Controlling the Countryside: Defining the Territory of Mycenae

Lynne A. Kvapil (University of Cincinnati)

This paper examines problems in determining the extent of control the palatial authority of Mycenae exhibited over its hinterland during the Late Bronze Age (1600-1200BC). Linear B texts have provided important clues that help to define the political landscape of Messenia, but there is a lack of Linear B texts explicitly referring to the political geography of the Argolid. As a result, there are broadly different estimates for the size of the territory controlled by Mycenae. For example, participants in the Mycenae survey estimate that the “directly administered district” of Mycenae included merely the 350ha of surrounding foothills where houses, tombs, and other architectural features distinctive to Mycenae are concentrated. Davis and Cherry, on the other hand, have used survey data from the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project along with observations of modern land use to argue for a territory expansive enough to include the Nemea Valley. In this paper, I address the problem from several different angles. I discuss definitions for concepts such as ‘territory,’ ‘hinterland,’ and ‘political administration’ as they would have applied to the site of Mycenae. Critical to these definitions is an assessment of the evidence the palatial authority of Mycenae left behind in text and landscape. In the end, I demonstrate the different nuances of political control exercised by the palatial authority of Mycenae and how that control changed over time.

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