Myceneans in Western Anatolia

Here we present selected parts of the very informative paper titled “Myceneans in Western Anatolia“, by Jorrit M. Kelder.


“The 13th century BC was a time that saw both the height of Mycenaean civilization on the Greek mainland as well as its collapse and the subsequent spread of Mycenaeans to the east. Whereas clear evidence for Mycenaean presence outside Greece is scarce during the palatial period, some have identified the Mycenaeans as one – or more – of the tribes listed in Egyptian texts on the “Sea Peoples”. At any rate, Mycenaean participation in the Great Migrations has not been questioned and many held the view that some Mycenaeans sailed to Cyprus and even settled in the southern Levant, entering history as the Philistines known from the Bible (Dothan 1998, 148).

Mycenaean dominance over Miletus is indicated by the abundance of Aegean features, ranging from pottery to tombs, found during the excavations of Niemeier and his predecessors (for example: Niemeier 1998, 27-41). The unsurpassed quantities of Mycenaean pottery at Miletus and other Aegean features at this site make it clear that this must have been the place of major Mycenaean interest. Still, the substantial amounts of Mycenaean imports show that Miletus was not the only place on the Anatolian west coast where the Mycenaeans were prominent. Mycenaean influence is strongly felt in the area around Ephesus, but also at Müsgebi and several other sites Mycenaean imports were found in substantial quantities. To the north, Troy also was a point of Mycenaean influence, as large quantities of Mycenaean pottery were imported and locally copied. Despite references to hostile encounters in Hittite texts, relations between the Mycenaeans and the Anatolians seem not always to have been of hostile nature. Several Hittite texts show that the Hittites upheld diplomatic contacts with the ruler of Ahhiyawa, who, in at least one case, seems to have been regarded as an equal to the King of Hatti (discussion in Huxley 1960, 15-16;Güterbock 1984). The fact alone that these two parties corresponded with each other shows that the relation between them was relatively good.

Although several sites in western Anatolia yielded substantial amounts of Mycenaean goods (primarily pottery), generally speaking Mycenaean elements in the region are very scarce – especially compared to regions such as the Levant or Egypt. While it is clear from the Hittite texts that at least parts of Greece stood in regular contact with areas in Anatolia – mainly under the control of Hatti –, the archaeological evidence for this is remarkably scarce. As Greece itself yielded only very little Anatolian material – only 12 importswere identified (Cline 1994, XVI) – one must assume that either the Hittite diplomats did not bring greeting gifts to the westerners (and this is unlikely) or that the Hittite goods simply have not been recognized as such or were of perishable nature.

Several Hittite texts point towards direct contact between Mycenaeans from the Kingdom of Ahhiyawa and the Hittites. This does however not exclude the possibility that Mycenaeans from regions independent from Ahhiyawa were actively engaged in Anatolia, too. Therefore, one needs to be careful when attributing the presence of Mycenaean wares in Anatolia to Ahhiyawan activity: other Mycenaeans may have played a part too, although I feel this must have been limited. While examining the corpus of Mycenaean goods in Anatolia, one needs to be aware that this represents only a very limited part of what once was. This is clear in Egypt, where wall paintings in the tombs of the Theban nobility show Aegeans – though not necessarily Mycenaeans – bringing their goods (Wachsmann 1987; Muhly 1991). Pottery, the most significant part of the archaeological corpus at our disposal, is only one of the export products; metals, whether worked or semi-worked (ingots), seem to have been important too. Swords, ingots, jewellery and metal vases are shown. Also, in many cases it seems that pottery was imported largely because of its contents, rather than because of aesthetic considerations. One could assume that similar principles may be applicable to Anatolia. Textual evidence for actual Mycenaean presence on Anatolian soil other than at Miletus remains scanty at best. As for Miletus/Millawanda, Mycenaeans must have lived at this centre at least during the mid 13th century BC – as attested in the so-called Tawagalawa letter. For other settlements, archaeology seems to be the only tool in establishing the degree of Mycenaean influence and presence.

