Early Bronze Age in Mainland Greece – Archaeological Review

Neolithic Greece’s transition to the Early Bronze Age in Mainland Greece resulted from developing skills like bronze metallurgy, architectural development, and fortification constructions. Rich archaeological content from the progressive transformation of ancient society drew many archaeologists who compiled the records in Helladic’s chronology. The Helladic period appears in three phases which are the Early Helladic (EH), Middle Helladic (MH), and Late Helladic (LH) Period. The Early Helladic phase II exhibited numerous features, which makes it the stage with many transformations. The Early Bronze Age in Mainland Greece remains a rich archaeological point of interest from its settlement structures and patterns, material culture, social and economic conditions of the Early Helladic phase II.

Many changes accompanied the Early Bronze Age in Mainland Greece. These changes included establishing developed palatial states and increased urban organizations, increased works of arts, and hierarchical transformation. The magnificent states had warrior elites who found rigid political, social, and economic systems led by hierarchical kingships under a king referred to as Xanax (Pullen, P. 194). Power urban centers also developed in Mycenae, Pylos, Tiryns, Thebes, and Athens in Central Greek. Besides, settlement areas increased in Macedonia, Epirus, Italy, Cyprus, the Coast of Asia Minor, and the Aegean Sea Islands.

The artworks increased with the advancement in innovations in architecture, engineering, and military infrastructure fields. This advancement involved the diversification of pottery and artifacts.  Previously, clay was the primary molding product for making cultural, religious, and economic items. Common pottery included cooking pots, bowls and cups, vases, and other tableware. During the early Bronze Age, the artwork improved by making bronze items like the bronze ax and tiles. The architects also increased the limestone extraction due to the high demand for its delicate property, thus enabling more comfortable cuts. Limestone was extensively used for construction since it served as a high-quality cement. By mixing the limestone with stone chips, it hardened into form concrete and enabled the structure of the fortified buildings (Pullen, P. 31). Additionally, the improved artwork led to the emergence of the writing systems whereby they drew Linear B’s syllabic script as the first writing of the Indo- European Greek language. The massive transformation of the artwork field contributed to significant changes during EH II.

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The hierarchical transformation was also evident in the Early Bronze Age. These transformations increased following the economic shifts that resulted from increased innovations (Pullen, P. 185).  The urbanized regions, characterized by fortified buildings called the corridor houses, served as community administrative centers and favorable joints for trading activities. As several urbanized centers emerged, regional hierarchies also emerged. Although records do not show how the institutions implemented a centralized government, primarily on economic control, few elites in the community influenced decisions in the society.

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As the population and development increased in Mainland Greece, the settlement patterns and structures also were diversified. These structures varied depending on the location and the social status of the residents. Notably, the Early Helladic phase II is the period that exhibited vast structural and settlement pattern differences. The principal settlement structures in the mainland involved people living in hamlets, villages, and towns (Pullen, P. 21). Hamlets refer to small human settlements that developed in the outskirts of the emergent cities. In the villages and hamlet regions, the housing was tiny thatched clay houses that had a pattern of these houses clustered in one area where communities had close interactions. As the economy got transformed during EH II, the number, size, and location of rural settlement structures and patterns changed significantly.

The urban settlements also increased with the advancement in architectural development. These centers clustered were characterized by monumental buildings called corridor houses (Pullen, P. 49). Such facilities were the House of Tiles in Lerna, Eutresis, Tsoungiza, and Lithares buildings. These buildings differed widely from those in villages due to their patterns and construction materials. These buildings consisted of tiled floors and ceilings, as archaeological studies reflect, and brick walls made from cooked clay. The buildings’ pattern was almost similar in that the rooms aligned along a particular side, like a border. Besides, these buildings contained multiple rooms, with many of them having a hearth room considered exceptional for the senior people in the society. These centers served as community services for administration and economic control.

