Palace of Nestor, Greece

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During the Late Helladic period (Late Bronze Age; 1650-1050 BC) the Mycenaeans prevailed over the southern part of the Greek mainland; the regions Messenia and Mycenae. From the 15th century BC onwards they expanded their influence to the Aegean and Anatolian shore, as they replaced the Minoan civilisation which was present before, but disappeared due unconfirmed theories which created fires and destroyed this cultures’ palaces, towns and villa’s. Two of the most famous Mycenaean sites are Mycenae (link naar artikel Mycenae?) and the palace of Nestor in Pylos.

The palace of Nestor is located at the hill top of Ano Englianos, overlooking the bay of Navarino. It is not far from the modern town of Pylos. In the city’s centre the archaeological museum of Pylos can be visited. It hosts artefacts ranging from the Neolithic till the Roman period which were all excavated in the area around Pylos. Check opening hours of the museum and archaeological site before visiting. While it is open in summer and winter, opening hours differ in certain periods.

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The palace of Nestor

The building is named after Nestor, a hero in Greek mythology. He is known in the Iliad as one of the old kings who followed Agamemnon into battle against Troy. Multiple towns have claimed to be his place of origin. However, by now his name and home are associated with the large late bronze age building, which was excavated by professor Carl Blegen in from the University of Cincinnati. He started researching the area in 1939, which revealed walls, fresco fragments, Mycenaeans pottery and a massive amount of Linear B tablets. These finds indicated a palatial site. Because of WOII, excavations continued in 1952 till 1966. Even though most of the building complex has been excavated, the same university still excavates on a yearly basis around the site. In 2015 excavations in the vicinity revealed an grave with extraordinary finds.

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The site is considered a palatial site. This should not be compared to a modern palace. It means the building served as the administrative, political and financial centre of the Mycenaean world. The palace was built in the 13th century BC and burned down around a 100 years later. The palace is considered to be relatively small, considering the palace of Knossos (Minoan palace on Crete) is 4 times as large. The site of Pylos consists of various buildings. It has four main buildings (SW building, central building, NE building, wine store), some smaller ones and has 105 ground floor apartments.

The central building was entered by a modest gateway (1, 8). When passing the archives (7) on the left, a small court (2) is reached. After, the centre of the building is entered; the Megaron (4). This room can be found in all Mycenaean palaces and is used by Homer to name the great hall. The floor and walls of the room were plastered and decorated with fresco’s. Around this hall, rooms can be found which were used for economic activities. Multiple storerooms (5 and 6) were found for wine, olive oil and grains. In other places workshops of smiths, masons and perfume production were found.

Many research has been conducted into (ritual) feasting, as there is much evidence available which suggest large scale events took place. This is derived from both textual evidence from Linear B tablets as from archaeological evidence, for example the massive amount of drinking cups (2853) found in one room.

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Linear B

The Mycenaeans were speakers of the earliest form of Greek. They wrote in Linear B script, which has roots in the Minoan script Linear A. The Linear B tablets and sealings mention sacrificial animals and banqueting consumables, the paraphernalia and furniture. They specify the places sending animals destined for sacrifice and feasting. Furthermore, they tell us who was responsible for providing or overseeing materials, individually and collectively, and what elements of society would have been brought together, unified and ranked according to status in sacrificial and banqueting ceremonies. The majority of the tablets come from Pylos and Knossos. In the ‘archive room’ of Pylos, over a 1000 Linear B tablets and fragments were found.

Clay tablet (PY Ub 1318) inscribed with Linear B script, from the Mycenaean palace of Pylos. This piece contains information on the distribution of bovine, pig and deer hides to shoe and saddle-makers. It is on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Tholos Tombs

Next to the palatial site a large grave tomb can be visited. The large chamber tombs which are circular shaped are called Tholos tombs. These tombs are considered the most prestigious places to be buried. The one found in Pylos contained at 16-17 burials. Most of the tombs are located underground with one entrance. This type of burial architecture was borrowed from the Minoan culture and were built at various Mycenaean sites. Today it is still possible to enter the tomb and take a look on the inside.

Warrior Grave

Multiple types of grave were used by the Mycenaeans. In the beginning of the Mycenaeans civilisation, shaft grave were used. In 2015 archaeologists discovered the “Griffin Warrior Tomb’. This shaft grave consisted of an male skeleton with a massive amount of objects (over 1500), including weapons, jewellery, armour and gold artefacts. No pottery was present in the grave, all cups were made of bronze, silver and gold. Weapons were found on the skeleton’ left side and more at his feet. Based on this grave and the unique content of it, the individual is seen as an important person, if not the most important, in his generation. The content of the warrior grave is not yet on display, because it is still researched by archaeologists.


Tekst Riemke Scharff


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