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Photographer's Note

"I have gazed on the face of Agamemnon!" is a well known quote for people who are into ancient cultures and archeology. Maybe just as well known as Richard Burton’s “I flew with Pazuzu” is for bad (B C D etc) movie aficionados. Apparently I belong to both groups ;-)

It was written by the amateur-archeologist Heinrich Schliemann at the end of the 19th century. During an excavation he had ‘only’ laid eyes on a golden burial mask of a late Bronze age Mycenean warrior-king, and not Agamemnon. Why did he make this mistake? It was thru his perception set, a classic case of finding and seeing what you are lookin’ for. Schliemann had used Homer’s Iliad to search for the remnants of ancient Greek culture and was under the impression that this famous narrative was largely based on fact. In the Iliad the hero Agamemnon was hastily buried after he was murdered by his wife Klymenestra and her lover.

So Schliemann hadn’t stumbled on the grave of Agamemnon, but on the spectacular remains of the major Mycenaean settlement of the eastern Mediterranean region. The Mycenaean ‘empire’ was a bronze age civilisation (1700-1100 BCE with its base in the Peloponnesus.

Shown here in the foreground is 'grave circle A' (the place Schliemann found the golden burial mask) with the 'house with the warriors vase' on the left. Outside the Cyclopean city wall is the Oil merchant's quarter visible and beyond that in the BG is modern Mycenae, Mykinis in Greek. In its heyday ancient Mycenae had also an outer city wall far beyond the Oil Merchant quarter. Alas hardly any parts of this outer wall have survived the onslaught of time.

Grave Circle A is sometimes called the royal cemetery, ‘cause of the high societal status of the people that were buried there. This status was inferred from the artifacts in the graves (clothing, gold, jewelry, weapons). There were 19 mummified people (8 men, 9 women and 2 children) in 6 burial chambers. These vary in size and depth: the smallest measures 3.00 by 3.50 m. and the largest 4.50 by 6.40 m., the depth varies from 1 to 4 m. The sides of these chambers were lined with narrow clay/stone walls that rise from the floor to a height ranging from 0.75 to 1.50 m. On the walls rested big wooden beams placed across the width of the grave at short distances from each other to support a roof structure made of stone slabs or a wood and thatch. The bodies of the dead were placed on the floor. One of the burial chambers had a particular refined trim with bronze clad beam ends and many golden artifacts (amongst them the golden burial mask I mentioned before). It is known as 'shaft grave 4'. It was the chamber of the men.

Around the grave circle (28 m in diameter) you can see a low parapet wall made of two parallel rows of sandstone slabs. These are the remains of a younger structure, located above the grave circle itself. It was a round square with round altars probably for the cult of the dead.

The main source of this text: Schliemann's excavations. Schuchhardt, C . Ares Publishers, New York (1891/1964): .

A larger view is: here


In the WS is the golden mask .

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Additional Photos by Bert Hoetmer (bertolucci) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1928 W: 122 N: 4345] (14052)
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