Sites in western Anatolia


A large amount of Mycenaean pottery was found at Troy. In Van Wijngaarden’s thesis (1999, 498) it is listed as a “class 5” site, which means that more than 500 ceramic units were found. Chemical analysis suggests that the imported pottery mainly came from Boeotia, whereas a small number may have been imported from other regions, such as Attica, the region around Dimin and Aegina (Mommsen, Hertel & Mountjoy 2001,173 ff.). A substantial amount of imported pottery at Troy showed strong chemical resemblance with Argolid ware.

Besik Tepe

Listed as a class 2 site in van Wijngaarden’s catalogue, the site of Besik Tepe should have yielded 10 to 50 pieces of Mycenaean pottery. The site was the burial ground of Troy. Also, it functioned as its ancient harbour and, consequently, one should take into account some disturbance caused by the sea. Pithos graves, clay-lined structures, stone circle designations, cist graves and a chamber tomb were found at the site. The pottery found here is comparable to that from Troy’s “Pillar House” (Korfmann 1986, 21).


Mycenaean sherds are reported from Kocabaglar, east of Çandarli (Mellink1963, 189). West of the site, pit graves yielded locally made monochrome pottery, as well as one LH IIIC1 Mycenaean stirrup jar, decorated with an octopus (Mee 1978, 143; Mountjoy 1998, 60) and apparently resembling examples from Kalymnos.


Mellaart (1968, 188) mentioned one Mycenaean sherd from this site, but did not provide further data on stylistic phase or context. Because of the proximity of Lesbos, the occurrence of Mycenaean imports in this region would be hardly surprising.


Mycenaean influence at Panaztepe is apparent from tholos tombs found at this site. Cist graves and chamber tombs also occur. Burial gifts include Mycenaean pottery, alongside local ware and (gold) beads, faience spindle whorls, a bronze figurine (Gates 1994, 259). A settlement was also uncovered, with at least one LH IIIA-B ashlar building. In this building Mycenaean pottery was found, as well as a Grey Minyan fenestrate fruitstand and a stonemould (Gates 1996, 304).

Mycenaean pottery and weapons, acquired by the Manisa Museum in 1982 (Mellink 1982, 565; Ersoy 1988, 55-82), were found at this site (Mellink 1984, 451). Here, five tholoi were partially robbed. The finds consist of goblets, piriform jars, 3-handled pyxides, a large local pilgrim flask and local jars, as well as a socketed spearhead, a sword, a knife, a razor and arrowheads. A sixth tholos was found during the 1985 excavations, as well as several cist- and ten pithos graves.

Phocaea-Eski Foca

Phocaea may have yielded some Mycenaean pottery from a stratum below the archaic level (Mitchell 1999, 144). As this was found in association with Protogeometric ware, I assume this to be mainly of Late Mycenaean date. In the pre-Archaic stratum two megaron structures were identified, possibly pointing towards Mycenaean settlement in Mycenaean times.

Çerkes Sultaniye

A pithos grave was found by a local inhabitant, in which one Mycenaean piriform jar (LH IIIB) was found.

Bayrakli-Old Smyrna and Izmir

Several sherds were found during the 1951 excavation at Old Smyrna, though in unstratified conditions (Mee 1978, 142-143). At Izmir a Mycenaean sword was found that, albeit from unstratified circumstances, is thought to have come from a tomb (Mee 1978, 130; Bittel 1967,175). Bronze Age levels at Smyrna seem scarcely touched upon, and one gains the impression that more Mycenaean material awaits the future archaeologist.

Clazomenae-Urla Iskelesi-Liman Tepe

Liman Tepe is situated close to Clazomenae. The site yielded Minyan as well as Mycenaean pottery, dated LH IIIA1 to LH IIIB. Painted and unpainted pottery was found, including one lid, with a linear sign (Mitchell 1999, 147).

Bakla Tepe

A LH IIIB cup of the 13th century was found in a gravecut into a mound.


Mellink (1968, 134) reports that Akurgal (1967, 461) found an unknown number of Mycenaean sherds on a small peninsula about 8 km from Erythrae, between the villages of Sifne and Reisdere. Shapes, context and date are unknown. In addition, Akurgal is reported to have identified a Mycenaean settlement closer to Erythrae (Cook, Blackman 1971, 41; Akurgal 1967, 461).

