Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


8 May 2015

Traces of ethnic diversity in Mycenaean Greece

Fred C. Woudhuizen Dacia LVII (2013), 5-21


The Indo-Europeanization of Greece was a long-term process, which, in my opinion, entailed at least three distinct phases, covering the period from c. 3100 BC to c. 1600 BC. The third and last phase consists of the arrival c. 1600 BC of the founding fathers of the royal houses and ethnic identities considered as truly Greek. From this time onwards, which in the modern literature is referred to as the Mycenaean period, the material provided by the literary sources becomes substantial and can even at times be supplemented by contemporary data from the Mycenaean Greek script, Linear B, just as well as from Egyptian hieroglyphic and Hittite cuneiform. This phase is preceded by, in archaeological terms, a Minyan one from c. 2300 BC onwards, which is characterized by the settlement of tribes of Thracian and Phrygian background, of which some information on interactions amongst each other and on their contacts with the royal houses considered as truly Greek is preserved in our literary sources by classical authors. The earliest phase is marked by the settlement of speakers of an Old Indo-European tongue, usually designated as Pelasgians, to whom the memory is almost obliterated, leaving us almost no more than some river- and place-names to rely upon. Now, if we are prepared to take the given scenario seriously, the process of intermingling between the various ethnic groups, made up of the newcomers of c. 1600 BC on the one hand and at that time indigenous population groups on the other hand, can be closely studied. In the following, then, the ethnic diversity of Mycenaean Greece and the process of intermingling between the various ethnē will be reconstructed in so far as the available data allow us to do so. In an appendix, finally, it will be investigated what the literary sources have to tell us on the hotly debated topic of possible political unity in Greece at some time during the Mycenaean period.


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