The Early Helladic phase II had a diversified material culture which they valued and protected. Common staple goods and materials included pottery products, storage vessels, cooking pots, tableware, and other botanical materials during this period. People of this time constructed their houses mainly using wood and clay. Wood helped build roof beams and support structures, while the walls used clay bricks (Pullen, P. 42). Besides, they extracted limestone from quarries construction of urban corridor houses. Greek- women, had weaving skills whereby they made items like hats and baskets. 

Material protection was also a vital concern for the community in the Early Bronze Age. Evidence extracted during an excavation of historical material on the Tsoungiza Hill, when the archaeologists collected a lead seal, confirmed the existence of a sealing system. There was a culture of material control that involved sealing and stamping (Pullen, P. 189). The sealing and stamping process took place in the two pithoi at Lerna in-room DM. The lead seal was a mark by the chiefdoms on material ownership. According to Pullen (P. 39), Lerna’s sealing system was purposely for securing and ensuring the integrity of content store in the sealed containers. Although the effectiveness of the sealing system was questionable, archaeological records indicate the success of this system. Additionally, the community stored the broken and sealing materials, tableware and pots in room A-1 in the Petri of Lerna building. Storage and protection of staple goods during the EH II phase was hence an essential principle.

 Mainland Greece had various social classes during the Early Helladic phase II. The low-class community members lived in small villages while the high-class people lived in the developing urban centers. The existence of monumental buildings like the Lerna building proved a diverse society whereby the elites organized themselves in these houses (Peparaki, P. 215). While the lower majority of the low-class people lived in the villages and hamlets, the nobility and high-class people dwelled in corridor houses considered proto-palace and administrative centers. According to (Pullen P. 190), the corridor houses were houses of high-class people who were only hospitable to people with an equivalent position to themselves.

Notably, socio-political organizations also defined the differences in the societal classes. Although there was no determined centralized government, chiefdoms as forms of administration existed. These chiefdoms, also called redistribution institutions, were responsible for resource mobilization (Peperaki, P. 426). These people lived in the corridor house, which they referred to as palaces. The EH II political economy was closely related to the Mycenaean political economies, although they lacked enough vital components. The effectiveness of these institutions is unclear due to insufficient archaeological evidence. For instance, the sealing system in Lerna showed little control of these institutions over none staple goods. However, the details of the specific non-staple goods, seal owners, and the relationship between the authorities and the seal owners were unknown.

The economic status of mainland Greece during the EH II was a subsistence system economy, but with much advancement, it improved significantly. Through mobilization and large-scale accumulation of staple goods produced, the society sustained the economy through all seasons. The majority of the Helladic community, who lived in villages, depended on farming and hunting for livelihood (Pullen, P. 19). Although traditional markets, where the exchange of olive oil, pottery, timber, and metals, existed, agricultural production was the primary economic activity and during this time. This sector underwent a fundamental transformation due to development in the engineering field. For instance, the development of terracotta oxen plows at Tsoungiza simplified the tillage process, encouraging more people to venture into agriculture (Pullen, P. 22). Hence, these advancements led to the expansion and total shifting of settlement structures to the uplands and low hills with deep soils. Besides, the control of this capital equipment, like the pair of oxen and the plows, differentiated individuals and other groups of people from others since not every individual could afford it. Therefore, the leasing out of the equipment transformed into a source of income for the owners. Availability of extensive storage facilities, like one in Lerna, also provided room for increased production since the storage of surplus products was guaranteed.    

In conclusion, Early Bronze Age in Mainland Greece involved various transformations that occurred in phases. The Early Helladic Phase II had several settlement structures, a defined material culture, and varying socio-political and economic conditions. The settlement structures went with the type, size, and location. Social classes also determined the kind of settlements as the elite groups sought to live in corridor houses while the rest of low-class people lived in village and hamlet simple houses. Society also values their staple goods, which were their ultimate source of income. Agricultural production was significantly transformed with the adoption of oxen-plows, thus improving the subsistence economy. The socio-political set-up comprised chiefdoms responsible for resource mobilization and controlling the sealing and stamping process.

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