Institute of Classical Studies
ICS Autumn Lecture in association with the British School at Athens
New investigations and finds at the Mycenaean palace of Thebes (Boeotia)
(Ephor Emeritus of Boeotia)
From the outset excavations in Boeotian Thebes aimed to elucidate the city's most ancient past, echoed in Greek mythology. Early archaeological work demonstrated that a major administrative centre had been established on the Kadmeion hill during the Mycenaean palatial period (1450-1200 BC). However, excavations in the past 30 years, coupled with the study of older finds and comparative evidence from other Mycenaean centres, have yielded major insights into previously unresolved issues. Thus it is now clear that Thebes possessed a fortification wall comprising stone foundations and a mud brick superstructure comparable to those found throughout the Aegean and Hittite worlds. While the absence of monumental tholos tombs, as known from other palatial centres and Boeotian Orchomenos, had long perplexed scholars, the chamber tomb on the Kastelli hill — the largest known and uniquely furnished with figural frescoes —clearly befits the ruler of a powerful centre. The size and extent of the legendary 'House of Kadmos' has also generated much debate. Ongoing excavations reveal that widely distributed throughout the Kadmeia are buildings of palatial quality, often decorated with wall-paintings, together with storerooms and workshops containing prestige items, and deposits of Linear B tablets. The central building is estimated to be double the width of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos. Moreover the staggering wealth of finds in situ attest to a thriving palatial centre, destroyed suddenly at the height of its powers, and left substantially unlooted.