A Glance Through Time: The Bronze Age

The Greek civilization goes back further than most people realize. Here, you can take a look at the Bronze Age of Greece in order to understand the impressive culture of this country from the very beginning. 

When did the Bronze Age begin? 

when the bronze age begin historyWhen did the bronze age begin - credits: history.com

The Bronze Age is the period of human time between the Stone Age and the Iron Age, terms that refer to the material with which tools and weapons were created.

In the pre-Bronze Age, people used stone or at least non-metallic tools, such as archeological objects made of flint or obsidian.

The Bronze Age was the beginning of an era when people also made tools and weapons from metal. The first part of the Bronze Age can be called Chalcolithic referring to the use of tools made of pure copper and stone.

Copper was known in Anatolia in 6500 BC. Only in the second millennium BC. copper (an alloy of copper and usually tin) was put into general use.

Around 1000 BC., the Bronze Age ended and the Iron Age began. Before the end of the Bronze Age, iron was scarce; it was used only for decorative items and possibly coins.

Determining when the Bronze Age and the Iron Age ended, therefore, takes into account the relative superiority of these metals.

Bronze Age Tools

Bronze Age Tools monaghan.ieBronze Age tools - credits: monaghan.ie

The production of brass (bronze) from copper and tin, for the manufacture of durable tools, takes place in the Aegean during the Early Bronze Age and leads to the increase of agricultural production and the development of handicrafts.

The metal finds and the tools related to their processing, which were found in settlements of mainland Greece, certify the on-site practice of metalworking. 

Metalworking workshops were established indoors and outdoors in Rafina and Koropi, Attica, in Tiryns, while in Aegina IV (2300-220 BC) a built-in foundry was found to melt copper. 

It is considered possible that some of them were production centers - such as Pafina for Attica and Aegina for the Saronic Gulf-, which supplied other settlements with metal tools.

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According to archaeological research, the raw materials of copper, lead, and silver, used in the early Helladic settlements at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. come from the mines of Sifnos. and probably of Syros and Serifos. 

Since the middle of the millennium, there has been a systematic extraction of lead and silver in the Lavrio and Thoriko mines of Attica. Tin, a key metal for bronze production, does not exist in the Aegean, and reached the mainland not as the original metal but in the form of a ready-made bronze alloy, via the Aegean islands from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, or Asia Minor. 

In addition, the use of tin from the Balkans and Central Europe, which reached at the end of Early Helladic II to mainland Greece via the western Adriatic and Ionian seas, is probable. 

The discovery of metals was the concern of metalworkers, who also seem to have practiced trade, thus acquiring wealth and therefore a distinct social identity.

The metallurgy of mainland Greece does not seem to be as advanced as in the northeastern Aegean and the Cyclades. Its products are tools, weapons, jewelry, and, very rarely, vases. 

The oldest bronze finds come from Lerna, Argolida, Agios Dimitrios of Trifyllia, and Lithares of Viotia and are tools (blades, chisels, knives, hooks) and jewelry (pins). 

Arts of the Bronze Age

Ceramics

ceramics flickr 700x500Ceramics - flickr.com

From 1600-1450 BC., the Minoans took the lead in the art of pottery. Vases were an important type of trade both for their content and as household items or works of art. For example, the storage amphibians with octopus decoration, as a distinctive emblem of their Cretan origin, with a specialized shape suitable for transporting liquids, are the typical container of the transit trade of the time.

These rhythms and shapes, such as the pseudo-mouthed amphora, but also largemouths, hemispherical meatball cups, etc. were later to be imitated by Cycladic craftsmen. Especially in mainland Greece, the sudden Minoan influences, were due to the acquisition of valuable objects by the Mycenaeans, as declarations of prestige. 

After 1450 BC, the pottery of the workshops of Knossos, received many Greek influences, such as those that appear in the monumental three-story amphorae of palace style with the strict and cold decoration.

Wall paintings

wall paintings newscientist 700x500Wall paintings - credits: newscientist.com

Both pottery and murals derived their theme from the sealing motifs that pre-existed in Oriental art. However, they started in reverse from the stamps: starting from geometric and ending in figurative patterns. 

They were either large compositions or miniature scenes. Their theme common in the Aegean area had a naturalistic character and sometimes narrative or religious. 

In the excavations of the palace of El-Daba, in Egypt, the burial frescoes depicted trade exchanges between Egyptian officials and Cretans, Syrians, Libyans, and Africans.

Seal engraving

Seal engraving christies 700x500Seal engraving - credits: christies

The seals were a creation of the administrative system of the palace culture. Their shapes varied between the following: lens-shaped, almond-shaped, pressed cylinder shape, and the sealing ring. 

An amalgam of Minoan, Cypriot, Eastern, and Aegean elements was observed in the seal engravings of the time. The rich mythological and ideological decoration states that they were built in centers, where their cultural content would be immediately understood.

