Selected references:

Dickinson 1977 = O.T.P.K. Dickinson, The Origins of Mycenaean Civilisation, SIMA vol. 49, Göteborg: Åström.

Warren and Hankey 1989 = P.M. Warren and V. Hankey, Aegean Bronze Age Chronology, Bristol.

Mountjoy 1993 = Mycenaean Pottery: An Introduction, Oxford.

Shelmerdine 1997 = C.W. Shelmerdine, in AJA 101: 537-585.

Mountjoy 1998 = P.A. Mountjoy, in Anatolian Studies 48: 38-67.

Mountjoy and Ponting 2000 = P.A. Mountjoy and J. Ponting in BSA 45: 141-184.

Manning et al. 2002 = S.W. Manning, C. Brock Ramsey, C. Doumas, T. Marketou, G. Cadogan and C.L. Pearson, “New Evidence for an early date for the Aegean Late Bronze Age and Thera eruption,” Antiquity 76: 733-744.

Wiener 2003a = M.H. Wiener, “Time Out: The Current Impasse in Bronze Age Archaeological Dating,” in K.P. Foster and R. Laffineur (eds.), METRON: Measuring the Aegean Bronze Age, Aegaeum 24: 363-399.

Wiener 2003b = M.H. Wiener, “The Absolute Chronology of Late Helladic IIIA2 Revisited,” BSA 98: 239-250.

Warren 2006 = P.M. Warren, “The Date of the Thera Eruption in Relation to Aegean-Egyptian Interconnections and the Egyptian Historical Chronology,” in E. Czerny, I. Hein, H. Hunger, D. Melman, and A. Schwab (eds.), Timelines. Studies in honour of Manfred Bietak, vol. II: 305-321.

Bronk Ramsey et al. 2004 = C. Bronk Ramsey, S.W. Manning and M. Galimberti, “Dating the Volcanic eruption at Thera,” Radiocarbon 46 (2004): 325-344.

Friedrich et al. 2009 = W. Friedrich, B. Kromer, M. Friedrich. T. Heinemeier, T. Pfeiffer and S. Talamo, “Santorini eruption radio-carbon dated to 1627-1600 BC: further discussion,” in S.W. Manning and M.J. Bruce (eds.), Tree-Rings, Kings and Old World Archaeology and Environment, Oxford: Oxbow Books, 293-298.

Manning et al. 2009 = S.W. Manning, C. Bronk Ramsey, W. Kutschera, T. Higham, B. Kromer, P. Steier and E.M. Wild, “Dating the Santorini/Thera eruption by radiocarbon: further discussion (AD 2006-2007),” in S.W. Manning and M.J. Bruce (eds.), Tree-Rings, Kings and Old World Archaeology and Environment, Oxford: Oxbow Books, 299-316.

Wiener 2012 = M.H. Wiener, “Problems in the measurement, calibration, analysis and communication of radiocarbon dates (with special reference to the prehistory of the Aegean World),” in Radiocarbon vol. 64 Nr. 3-4 (2012), 423-434.

Although the Late Bronze Age in the Aegean is now relatively well documented, the evidence is still not sufficient to establish reliable calendar dates for the successive phases, which have been distinguished mainly on the basis of observed changes in pottery styles. Some indications are given by the occasional and intermittent connections with Egypt, mainly in the 15th century B.C. in the reigns of Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis III and Amenophis II and in the 14th century B.C. in the reigns of Amenophis III and Akhenaten. These contacts provide some correlations with the pottery phases from LH IIA to LH IIIA2 (especially the LH IIIA2 pottery used by Akhenaten’s workmen at Amarna). For the LM IA and LH I periods, however, there is no such guidance. It was hoped, therefore, that scientific dating, especially C14 analysis of material preserved by the tephra from the Thera eruption, would supply the necessary information. Unfortunately, early results appeared to indicate a date between 1663 and 1599 B.C. for the eruption (cf. Bronk Ramsey et al. 2004 esp. 337), which is incompatible with the date bracket c. 1560 to c. 1520 B.C. inferred from the archaeological data and the Egyptian contacts (Wiener 2003a 394, cf. 363-378 esp. n. 4; Warren and Hankey 1989, 144-158, 215; cf. Warren 2006). Hence a debate has ensured between the proponents of the “Aegean Short Chronology,” based on the “archaeological/Egyptological” evidence and the new “Aegean Long Chronology” based on the recently developed scientific dating methods. It remains to be seen whether or not these two rival proposed chronologies can be reconciled. Under the “Long Chronology” extra length would be assigned to the LM IA and LM IB periods, and the preceding MM III period would consequently be shortened, although this was an era of major constructions in Crete, including palaces and substantial villas. There does, however, appear to be some hope of a reconciliation. The C14 analysis of wood from a tree buried alive in the tephra from the Thera eruption gave a date range of 1627-1600 with an estimated 95.4% probability (Friedrich et al. 2009 and Manning et al. 2009, 293-298). In his recent critique (Wiener 2012) Wiener lists all the difficulties inherent in the C14 dating procedures (measurement, calibration and analysis). “Reservoir effects” on the radiocarbon of a sample all tend to produce C14 dates older than true dates (Freshwater and seawater contain C14 deficient carbon, as do gas emissions from the vicinity of volcanoes). Wiener also points out that the word “probability” in C14 terminology differs from standard usage of the word, and implies that the sample is “unaffected by reservoir effects, regional seasonal variation, calibration curve uncertainties or other problems …..”