Torbali-Bademgedigi Hoyugu

Greaves and Helwing (2001, 506) report that Meriç has undertaken rescue excavations at this site. These resulted in the discovery of a sizable settlement encircled by a cyclopean wall, of which 750 meters were uncovered. Many sherds of local Mycenaean pottery were found, ranging from the 14th to 12thcentury BC. LH IIIC early and middle pottery, such as a stirrup jar and two straight-sided alabastra, was found in the latest Bronze Age level (Meriç &Mountjoy 2001, 137).


A disturbed tomb found on the medieval citadel of Ephesus in 1963 yielded a total of six Mycenaean vases (Mellink 1964, 157; Mee 1978, 127): a LH IIIA1 piriform jar, a LH IIIA1 handleless flask, a krater decorated with argonauts and dated ca. LH IIIA2, a LH IIIA2 pilgrim flask, a LH IIIA2 rhyton and an non diagnostic jug. Apart from the pots, a number of linear sherds were found.These finds are now on display at the Ephesus Museum, along with a LHIIIA2 stirrup jar from Kusadasi (see Erdemgil e.a. 1989, 97-100).

Bammer(1990, 142) mentions additional finds of Mycenaean pottery and proposes that once there was a Mycenaean cult centre on the site of the later Artemision. Finds in later years at this site seem to confirm this idea: the head of a Mycenaean figurine was found at the Artemision, as well as a bronze doubleaxe, another piece of a clay figurine and some pottery (Bammer 1994, 38). Late Bronze Age walls, apparently Mycenaean in character, further add to this (Gates, 1996, 319 reference should be to Bammer 1994 [Fehlzitat]). In the village of Halkapinar, east of Belevi, a Mycenaean oinochoe was found in a pithos.

Other finds include a tholos at Kolophon, where apparently some pottery was found that could be Submycenaean (Pottery is not reported in Huxley;‘Fehlzitat’in Mee 1978, 125. The tomb was dated LH IIIB-C; Huxley 1960,39). In a grave nearby, a Mycenaean knife was found alongside an Aegean glass paste bead (Mee 1979, 125; Ersoy 1988, 67, note 57). The tholos migh tbe Mycenaean, although Mee has some reservations. In this respect, Bridges (1974, 266) noted that “one seems to be dealing here with a monument whose unusual proportions can be ascribed to local builders working outside the mainstream of the tholos-building tradition”. Furthermore, Mycenaean sherds were found at the Yilanci Burun Peninsula, near Kusadasi and one at the village of Kustur. All in all, Ephesus has yielded a considerable amount of Mycenaean features. Notable in this respect is not only the pottery –which was to be expected- but also figurines and such features as a tholos or indeed, the cyclopean fortifications found in the region, at Ilicatepe and Büyükkale (Bammer 1986/7, 32). Mycenaean cultural influence at Ephesus and surroundings seems remarkably strong.


Only few vessels that might be Mycenaean have been found at Sardis. Mee(1978, 144) reports a LH IIIB krater and a LH IIIC deep bowl. These vessels were found in a sounding in the area of the “House of Bronzes”, spanning the period from the 13th century to the early 7th century. Although not noted by Mee, more Mycenaean material was brought to light. Hanfmann and Waldbaum (1970) report 250 sherds, some of which were Late Mycenaean, others Submycenaean and a number of Protogeometric date. The Mycenaean ware is dated LH IIIB-C2, ranging from the 13th to the 11th century BC.

Despite the occurrence of some Mycenaean pottery, the majority of the material at Sardis is firmly Anatolian. Only 2-5% of the total amount of pottery is Mycenaean (Hanfmann 1983, 22-23).


Mee (1978, 128) reports two Mycenaean surface sherds from this site. One probably is a LH IIIA2 flask, decorated with linear bands and a wavy line; the other may come from an askos or a rhyton and is decorated with dots and five wavy lines. More Mycenaean sherds were found in later years in the LBA settlement, which appears to have been deserted ca. 1200 BC (Mellink 1988,115). A megaron built in the 15th century and burned down later in the second millennium, yielded a Mycenaean handle (Mellink 1991, 138).


One sherd of truly Mycenaean origin has been found in a late Beyesultan III (1450-1325 BC) pavement and should be the shoulder of a LH IIIA2 or B imported stirrup jar, decorated with bands of red paint.