Stone carving

stone carving pocket guide.gr 700x500Stone carving - credits: pocket-guide.gr

The craftsmen of the stone processed the basalt, porphyry, liparite, obsidian, chlorite, steatite, the mountain crystal, the various veined marbles with bold imagination. 

The recording of the materials indicates the range of contacts that were made to import these materials to Crete and from there through the Cyclades to reach mainland Greece.

In the pit tombs of Mycenae, various cultural traditions with various cultural innovations and conquests intersected. In Egypt, after all, stone vessels were made from the beginning of the Pre-dynastic period. 

Metalworking

metal working ajaonline.orgMetal working - credits: ajaonline.org

Copper was imported either from the east or from Cyprus in the form of talents. Artisans very quickly assimilate the oriental techniques of investment and insertion, along with percussion and torpedoing.

In terms of subject matter there were geometric themes but at the same time naturalistic or human activities. For example, the two golden cups of Vafeios, which depict the capture of bulls, the insulated cup with octopuses from Dendra, and the silver "rite of siege" from Mycenae. The style testified to the merge of both Minoan and Greek aesthetic trends.

The manuals that followed the inset technique from the pit tombs of Mycenae were elaborately decorated: lions running with a flying gallop, lion hunting, and on the other side a lion attacking an antelope, the three felines hunting birds. 

Thus, the combination of elements from both the Middle East and Egypt as well as Minoan e.g. the flying gallop and the octagonal shields but also Mycenaean e.g. hunting scenes often depicted on tombstones, murals, or seals.

We should also mention the most impressive finds of these tombs which are the golden masks, a beloved custom mainly of the Egyptians.

Micro sculpture and Jewelry

 Micro sculpture and Jewelry metmuseum.org 700x500Micro sculpture and Jewelry - credits: metmuseum.org

Both in the micro-sculpture and in the jewelry industry, the fusion of the local tradition with the Eastern or Minoan influences and techniques is observed. 

After 1450, especially in ivory, a boom was achieved in Mycenae and the achievements of the creators traveled from Cyprus to Syria.

Bronze Age Civilizations

Bronze Age civilizations novoscriptoriumBronze Age civilizations - credits: novoscriptorium.com

With the predominance of copper as a basic material for the construction of tools and weapons, the so-called Bronze Age begins. Some older settlements are now abandoned and many new ones are being established, from the beginning of the period throughout the Greek geographical area. 

Of the 929 sites of the Early Bronze Age that have been identified, 9 are located in Epirus, 85 in Macedonia, 18 in Thrace, 57 in Thessaly, 206 in Central Greece and Evia, 172 in the Peloponnese, 17 in the Ionian Islands, 229 in the Aegean islands and 136 in Crete.

This population increase is considered to be impossible to explain only with the improvement of living conditions, due to the consolidation of the agro-livestock economy in the Neolithic period and it is speculated that it is also due to population migrations. 

The distribution of most of the sites inhabited in the Early Bronze Age, in southern and eastern Greece, may imply migrations of populations from east to Greece. 

These movements are not conquest campaigns as they are not accompanied by the destruction of older settlements or at least so far no archaeological evidence has been found to support such a possibility. It seems that old and new populations work together and eventually merge.

It should be noted that from the beginning of the period northern Greece and especially Thessaly seem to lose the lead in the evolution of civilization. From this period onwards, southern Greece, the Aegean islands, and Crete have the lead and this will continue throughout most of the next period of ancient Greek history, until the glorious years of the rise of the Macedonian kings. 

This observed shift in the center of gravity of developments is presumed to be due to a simple reason: The familiarity of the southern population with the sea and shipping, already from the 11th millennium as mentioned above, helps it to take over the copper trade, which is necessary for the development in this new period but does not exist in Greece and must be imported from elsewhere. 

It was this search for raw materials and trade that helped, especially the islanders, to escape from the narrow borders of the Aegean and to come in contact with other peoples and cultures and gave the impetus for the development of the first great civilization of the Greek Aegean area.

The study of anthropological data of the Neolithic period show that at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, the population of mainland Greece, the Cyclades and Crete consists of people with anthropological characteristics of the Mediterranean race, who came from probably from more eastern areas, but anthropological elements of northern origin had been mixed in with him.

Aegean culture

aegean culture greece isAegean culture - credits: greece-is.com

In the early Bronze Age, the so-called Aegean culture developed in southern Greece and the Aegean islands. The name (or names), language, or other ethnological characteristics of the bodies of this culture are not known and only conjectures can be made, however, their contribution to the formation of the historical population and culture of Greece is unquestionable. 

This culture, which is basically naval, has a loose unified character but also strong local characteristics and is distinguished by region, in individual cultures. 