The provisional dates adopted here for the Late Minoan and Late Helladic periods are based on those proposed by Mountjoy (Mountjoy 1988 46-47 with table 1). But some modifications are incorporated to accommodate the probable lengths of the periods concerned and to reflect the various influences observable on some of the pottery styles (cf. also Dickinson 1977 for the LM IA to LM IIIA1 and the LH I to LH I-IIIA1 periods). As Shelmerdine says, the controversy between the “Long” and the “Short” chronologies affect mainly the dates for LH I and II and for LM I and LM II, and the rival chronologies subsequently converge in LH/LM IIIA1 (Shelmerdine 1997, 539-541). LM IA, the time of the floruit of the Minoan civilisation, was evidently a long period (Dickinson 1977, 29-31). Since a developed local version of the LM IA style was in vogue at Thera at the time of the eruption, it follows that the beginning of LM IA was somewhat earlier. But the Theran version of the LM IA style is a free and naturalistic variety, without the formalism of some of the latest LM IA vases made in Crete. There is therefore no reason to assume that the Thera eruption marks the exact end of the LM IA period. If a date between 1560 and 1520 B.C. is adopted for the eruption, in accordance with the “Short Chronology,” a reasonable approximate date for the transition from LM IA to LM IB would be 1520 B.C. This would also allow for the probability of a short break in habitation at some coastal sites in Crete (e.g. Mochlos, Pseira and Palaikastro) after the eruption and before their reoccupation in LM IB (Wiener 2003a, 393-394 with nn. 158-161).

Since strong LM IA influences are evident on LH I pottery, the beginning of LH I should be placed after the beginning of LM IA. Similarly, the origin of the LH IIA style was clearly later than that of the LM IB, from which the LH IIA is partly derived (Mountjoy and Ponting 2000 passim). Conversely, the LM II style seems to have originated on the Greek mainland, in the form of the (preceding) LH IIB. The subsequent LH IIIA1 period and the corresponding contemporaneous LM IIIA1 in Crete both seem to have been of comparatively short duration, whereas LH IIIA2 and the contemporaneous LM IIIA2 were relatively longer. For LH IIIA2 its date is established by its presence at Amarna, and other Egyptian contexts and Hittite evidence give indications of the date bracket for its end. This evidence has been reviewed by Wiener, who provisionally places the transition from LH IIIA1 to LH IIIA2 between 1390 and 1375 B.C. and the transition from LH IIIA2 to LH IIIB1 between 1330 and 1290 B.C. (Wiener 2003b, esp. 246-250). Recent excavations, especially at Tiryns and Midea in the Argolid and at Phylakopi on Melos (Renfrew 1985 and Renfrew et al. 2007) have greatly clarified the sequences of the LH IIIB and LH IIIC periods, including the recognition of the historically significant phase “Transitional LH IIIB2 to LH IIIC Early” [Mountjoy 1998 Table 1, cf. Shelmerdine 1997, 556-557 with refs. and P.A. Mountjoy, “The Destruction of the Palace at Pylos Reconsidered,” BSA 92 (1997) 109-135]. For LH IIIC the overall sequences have been established, although it is harder to estimate the lengths of the sub-periods (LH IIIC Early, Middle and Late). For these, Mountjoy’s provisional dates (Mountjoy 1998, 46-47 with table 1) are adopted. The succeeding Submycenaean phase is also retained, in accordance with Mountjoy’s arguments (Mountjoy 1993, 26-30).


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Mycenaean Greece and Homeric Tradition by Richard Hope Simpson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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