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Baubefunde und Stratigraphie der Unterburg und des nordwestlichen Stadtgebiets (Kampagnen 1976 bis 1983). Pts. 2, 3

Baubefunde und Stratigraphie der Unterburg und des nordwestlichen Stadtgebiets (Kampagnen 1976 bis 1983). Pts. 2, 3

Pt. 2, Die mykenische Nachpalastzeit (SH III C). Text
By Tobias Mühlenbruch (Tiryns 17[2]). Pp. xx + 426, figs. 30. Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 2013. €68. ISBN 978-3-89500-849-8 (cloth).

Pt. 3, Die ausgehende Palastzeit (SH III B2) und die mykenische Nachpalastzeit (SH III C). Dokumentation zu den Bänden XVII 1 und 2
By Tobias Mühlenbruch and Ursula Damm-Meinhardt (Tiryns 17[3]). Pp. 7, b&w pls. 75, Beilagen 8, plans 59. Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 2013. €98. ISBN 978-3-89500-850-4 (cloth).

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The most recent volume of the Tiryns series is the first of two to discuss in detail the occupational history and stratigraphy of the 1976–1983 excavations by Klaus Kilian in the lower citadel of Tiryns and the northwestern part of its lower town. The study focuses on the Postpalatial period of the 12th and 11th centuries B.C.E. and comprises a text (Tiryns 17[2]; reviewed by C. von Rüden, Göttinger Forum für Altertumswissenschaft 17 [2014] 1241–48 [,gfa,017,2014,r,31.pdf]) and a plate volume (Tiryns 17[3]). The latter is a copublication with Damm-Meinhardt, also including the illustrations of her forthcoming study on the Late Palatial sequence and the phase immediately following the destruction of the palace. As both the excavator (Kilian) and his pottery specialist and successor (Christian Podzuweit) died unexpectedly early and within a short space of time, the publication of the seminal stratigraphic and architectural sequence of Tiryns as the most recently excavated palatial center in mainland Greece has had an unfortunate history. Joseph Maran, the current director of excavations and editor of the Tiryns series, and particularly the authors, therefore, deserve a lot of credit for overcoming these circumstances with great success. Without their admirably painstaking analytical work, the results of Kilian’s pathbreaking excavations at Tiryns would not have become either accessible or intelligible.

The basis of the current study by Mühlenbruch is the author’s Ph.D. thesis submitted in 2004 at Heidelberg University, supplemented with bibliographical references through 2009. The text is structured in four parts. An introduction (1–6) precedes a discussion of the various buildings and open areas (“Freiflächen”) and the spatial organization of the lower citadel according to chronologically distinct phases (7–283), the layout of the entire settlement of Tiryns, as well as the subsistence strategy of Tiryns. The third part (285–348) compares 12th- and 11th-century B.C.E. settlements and their organization not only on the Greek mainland but also in Crete, western Asia Minor, and Cyprus. The concluding summary as a fourth part (349–58) is followed by a stratigraphic synopsis (359–93), inevitable for any kind of engagement with the stratigraphy of Tiryns, a rich bibliography (395–420), and concordances (421–26). The plate volume (pls. 1–75, plans 1–59, Beilagen 1–8) is richly illustrated, with plans of high quality as well as very detailed sections of the Palatial and Postpalatial stratigraphy. The isometric views of the various building horizons in particular (pls. 18–23) create a lively impression of the architectural development of the lower citadel from Palatial through Postpalatial times. Color coding of the sections according to the various architectural horizons would have been a helpful user-friendly addition.

The first pages (1–18) set the agenda, provide a brief overview of the history of Mycenaean Postpalatial archaeological research, and explain the methodology of the excavations and the nature of their documentation. The author rightly stresses the importance of Kilian’s excavations in the lower citadel of Tiryns for a better understanding of the final and Postpalatial periods. Some of the explicitly stated assumptions, such as the presumed earthquake destructions in the middle and again at the end of Late Helladic (LH) IIIB, however, require further explanation and references. The chronological chart (3) that is basic for introducing readers to the Tirynthian system of settlement horizons (“Siedlungshorizonte,” “Horizonte,” “Hz.”) also raises a particular problem: the architectural and ceramic sequences of Tiryns use the same terminology (e.g., "LH IIIC Früh"), but the phases used throughout the description of the ensuing stratigraphic sequence refer to the LH IIIC architectural sequence (14). This causes difficulties in the description of horizons 21a0 and 21a1, whose architecture is labeled LH IIIC “Fortgeschritten,” while the associated pottery is called LH IIIC “Entwickelt” (also horizons 22a0–22b: LH IIIC “Spät” vs. “Fortgeschritten”; see C. Podzuweit, Studien Zur Spätmykenischen Keramik. Tiryns 14 Wiesbaden [2007] 6). The author is not to be blamed for this “inherited” problem (14; see also Podzuweit [2007] 6), but a more detailed discussion of how to deal with and explain this seeming contradiction is necessary, since the question arises as to what exactly is the basis for the author’s (and Kilian’s) precise dating for the architectural sequence beyond an established relative sequence (see also 13, 17, 286, 298). The importance of the sections (Beilagen 1–8) for Kilian’s definition of horizons and his stratigraphic synopsis is stressed (13). It is not clear, however, to what extent Kilian and the author used the results of Podzuweit’s ceramic analysis to link separated excavation units with one another.

