Forging Society at Late Bronze Age Mycenae

Person conducting research: Dr Stephanie Aulsebrook
Country: Greece
Site name: Mycenae
Type of the site: settlement and extra-mural cemeteries
Involved institutions: IAUW

Description of the research: This project is focused on Mycenae, the foremost centre on mainland Greece during the Late Bronze Age (17th – 11th C BC) and the relationship between its inhabitants and metals. Metals have a very varied role in prehistoric societies; they can be used for the manufacture of a diverse range of objects including tools, weapons, vessels, jewellery and armour but their comparative rarity and unique properties meant that they also had a significant role in the political economy.

In general, archaeologists have directed their attention towards the latter and that has meant that our understanding of the use of metals in the daily life of the community as a whole is not so well understood. To address this imbalance, my project has three underlying objectives:

1) to ascertain which social practices included metal artefacts and which did not.

2) to investigate access to metals within the community.

3) to reconstruct the typical biographies for different types of metal artefacts and explore atypical situations.

To achieve these aims, the first part of this project involves the creation of a database covering all known metals finds from Mycenae, as far as is possible. Published data will be supplemented by hands-on examination of the material. Once the database is completed, the data will be subjected to a series of qualitative and quantitative analysis, with the production of distribution plans a key priority. This type of holistic approach has not been attempted before and it is envisaged that this methodology ought to provide information concerning the usage of metals across the entirety of the community at Mycenae.

Project financing: SONATA 14 NCN competition

Current progress: the bespoke project database has been designed and is now live. The majority of the data available from the main publications of the site has now been entered and the focus has moved to checking through the annual excavation reports issued by the Archaeological Society at Athens. Here is an example of a catalogue entry:

Example of Entry in Database

Due to the current pandemic, some changes have been made to the project’s schedule as the Mycenae Excavations Archive is currently closed. However, progress is continuing and the project is still on track.