The Mycenaean Age: A Study of the Monuments and Culture of Pre-Homeric Greece

By Chrestos Tsountas; J. Irving Manatt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V THE DWELLINGS OF THE DEAD: SHAFT-GRAVES

FROM the abodes of the living, we turn directly to a study of the tombs. This order is suggested, as we trust it will appear warranted, by two considerations. In the first place, we thus bring into proper relation and connected view all the great branches of architecture, military, domestic, and sepulchral, of which the age has left us monuments. Indeed, such is the close relation of the primitive house and tomb that neither can be well studied apart from the other. In the second place, it is the tombs which have yielded our chief data for the further study of the age; and it is of great practical convenience to look on, as it were, at the unearthing of these precious relics, before taking them up as documents for the history of primitive culture.

The Mycenaean tombs are of two general types. The first is that of the oblong pit sunk vertically in the ground, very much like the modern grave; the second includes the beehive or tholos-structure and the rock-hewn chamber, approached alike by an avenue (dromos) cut horizontally into a hillside. It is the second which offers the great monuments of sepulchral architecture; but the shaft-graves are obviously earlier in origin, as they were the first and are still the foremost in their contribution to our knowledge of the age to which they belong. They are, therefore, entitled to the first consideration.

Two types of tomb

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