Pylos excavation findings make Greek archaeologists revise beliefs on Mycenaean Era civilization

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Pylos excavation findings make Greek archaeologists revise beliefs on Mycenaean Era civilizationClay tablet inscribed with Linear B script, from the Mycenaean palace of Pylos. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Sharon Mollerus License: CC-BY-SA

“The results of the excavations carried out by the Archaeological Society at Iklaina in Messinia have led us to revise our knowledge about the Mycenean states, with truly unexpected findings,” the chief archaeologist in charge of the dig Prof. Michalis Kosmopoulos of Missouri-St. Louis University unveiled in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) published on Saturday.

He revealed that digs at Iklaina have revealed one of the capitals of the Mycenean kingdom of Pylos but the finds have radically changed what archaeologists believed until that time.

“Cyclopean architecture, developed urban structures (paved roads and plazas, water supply systems, central sewage), linear B signs, exceptionally aesthetic murals. On the basis of what we knew until now about Mycenean Greece, such finds were confined to the big palaces (Mycenae, Tirynth, Thebes, Pylos). The finds at Iklaina force us to reexamine the existing evidence from a new angle,” he noted.

The discoveries also showed that Iklaina was at some point violently taken over by the nearby kingdom of Pylos while others indicated that it may have been part of an early federal state, like the current United States of America.

“Based on the linear B archives found in Ano Eglianos, which is considered the central capital of the Mycenean kingdom of Pylos, even though Iklaina was a secondary capital of the kingdom and under the authority of the central capital, it had some autonomy. For example, its own governor and its own economic production. Based on existing evidence, this system of governance was the most ancient version of a two-tier governance system: in other words, a central authority and subject semi-independent regions,” Prof. Kosmopoulos clarified.

He added the Minoan and Mycenean kingdoms of ancient Greece were the first certified states of the western world and marked the transition from a world without states to a world where the state was the prevailing political institution.

What may (or may not) be a bath at the Palace of Nestor in Pylos. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Alun Salt License: CC-BY-SA

History of Pylos

Pylos has a long history, having been inhabited since Neolithic times. It was a significant kingdom in Mycenaean Greece, with remains of the so-called "Palace of Nestor" excavated nearby, named after Nestor, the king of Pylos in Homer's Iliad. In Classical times, the site was uninhabited, but became the site of the Battle of Pylos in 425 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. Pylos is scarcely mentioned thereafter until the 13th century, when it became part of the Frankish Principality of Achaea. Increasingly known by its French name of Port-de-Jonc or its Italian name Navarino, in the 1280s the Franks built the Old Navarino castle on the site. Pylos came under the control of the Republic of Venice from 1417 until 1500, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans used Pylos and its bay as a naval base, and built the New Navarino fortress there. The area remained under Ottoman control, with the exception of a brief period of renewed Venetian rule in 1685–1715 and a Russian occupation in 1770–71, until the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821. Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt recovered it for the Ottomans in 1825, but the defeat of the Turco-Egyptian fleet in the 1827 Battle of Navarino forced Ibrahim to withdraw from the Peloponnese and confirmed Greek independence.

Pylos has evidence of continuous human presence dating back to the Neolithic Age. In Mycenaean times, it was an important centre often referred to as Nestor's kingdom of "sandy Pylos" and described by Homer in Book 17 of the Odyssey when Telemachus says:

"we went to Pylos and to Nestor, the shepherd of the people, and he received me in his lofty house and gave me kindly welcome, as a father might his own son who after a long time had newly come from afar: even so kindly he tended me with his glorious sons."

The Mycenaean state of Pylos (1600–1100 BC) covered an area of 2,000 sq km and had a minimum population of 50,000 according to the Linear B tablets discovered there, or even perhaps as large as 80,000–120,000. It included the important regional capital of Iklaina (ca. 1600-1100 BC).

The Pylos site was excavated by Carl Blegen between 1939 and 1952. It is located at modern Ano Englianos, about 9 km north-east of the bay 37.028°N 21.695°E. Blegen identified the remains found there as the great "Palace of Nestor" described in the Homeric poems. Linear B tablets found by Blegen clearly demonstrate that the site itself was called Pylos by its Mycenaean inhabitants. This site was abandoned sometime after the 8th century BC and burned to the ground.

The ruins of a crude stone fortress on nearby Sphacteria Island, apparently of Mycenaean origin, were used by the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War. (Thucydides iv. 31)

The Pylos Combat Agate, an ancient object found in Pylos, Greece and created around 1450 BCE. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: BrendonTheWizard  License: CC-BY-SA

Classical Pylos

According to the Greek historian Thucydides in his History of the Peloponnesian War, in the 5th century BCE the area was "together with most of the country round, unpopulated".

The ancient city was not located at the modern Pylos, but north of the isle of Sphacteria. In 425 BC the Athenian politician Cleon sent an expedition to Pylos where the Athenians fortified the rocky promontory now known as Koryphasion or Old Pylos at the northern edge of the bay, near the Gialova Lagoon, and after a conflict with Spartan ships in the Battle of Pylos, seized and occupied the bay.

A little later the Athenians captured a number of Spartan troops besieged on the adjacent island of Sphacteria (see Battle of Sphacteria). Spartan anxiety over the return of the prisoners, who were taken to Athens as hostages, contributed to their acceptance of the Peace of Nicias in 421 BC.

Modern day Pylos with Sfaktiria port. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Dnalor 01 License: CC-BY-SA

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright:  License: CC-BY-SA


 

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