Listed in Van Wijngaarden’s catalogue as a class 5 site, Miletus without a doubt was the major centre of the Mycenaeans in Anatolia. An abundance of Mycenaean pottery testifies to this. Indeed, it becomes increasingly clear that the centre befell to the King of Ahhiyawa around 1400 BC, and remained under Mycenaean rule for the remainder of the Bronze Age.


On a peninsula 4 km north of Akbük prehistoric levels were uncovered. Apart from LM I ware and light Minoanizing sherds, LH IIIB and IIIC1 stray sherds were found (Mellink 1985, 552, 558). Nearby tombs yielded more Aegean pottery. Voigtländer (1988, 603-609), reports some Minoan pottery, ranging from MM III to LM IB. Both open and closed shapes are present.


Mee reports Mycenaean IIIC pottery from this site (Mee 1978, 126), while referring to Seton-Williams (1954, 154) and Loyd/Mellaart (1955, 82[Fehlzitat]).


During the Late Bronze Age, Iasos must have been an important Mycenaean centre. Mycenaeans must have settled here at least as early as LH IIIA2 (Mellink 1983a, 139). Anatolian ware is not mentioned in the excavation reports. Although only a limited area of the LBA centre has been excavated, a considerable amount of Mycenaean pottery has been found. Scanty remains of Mycenaean walls were found, heavily disturbed by later (archaic) building activity.

During the 1979 excavations, an Argive psi-idol was uncovered while clearing a large pavement of the Mycenaean period (Mellink 1980, 507), while the stripped base of another Mycenaean idol was found in 1987 (Mellink 1989, 117). Iasos initially was a Minoan settlement, later to be taken over by the Mycenaeans.


Mee (1978, 142) reports a LH IIIA2 jug from Mylasa, decorated with stemmed spirals, while Mellink (1967, 164) mentions a LH pyxis from the vicinity of Mylasa. Hanfmann (1948, 140) notes Mycenaean finds at Mylasa during the Swedish excavations of professor Axel Persson, perhaps indicating Mycenaean penetration into the coastal zone of Caria.  The material was reported to be LH II and LH III (Hanfmann1948, 145)


A carinated bowl and a stirrup jar now on display in the museum of Eskihisar are said to have come from a tomb or tombs near the theatre of Stratonicaea (Hanfmann & Waldbaum, 1986, 51-52). The material is supposedly Submycenaean, though a LH IIIB-C date cannot be ruled out (Hope Simpson,1965, 193).


Listed by Van Wijngaarden (1999, 492) as a class 4 site, meaning that between 100 and 500 ceramic units had been found, Müsgebi is situated on a peninsula south of Samos. Being accessible only from the sea, the site was heavily influenced by the Mycenaeans; actual settlement seems likely. The cemetery has been studied during the years 1963-1966 and yielded a total of 48 chamber tombs.


Love (1969, 18) reports some sherds from the 1968 excavations.


Mee (1978, 126) reports that a number of Mycenaean pots, some of which are said to be from the prehistoric cemetery at Düver at the northern end of the Yarasli lake, have been acquired by the Burdur Museum.

Derekoy (II)

This site yielded a LH IIIA2 pyxis and a LH IIIB1 piriform jar. These pots were found in a cemetery close to the site.


ALH IIIA2-B globular stirrup jar on display in the British Museum comes from Telmessos (Walters, Forsdyke 1930, Pl.10: 24).


A Mycenaean kylix sherd has been identified (French 1969, 73, n.17)