North Aegean

Aegean Bronze Age studyNorth Aegean - credits: study.com

The habitation in the islands of the northern Aegean Sea has been confirmed since the Neolithic era. Shortly after 3000 BC. and in the early Bronze Age, there seems to be great cultural development on these islands with well-known settlements in Poliochni (Lemnos), Thermi (Lesvos), Emporio (Chios), and perhaps belong to the same cultural ensemble as neighboring Troy (NE coast of Asia Minor).

Especially Poliochni from 2500 BC. plays a very important role in the region and due to its geographical location, it emerges as a large metallurgical center, a link between the mines of the Black Sea and the Aegean. It is essentially urban development, with two squares, cobbled streets, a large fortification wall, probably a boulevard, which presupposes some form of administrative organization, being perhaps the first city in Europe.

The settlements of the northeastern Aegean and their culture are destroyed according to the estimates of their excavators around 2300-2200 BC, for an unknown reason.

Cycladic culture

cycladic culture cycladesmap.grCycladic culture - credits:cycladesmap.gr

The oldest inhabitation of the Cyclades dates back to the modern period of the Neolithic period (around 4000 BC) according to archaeological findings. From this time on there is continuous habitation and cultural progress.

The involvement of the shipping and trade of the mineral wealth of the islands (obsidian in Milos, emery in Naxos, copper, lead, and silver in Sifnos, pumice in Santorini, and marble in all the islands) helped to develop a special localism, which reached its peak during the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2600 - 2300 BC). 

The probable migrations of populations at this time did not affect the cultural continuity, since they are not even directly traceable archaeologically. With the gradual introduction of metallurgy, the tools and consequently the means of navigation and the contacts in all the lengths and breadths of the Aegean were improved, as evidenced by the archeological findings.

The characteristic feature of the Cycladic culture, which is not very well known, since few places have been excavated and studied, is certainly the marble (Cycladic) figurines.

 Most of them come from tombs of the period, which have been found many on the islands and are in the vast majority products of illegal excavations, giving fragmentary information about this period. 

At first, they are coarse and inelegant, but gradually they acquire the familiar, impressive forms for their simple lines.

The settlements are generally coastal and only towards the end of the period, there are many new settlements, of a temporary nature, fortified on steep slopes, usually far from the sea. 

There is no unanimity of the experts as to what caused this differentiation, however, it seems that military operations, a decline in artistic creation, and a final shrinkage of this culture are taking place.

Minoan civilization

Minoan civilization haaretzMinoan civilization - credits: haaretz.com

The culture that developed in prehistoric Crete is called Minoan by the mythical king Minos. The oldest documented habitation of the island dates back to the ancient Neolithic period (around 6000 BC) and is limited to the area of ​​Knossos based on the findings of excavations.

With the beginning of the Early Bronze Age (ca. 3100/3000 BC), cave dwellings were abandoned in both the well-known large Neolithic settlements of Knossos and Phaistos, and a number of new outdoor settlements were added. 

The use of copper does not seem to be very widespread in contrast to the advanced domestic pottery, which confirms contacts with the Cycladic culture and perhaps with areas of western Asia Minor and the East in general. However, strong external links are not certified in the early Bronze Age.

Gradually and from 2600 BC. and then more use is made of copper, the production of characteristic stone vessels appears, which will continue for a long time, and a special architecture is developed more advanced than the modern places in the rest of Greece. 

Some confirmed arson attacks, which are unlikely to be due to external interventions, are thought to imply a struggle for political power, but there is still no strong evidence for such a possibility. 

Extensive contacts and exchanges of products are witnessed at this time with the Cyclades and mainland Greece. Cycladic culture in particular seems to have had a great influence on the Minoan period. 

Some contacts seem to exist with the East and possibly Egypt. Innovations in the economic and social organization of the late pre-palace period are best seen in the architectural environment of the first palaces. 

The palaces accumulated the agricultural surplus of their lands in the construction of large food warehouses so that they could be used in times of stress and possibly in ritual celebrations. 

Two types of scripts were used to record stocks and other items — the so-called Cretan hieroglyphics (mainly in Knossos and Malia) and the linear scripts. Linear A and Linear B plates were found in Phaistos mainly. 

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In Phaistos, clay seals were also used for the direct control of the storage areas and the containers themselves. Craft production developed in the palaces and it is very likely that the palaces monopolized raw materials such as copper from Attica and other sources, tin and ivory through Syria.

Finds of multicolored pottery in the Kamares, characteristic of the early palace period, are widespread in various parts of the eastern Mediterranean and in Egypt, indicating trade routes and trade relations with the most important Mediterranean powers. 

Contacts with the Greek mainland and Aegean islands -especially the Cyclades- are dense during the early palace period and intensify even more in the neo-palace period. 

Iconographic artifacts and artifacts suggest that the palaces were also used as ritual centers, while places of worship include caves, fountains, and sanctuaries on peaks — special features of Minoan civilization — were widespread in the countryside.

