THE EARLY IRON AGE IN THE ARGOLID:
SOME NEW ASPECTS
The Argive plain was the rich physical environment in which the most important centres of Mycenaean civilisation were established and developed. The period of its greatest prosperity, which was characterised by the presence of palaces within strong and impressive fortification walls, has been rightfully labelled as the palatial period. At this time a system of administration was created, completely controlled and directed by the ruling class, which functioned with great success and had impressive results for nearly two centuries. Exquisite works of art, the knowledge and use of script, worship and rituals are some of the main expressions of this civilisation (Shelmerdine 2001: 329–81).
The two mightiest centres, Mycenae and Tiryns but also Midea, Asine and Argos, appear to have shared the authority of this system that was supported by agriculture and livestock raising and was especially strengthened by overseas trade. At the end of the thirteenth century a strong earthquake for which we now have archaeological evidence from most of these sites caused great destructions that led to a series of changes in the palatial world and, gradually, to its breakdown. In the twelfth century, a period characterised by insecurity and instability, there is evidence of a series of catastrophes in all the major centres which are linked, often insecurely, to smaller earthquakes followed by devastating fires (Kilian 1988: 118, n. 2; Eder, Argolis: 55 and fig. 9).
At Mycenae, the Acropolis continues to be inhabited. Even though a number of new buildings are built during this period, nothing is reminiscent of the glories of the palatial period (French 2002: 135–40, fig. 64 on p. 136).
At Tiryns the settlement plan of the Lower Acropolis is radically changed. The densely populated area with its strong and impressive buildings is replaced by
I am much indebted to Irene Lemos and Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy for inviting me to participate in
the proceedings of the conference. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues
at the IV Ephorate of Antiquities, George Kavadias, Christos Piteros and Evangelia Pappi, for
allowing me to present unpublished material from their rescue excavations at Argos, as well as
Yannis Patrikianos for the photographs. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Glenys
Davies and Marina Thomatos for their assistance in revising my English.