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Mycenaeans’ hierarchical system

The inscriptions reveal the Mycenaeans’ hierarchical system. The title “wanax” used to say “king” is also the Homeric term (except the ‘w’ is omitted). The “leader of the people” was the “Lawagetas”. His estate was considerably smaller than the king’s but he appeared to be fairly significant. Among the rest of the nobles there were the “hequetai” (“followers”), described with their chariots, smart distinctive clothes and their own slaves. The Mycenaeans and the Minoans both shared the same type of government: monarchy. They were based on wide spread feudal system of lords. One can deduce from the sites that the administration took place in the palaces, building a strongly centralised and bureaucratic palace-economy.

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The most tablets were found at Knossos in Crete, around 4000, though many were fragmented. Pylos has the next largest number, over 1200. More tablets were found at Phaistos, Hagia, Triadha and Mallia. The basis of later Greek religious beliefs had started to form. Both the Minoans and Mycenaeans believed in a mother goddess and a divine son, although their roles varied in each civilisation. The divine son became known as Zeus. There was also evidence of separate goddesses (e.g. Demeter, Artemis, Athena). Hera and Poseidon were also evident.

The Myceneans had very few temples, which either suggests that the latter were not preserved or that these people did not worship the Gods in the same way as later Greeks. Another explanation is that temples were not an area for meeting and for worship but the palaces were. Some historians suggest that the megaron had some religious significance. It is also believed that they sacrificed animals, which can reasonably be interpreted as a religious practice.

The shaft graves mark the beginning of the Mycenaean Age. They were a more developed version of the cist graves. Shaft graves were three to four meters deep with a layer of pebbles on the bottom, rubble walls and a wooden roof. It was then covered up with earth and marked with a large stone.

Tholos (beehive) tombs succeeded the shaft graves. These were chambers cut into hills and then covered after burial (figure 8). The most prestigious tholos tombs found at Mycenae consisted of dromos lined with ashlar cut masonry, interior walls of coursed and cut masonry and ashlar dressed doorways. These took a lot of skill and construction and presumably used a lot of labour and were planned in advance for kings and heroes. I assume tholos tombs were for the aristocratic people because the skeletons were either adorned by jewellery positioned at the neck and wrists, or they had weapons at their side.


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