Investigating Intermediate Structures in the Economy of Mycenaean Greece (c. 1400 - 1200 BC) Through Archaeological and Textual Data

People – Marie Curie Action
Intra-European Fellowships (IEF)

Call: FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IEF

Citadel - Mycenae

« Je ne souhaite pas discuter ici l’organisation de l’agglomération de Mycènes, mais sa nature même » (Darcque 2005, p. 53)

Marie Curie IEF Fellow: Dr. Maria Emanuela Alberti

Scientist in Charge: Prof. John Bennet

In the framework of the long-standing debate on the structure of the Mycenaean economy (e.g. Voutsaki and Killen 2001, Nakassis et al. 2011), the program aims to investigate the function of some intermediate organisational units, broadly corresponding to the recently identified “édifices intermédiaires” (Darcque 2005). This aspect of the problem has not been systematically investigated until now. An integrated approach will be used, combining the evidence from both archaeological documentation and Linear B texts.
A large part of the research will be dedicated to the integrated contextual analysis of the evidence from the “intermediate units” (archaeological and textual evidence) in a selection of the major Mycenaean sites, with preference for centres where the settlement around the palace is at least partly known (especially Mycenae, Thebes and Tiryns).
The decision to focus the analysis on the intermediate organizational units stems from the hope of proposing a new perspective in current studies on Mycenaean palatial political economies, that have become to polarised between the extremes of centralization and decentralization alternative. It is here argued that the situation ought to have been more complex and articulated, as has been pointed out in various ways and as many examples in contemporary Levantine and Near Eastern societies clearly show. In the traditional theoretical dichotomy between palatial structures and outlying communities (villages), the importance of the rôle played by urban settlements, so densely packed with intermediate organizational units, has to be reconsidered.

Ivory Houses - Mycenae

Intermediate Units (IUs)
In recent years the existence of various large buildings, whose character exceeds that of normal domestic structures within major Mycenaean sites has become increasingly evident (especially at Mycenae, Thebes, Tiryns and Pylos). For some of them, an interpretation as “clearing houses” has been put forth, based on both archaeological and textual evidence (i.e. Shelmerdine 1997; 1999; Bendall 2003): these structures would have therefore been designated to collect, store and redistribute goods of various types. From a strict architectural and archaeological point of view, they can be considered “intermediate buildings”, having characteristics between the palace and the common households (i.e. “édifices intermédiaires”, Darcque 2005): they have quite large dimensions, some high-status architectural refinements, important storage facilities or quantities of stored goods, administrative documents of various type (tablets and /or sealings), and sometimes indicators of production or high-value items. At present, no systematic investigation of such complexes has been made, though various partial analyses do exist (e.g. Tournavitou 1995; Shelmerdine 1997; 1999; Bendall 2003).
It is not possible to say if the existence of these buildings could somehow match the existence of different economic levels and agents attested in the Linear B texts, but it is clear that they support the interpretation of the Mycenaean economy as a complex system of interconnecting entities. A general review of the question and a systematic investigation of such “intermediate units” is therefore a topic worthy of development: “intermediate buildings” could indeed be the key to a new appraisal of the Mycenaean economic structure.
More specifically, the project seeks to understand the physical, architectural structures in the material record by defining these structures typologically (including the full publication of a possible example from Thebes) and to develop an understanding of how they functioned using both archaeological data and that from the Linear B texts found in some of them and elsewhere.

IISEMG Case Studies: Mycenae, Tiryns and Thebes

Mycenae - walls

Tiryns - lower citadel

Thebes - complex

Ministry of culture, Greece
http://www.culture.gr/culture/gindex.jsp (general)
http://odysseus.culture.gr/ (antiquities)

Essential bibliography