Iklaina: the first city-state of the Mycenaean culture

(ORDO NEWS) — Recent excavations at Iklaina, hitherto considered a sleepy historical village on the Peloponnese peninsula, have cast doubt on the established chronology of the formation of the state in Greece.

Remarkable finds indicate that Iklaina was in fact a major center of Mycenaean culture and probably the very first independent state in Greece, and indeed in all of Europe, for hundreds of years.

Hicline was immortalized in Homer’s Iliad, where she played an important role in the Trojan War. Strategically located overlooking the Ionian Sea, Ikleina is said to have been an important state capital during the late Bronze Age (c. 1600 – 1100 BC), also known as the Mycenaean period in Greece.

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Ruins excavated at Iclain

An open-air pagan sanctuary, an early Mycenaean palace, gigantic terrace walls, frescoes, an advanced drainage system with massive stone drains, and an elaborate clay-pipe irrigation system that was far ahead of its time are just some of the unexpected finds at the site.

Archaeologists have even discovered a clay tablet with an early example of Linear B dating from 1350-1300 BC. Excavations have shown that the city was divided into three parts – administrative, residential and industrial, which indicates a complex economic and social structure.

These discoveries elevated Iclaina’s status from a minor ancient settlement to one of the earliest, if not the earliest, complex state to emerge in Greece and the Western world.

Indeed, archaeologists believe that further study of the remains of this state will provide fascinating insights into the transition from a world without states to a world where the state is the organizing principle.

They also hope to learn more about the emergence of the Mycenaean state of Pylos and state formation processes around the world.

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The ruins of Iklaina from the air

One of the most intriguing finds archaeologists have unearthed is a gigantic building called the Cyclopean Terrace. Located in the administrative quarter, this building towers over the entire city.

Constructed of huge limestone boulders, roughly fitted together, with smaller stones between them, it is hard to imagine that this is the work of man.

The ancients, who came centuries later, of course, did not think so and believed that only gigantic creatures such as cyclops could move and maneuver such massive stones on the spot. Therefore, this type of colossal Mycenaean architecture came to be called cyclopean.

A gigantic terrace supported a two- or three-story building, which unfortunately no longer exists. However, rooms on the south side of the building complex have been preserved, which help to date it and give an idea of ​​its original purpose.

All evidence indicates that this building was a large palace or administrative center. “Apparently, these were the buildings where the ruler and his family lived, part of the “administrative center” of this place.

It was built somewhere between 1350 and 1300 BC,” Professor Michael Cosmopoulos of the University told Haaretz Missouri-St. Louis, head of the excavation.

Building such an impressive structure would require great resources and manpower, and there is no reason to build such a monumental structure in a remote or unimportant city.

Thus, these buildings suggest that Iklaina was the capital of an independent state for most of the Mycenaean period, long before such states were believed to exist in Greece.

It was believed that the earliest complex state in Ancient Greece arose about 3,100 years ago. However, the finds made at Iclain indicate that such states began to form as early as 3,400 years ago.

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Linear tablet B found at Iclain

The strongest evidence for this is a clay tablet with an administrative record written in Linear B, the syllabary used to write Mycenaean Greek. The plate has inscriptions on both sides.

On one side is a list of male names, which is possibly a list of staff. On the reverse side is a heading that translates as “made” or “assembled”. However, since the tablet is broken, the actual content of the tablet is missing.

However, the surviving portion of the tablet is sufficient to show that it is the earliest known state document in Europe.

As Cosmopoulos says, dating from 1350-1300. BC, “this is the oldest Linear B tablet ever found, about 100-150 years older than those found in Nestor’s palace [1200 BC]. As a government record, it testifies to the existence of an independent state of Iklaina”.

Interestingly, the tablet also delays the spread of literacy in the region, suggesting that bureaucracy and literacy appeared in the region earlier than previously thought and were not limited to elites and large power centers.

The existence of a tablet containing government records, rather than sacred texts accessible only to high priests, suggests that literacy in Greece at that time was more common than previously thought.

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The Palace of Nestor is the best preserved Mycenaean Greek palace discovered to date

Nestor’s Palace or Nestor’s Palace was a neighboring state of Iklaina 10 kilometers (6 miles) away at Pylos. Both states flourished at about the same time from 1500 to 1250 BC. The Palace of Nestor probably functioned as a federal center.

Iklaina was destroyed by enemy attacks around the same time that Nestor’s palace was expanded. It was probably Nestor’s palace that swallowed it up, turning it from an independent state into a federation into a mere manufacturing center.

In 1200 B.C. Pylos consisted of two provinces divided into independent regions: nine in the western province and seven in the east. The Palace of Nestor was a comprehensive center that united all regions.

“Iklaina was the capital of one of the regions, the only one where a settlement was found, as well as the existence of two levels of government, central and regional, as in modern federal states,” Kosmopoulos explained.

“Iklaina was occupied by the ruler Nestor around 1250 BC. The administrative center was destroyed by the invaders, only the workshops survived, which means that it was reduced to the level of a manufacturing center. They were then abandoned in 1200 BC with the destruction of the palace Nestor.”

Recent excavations at Iclain have unearthed enough interesting evidence to conclusively prove that it was one of the earliest states in mainland Greece and Europe.

In order not to disturb the historical chronicle, it should be remembered that this happened thousands of years later than the appearance of similar forms of government in Mesopotamia.


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