if indeed they are so early. On them we see a queen or princess (fig.45.) holding an ivory pyxis (much resembling the Theban fresco,(fig.21.), maidens or young princes riding forth in chariots (fig.46.), attendants leading dogs to the stag-hunt (figs.47.-.48.), dogs chasing a boar across a field decorated with flower-design which looks like a mediaeval tapestry-pattern (fig.49.).



The style and details are all Minoan ; the dress and the hair are Minoan in fashion with slight differences : but the men wear in addition to, or instead of, the waistcloth, a short-sleeved chiton of the later Greek type, unknown in Crete, which reminds us of the greater severity of the northern climate.



And their hair is less elaborately dressed. The execution of the work is much stylized, and the whole is of course inferior to the great Knossos frescoes, but the interest of this swan-song of Minoan art is great.


Of the same period (1350–1250 B.C.) we have the town-remains of Mycenae, the Tirynthian later palace (fig.50 & 50a-50g.), with it outer walls and casements (fig.51.), and numberless tholoi on the mainland, especially notable being those of Menidi and Spata in Attica, and above all that of Dendra (Mideia) with its splendid contents, some of which are Late-Minoan I-II.


(Figure.50b.). Peter Connolly’s Reconstruction of “Tiryns of the Massive Walls”.

(Figure.50c.). Fore-Court entrance to the Megaron of Tiryns.

(Figure.50d.). The Megaron of Tiryns.

In the pottery (Mycenaean IIIb) we see a growing degeneracy. The fine forms and well-placed designs of Mycenaean IIIa, that great period of Ialysos, of Enkomi, and Amarna, give way to clumsy shapes and crowded, fussy and at the same time pompous decoration. Not only are the forms and items of decoration degenerate ; they are put on the vase in a degenerate, vulgar and tasteless manner. We see this best in the Late Mycenaean “close style” as it is called from the “close” way in which everything possible in the way of pretentious ornament is got on to the vase (fig.52.).

(Figure.50e). Donato Spedaliere’s Reconstruction of Tiryns.

(Figure.50f.) Close-up of Tiryns Main Gate and Court-yards and Megaron by Donato Spedaliere’s.

(Figure.50g.). The tiny black figure atop a section of the ruins of Tiryns ( right of centre) is that of a man, giving you an idea of just how massive ‘ Tiryns of the great walls’ really is.



This style began I Crete early in the period in imitation of the full Late-Minoan II designs, and then was not without taste. But now it had degenerated woefully. We see it also in the “panelled style”, so called from the typical division of the field of the design by straight lines into rectangular panels, in which appear birds of other objects (fig.53.). Both styles are often combined. The panelled style, which is probably of architectonic origin, is specially characteristic of a series of handled bowls or skyphoi, which are generally regarded as typical products of Late-Minoan IIIb (Mycenaean IIIb) and the 13th century (figs.54.-.55.). There is no doubt whatever that they do come down late in the period, and they were the ceramic chiefly affected and imitated by the Philistine invaders of Palestine at the beginning of the 12th century B.C.



Mr. Wace and Mr. Blegen however consider that at the same time they and their characteristic panelled patterns occur at Mycenae very early, at the beginning of the Mycenaean III period in fact ; and in that case the style, both in form and decoration, will be a native Mycenaean on that originated at Mycenae before the beginning of the 14th century and lasted until the 12th, an unusually long period.


In view of the obviously degenerate nature of the style it is permissible to ask for further proof of its antiquity than the finds at Mycenae, before this view is accepted. A mainland origin of the design can be conceded without making so degenerate a style early. To this later period belong the vases of the “Granary” class identified by Wace at Mycenae ; so called from the place in which a large store of them was found (fig.56.).


In these occasionally good forms are noticeable, notwithstanding the degeneracy of the ornament. In no form can we trace the progress of degeneration better than in the ubiquitous Bugelkanne or false-necked or “stirrup” vase. Those of the period are easily recognizable with their perked-up appearance, and the peculiarity of the false neck, sometimes absolutely flat, but often coned : those of the late period and the transition to the geometric style are always coned in this way.

Isolated Mycenaean stirrup-vases found in Egypt may be dated as late as 1200 B.C. The XXth Dynasty gold stirrup-vases (fig.57.) represented in the tomb of Rameses III ( Rammesses III ,1196–1175 B.C.) were probably Egyptian imitations. We have no later Mycenaean remains in Egypt. The old connection gradually ceased as barbarism increased in Greece and piracy in the Mediterranean forbade intercourse.


For the period to which we have now come is that of the “Peoples of the Sea”, the wandering tribes of Asia Minor and Greece who in the 13th and twelfth centuries ranged the Mediterranean in quest of plunder and subsistence, “fighting to fill their bellies daily”, as the Egyptian record pithily puts it.

It was they who brought about the collapse of the Minoan culture in a welter of piracy, folk-wandering, and barbarism.

(Figure.58.). The fettered-Philstines. The Warrior-scourge of the Egyptian tales. Medinet Habu (Thebes). Relief on Pylon II (Southern Gate-Tower) of the main Temple of Rameses III. (1198–1167 B.C.).

The Bronze Age

A study by James Thomas

James Thomas

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Fascinated with the Aegean Bronze Age.

The Bronze Age

A study by James Thomas