Being Mycenaean: A View from the Periphery

Map of the Bronze Age Aegean.
Map of the Bronze Age Aegean.

Ethnic or cultural designations of past societies have often been employed uncritically and even casually. This general situation applies specifically to Mycenaean civilization. This article therefore considers a set of interrelated questions: What or who was a Mycenaean? How did the people termed “Mycenaeans” come into existence? What did it mean to be Mycenaean? Could one choose to be, or not to be, Mycenaean? Was there a difference between being Mycenaean and becoming Mycenaean? And finally, how is Mycenaean identity related to culture, class, and social organization? After providing theoretical, methodological, anthropological, and archaeological contexts for these questions, this paper offers some suggestions about how or whether they can be answered, examining issues of ethnicity, cultural identity, and spatial organization. It concludes by considering these areas as they apply to the Aegean Bronze Age.

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DOI: 10.3764/aja.115.4.0507