Ancient Mycenaean Art

Mycenaean Greece refers to the period in ancient Greece approximately spanning the years 1600-1100 BCE, and represents the first advanced civilization in mainland Greece. Many centers of importance arose during this period, the most prominent of which was Mycenae, in Argolid, after which the culture of this time was named.

The Mycenaeans made a great deal of pottery of many different styles, such as kraters, pitchers, stirrup jars, and chalices, which varied considerably in size. Great numbers of pottery items were exported outside of Greece, and these were generally more luxurious than items intended for domestic use, and featured painted decorations. They also made a great number of vessels of bronze and other metals. These vessels were normally in the shape of lamps, tripods, or basins.

The Mycenaens did not produce large sculpture, but they did produce many small terra-cotta figurines. Most of these figurines were female and had either human forms, animal forms, or gods of animal forms. The female sculptures can be separated into three groups: the figures in the earliest group look like the Greek letter phi and their arms give the upper body a rounded shape; the figures in the next group look like the Greek letter psi, and have outstretched upraised arms; the figures in the last group look like the Greek letter tau, and have folded arms at right angles to the body. Most figurines are wearing a large hat that is painted with stripes or zigzags in the same manner as the contemporary pottery. The purpose of these figurines is not known for certain, but many of them were found at religious sites, suggesting that at least some of them were used for religious purposes. Some other larger male, female or bovine terra-cotta figures have also been found in Mycenaean temples and shrines.

Mycenaean painting was greatly influenced by that of the Minoan age. Fragments of wall paintings have been found both in and around palaces, and in domestic contexts. Various themes are represented, such as battle scenes, hunting, processions, and bull leaping. Other frescoes contain the same stylized or geometric motifs that were used on contemporary painted pottery.

Mycenaean military items have also been found, including a complete suit of armor (this is the oldest known form of metal armor). The suit is made of bronze plates sewn to a leather garment and, because of its weight, was most likely worn by a warrior riding in a chariot. Weaponry made of bronze have also been found, and include spears, javelins, an assortment of swords of different sizes, daggers, arrows, and two types of shields made of wood and leather.