Provenance of the pottery and spatial distribution

That there were contacts between the Mycenaeans and north-western Anatolia is beyond doubt, but here, the picture has not really changed since Mee’s publication. Troy obviously remains the focal point of Mycenaean influence in the north-western part of Anatolia. Both its harbour and burial place at Besik Tepe and the city itself have yielded a large number of sherds indeed. Whether most of these sherds were real Mycenaean exports or local produce is a point of later concern; Mycenaean influence must have been felt strongly in Priam’s land, although substantial Mycenaean settlement seems unlikely. The picture in the western part of Anatolia, however, has changed radically since Mee’s publication. Clazomenae remains an interesting site and enough Mycenaean ware has been found here to reinforce Mee’s cautious conclusion that Mycenaeans may have settled here. At this site, Mycenaean pottery was found in association with Grey Minyan ware in several houses. The pottery was apparently used together with Anatolian material in domestic setting and consequently, one could conclude that at least at this site, Mycenaean pottery was not considered such a rarity not to use it in every day’s life. New excavations in the region around Ephesus have brought up not only some Mycenaean vases, but also an abundance of further evidence for strong Mycenaean influence. Several sites in this region have already been mentioned above. The site of Kolophon yielded a Mycenaean knife in a tholos, at medieval Ephesus Mycenaean pottery was found and the site of Halkapinar allegedly yielded an alabastron (Bammer 1986/87, 37, ill.18), whereas more Mycenaean pottery was found at Kusadasi. Perhaps more significant are the fortresses in the area, such as the one at Büyükkale or at Ilicatepe, which are both fortified with cyclopean walls – although this does not necessarily imply Mycenaean influence. Not surprisingly, the greatest concentration of Mycenaean ware is found in the region around Miletus, as this site is now generally regarded as a site were the Mycenaeans permanently settled, indeed, that it was the major foothold of the Mycenaean Kingdom Ahhijawa in Anatolia. It is clear that Müsgebi and Iasos were Mycenaean settlements too, although probably smaller than Miletus. In order to provide a reasonable view on Mycenaean activity, whether in presence or in “the mind”, three major sites on the Anatolian coast will be examined more closely below. Troy will be reviewed, if only because of its abundance of Mycenaean pottery and its Homeric heritage, as well as Miletus, the Mycenaean stronghold now excavated by Niemeier. Late Bronze Age Ephesus will be dealt with for reasons mentioned above.

Conclusion: Ahhiyawa, Mycenaeans and western Anatolia

The picture thus evolving from the presented data is as follows: Mycenaean ware, mainly pottery, reached the shores of Anatolia from the early 14th cen-tury till well in the 12th century BC. The corresponding pottery styles range from LH II to LH IIIC. LH IIIA2 and B1 material is found most frequently amongst the imports. The majority of sites with Mycenaean material are found in the central-western and south-western regions, with the largest concentrations at Miletus, Müsgebi and in the region of Ephesus. The prominence of Müsgebi and Miletus in this respect is of no surprise, as the overall Mycenaean character of these sites had already been established (Mee 1979,cf. supra). As a consequence, it is reasonable to assume that Miletus – and its surroundings – represented the focus of contacts between Anatolia and the Mycenaean world. Hittite texts show that contacts between the Mycenaeans at Miletus and Anatolians were not exclusively commercial or cultural affairs but that there was a distinct diplomatic aspect, too. These contacts were not only confined to the Hittite court, as we know of formal relations between theAhhiyawan court and Madduwatta (1400 BC), Uhhaziti, King of Arzawa (ca.1315 BC), Piyamaradu (ca. 1250 BC) and Ahhiyawan support to the Arzawan revolt under Tudhaliya IV. Given the widespread distribution of Mycenaean pottery in western Anatolia, it is unlikely that Mycenaean vases ever played a role in the gift exchange between the Ahhiyawan King and Anatolian courts. This stands in contrast to Egypto-Mycenaean relations,were a direct link has been proposed between the import of Mycenaean pottery at El Amarna and diplomatic ties between the Amarna regime and the King of Mycenae (Hankey 1981).

There may be some correlation between the presence of Mycenaean pottery in the region of Ephesus and historical events that affected the area. It is notable that, while Mycenaean pottery elsewhere usually appears until LHIIIC, with a distinct peak during LH IIIA2 and B1, the pottery corpus at Ephesus is confined to the LH IIIA period. With the possible exception of some LH IIIB pottery at Kolophon, Mycenaean ware seems to have reached Ephesus only during the 14th century BC. During this period, Mycenaean cultural influence on the whole was substantial as is indicated by the presence of Mycenaean figurines, a bronze double axe and, indeed, the variety of the imported pottery. The occurrence of a Mycenaean rhyton and a krater is of interest as it may point towards the diffusion of Mycenaean cult and social (symposion) practices.”


Full paper here:

Research-Selection: Philaretus Homerides




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