The palaces became focal points of installation and the increase of facilities in Kno until the neo-palace period is estimated at 185 acres, which indicates a population of perhaps 12,000 people.

The lands controlled by Knossos, Phaistos, and Malia probably covered an area of ​​over 1,000 square meters. km

The transition from the old or first palaces to the new or second palaces (of the new palace period) is determined by the reconstruction of the buildings, after the destruction — probably due to an earthquake — in all three important sites of the Middle Minoan. 

The new palaces became more understandable in terms of their operation, as they have major architectural similarities. 

They retain many of the roles of their predecessors, such as the storage, ritual, production, and collection of raw materials through contacts with the Greek mainland and the Aegean islands, the eastern Mediterranean, and Egypt. 

Mainland Greece

mainland greece fineartamericaMainland Greece - credits: fineartamerica.com

In Thessaly, Macedonia, and Thrace, the sites of the Neolithic era continue to be inhabited, the houses are built in a dense layout and the settlements are fortified. In central and southern Greece most of the old places are abandoned while many new ones are established. 

The culture that develops has a single characteristic, which is a continuation of the culture of the modern Neolithic era, as evidenced in several sites that have been excavated (Attica, Boeotia, Corinth, Argolis). 

The interactions, contacts, and trade exchanges of the settlements of mainland Greece with the neighboring Cycladic culture are also confirmed and expected. The characteristic elements of the culture of the early Bronze Age gradually spread throughout Greece (Fokida, Lokrida, Lefkada) and contacts with Crete were confirmed.

Traces of civilization in Serbia Kozani of 2600 BC. turns out to be related to the Greek-speaking sexes (later known as Greek). From about 2200 until 1900 BC. the main volume of the Indo-European Proto-Greeks had moved further north into two main volumes. 

In Epirus (Korytsa region) the civilization highlighted by the archeological dig (around 1900 BC) has been proven to be related to the Chaos and was the starting point of the Ionian movements. 

In northwestern Macedonia (Pelagonia) the parallel civilization (with that of Korytsa) highlighted by the archaeological dig (around 1900 BC) has been shown to be related to the Achaeans and the Aeolians and was the starting point of the movements of these two Greek tribes. 

The early Bronze Age is not a peaceful period for Greece. Arsons and destructions of some settlements are evidenced by the archeological findings, as well as their abandonment and later resettlement (Lerna, Tiryns in Argolis). However, the phenomenon is not generalized as other settlements show a smooth and peaceful transition to the next phases (Drilling in Evia, Kolona in Aegina).

The use of metals is minimal at the beginning of the period but is slowly becoming more common and copper/brass objects are common. There are also some silver items and gold jewelry.

Some experts see, based on the way the settlements of this period are organized, the emergence of some kind of hierarchical structure, but the discussion on this issue is not over yet.

The beginning of Greek history

greek history greekmythologytoursGreek history - credits: greekmythologytours.com

The sorrows of Greek history are placed in the Bronze Age and are directly related to the problem of the origin of the Greeks.

The beginning of Greek history goes back, traditionally, to the wavy descent from the north and the settlement in the geographical area of ​​Greece, of three related but distinguished, already before their establishment, ethnologically and linguistically Greek groups or genders. 

These races, which have historically competed with each other, are in descending order the Aeolians, the Achaeans/Ionians, and the Dorians. This view, which has been imprinted in the ancient Greek myth of the Greek has its roots in the archaic years and was widely accepted in Greece, from the 5th century BC.

The formulation in the last century of Indo-European theory, based on linguistic criteria, and its prevalence, consolidated the belief of descent from the north to the Greek geographical area, of Greek races of Indo-European origin, who conquered with their weapons the native, peaceful base, pre-Hellenic tribes that found in this area (Pelasgians, Avantes, Kares and Leleges) and which had already developed the Aegean and Minoan civilization.

The descent of the first Greeks took place in the early Bronze Age around 2000/1800 BC. and until 1600 BC. 

With the influence and assimilation of the cultural and cultural achievements of the pre-Hellenic tribes of the Greek area, the Mycenaean civilization developed and flourished, which reached its peak, with the conquest of Crete and the political overthrow of the Minoan civilization and the ten-year siege and conquest of Troy. 

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One hundred years later, declining and weakened, it is catalyzed by the descent to the south and the domination with the weapons of the last Greek Dorians, who inaugurate the Iron Age for the Greek space. 

The cultural upheaval and the overthrow of the traditional institutions by the invading Dorians, plunge Greece into cultural decline in the so-called dark ages.

Nowadays, when one thinks of Greece they think of exotic islands, delicious food, and endless fun. Rightly so. 

However, the country has gone through a lot to end up where it is now. Above is just a fraction of the important history the country holds. Read about the Bronze age of the country that is true gold!