The analytical part of the stratigraphic and architectural sequence (19–246) is organized in chronological order beginning with the advanced LH IIIC (early) phases (horizon 19b). The presentation of the data is exemplary, both systematic and comprehensive. Bibliographical references, an introductory note, the exact location within the grid system, references to plates, and full discussions of the architecture and stratigraphy are supplied for each individual building/area. Mühlenbruch has collected and listed throughout the analysis of the architecture (excluding the notes) all finds (ca. 950) that can be associated with the architectural stratigraphic sequence. The approximately 750 pottery items referred to in the text certainly represent only a very small portion of the original huge assemblage (see Podzuweit [2007] 3, 17). Only about 260 items of this pottery have previously been published by various authors. Thus, to realize fully the unique significance of the stratigraphic sequence at Tiryns, the contextualized publication of all listed (but at least of the remaining ca. 490 items), whether in print or digitally (e.g., on a supplementary CD-ROM/DVD) would be necessary.

The discussion and analysis of the architectural sequence is impressive, as Mühlenbruch not only presents the results of Kilian’s excavations but also includes the results of the earlier and most recent excavations, with the result that a comprehensive picture of Postpalatial Tiryns emerges (198–223, 255–83). It is important to note that present evidence indicates that the systematic large-scale reorganization of the lower citadel began with horizon 19b1 (“Initialshorizont” [350]), in an advanced stage of LH IIIC (early), thus a bit earlier than originally thought by Kilian (xv). The layout of the lower citadel as defined with horizon 19b basically stays the same until the end of the occupation in horizon 22. Most interesting in the architectural layout of the lower citadel is the continuity of religious activity in freestanding, elaborately designed shrines (Rooms 117, 110, 110a) from horizons 19b1 to 22c1 (e.g., 220). They are situated on the western side of a large open court (“Hof 1”), whereas the eastern side of the court is framed by a monumental, presumably two-storied building (“Bau VIa”) that in part used structures of the preceding palatial building “Bau VI.”

Mühlenbruch’s holistic overview of the Argolid makes it very plausible that Tiryns emerged in the decades following the destruction of the palaces as the most important single site in the region, thus superseding Mycenae (e.g., 316, 319; see also J. Maran, “Architektonische Innovation im spätmykenischen Tiryns: Lokale Bauprogramme und fremde Kultureinflüsse,” in Althellenische Technologie und Technik/Aρχαία ελληνική τεχνoλoγία και τεχνική απó την πρoϊστoρική μέχρι την ελληνιστική περίoδo, με έμφαση στην πρoϊστoρική επoχή. Συνέδριo [2004 Weilheim] 261–93; J. Maran, “Coming to Terms with the Past: Ideology and Power in Late Helladic IIIC,” in S. Deger-Jalkotzy and I.S. Lemos, eds., Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer. Edinburgh Leventis Studies 3 [Edinburgh 2006] 123–50). The view that this change in the relative status of Mycenae vs. Tiryns may have occurred already in the late or final days of the Palatial period is assessed as speculative (318). However, two indications could be interpreted that Tiryns was the last residence of a pan-Argive wanax: first, the grand rebuilding of the Mycenaean palace at Tiryns after LH IIIB “Entwickelt,” with its hierarchically organized ascent to the royal megaron (255; see also Maran [2004]); and second, the attempt to legitimize power at Tiryns and not (as far as we know) in Mycenae by the construction of an ante building (“Gebäude T”) in the ruins of the former megaron as a conscious reference to the palatial lineage (e.g., 259, 269).

Mühlenbruch persuasively argues that the construction of the ante building (“Gebäude T”) may have happened within the general reorganization of the site in horizon 19b. He further suggests that this entire process was initiated by the surviving elite of the former palatial system. The hypothesis that Linear B writing may have continued to be used in some of the new elite oikoi is fascinating (e.g., 266), but more evidence than the single Linear B tablet from a Postpalatial LH IIIC context from the House O area is needed to support this idea.

The discussion of Postpalatial settlements (285–348) is well organized and an important contribution for a better understanding of Postpalatial Mycenaean culture. Interestingly, the only freshly built LH IIIC fortification system presently attested on the mainland appears at Aigeira in eastern Achaia.

The references throughout the text to the stratigraphic synopsis (259–392), the core of the architectural sequence, are not user-friendly, since page numbers are not provided, and the tables themselves are not numbered. The synopsis is organized chronologically in reverse order to the flow of the text (LH IIIC [late]–[early] vs. LH IIIC [early]–[late]) and lacks references to the somewhat differently organized stratigraphic chart published by Podzuweit ([2007] Beilage 86, nos. 1–7). A careful reader will therefore need to invest some time in comparing the two charts with each other.

The extensive bibliography (395–420) may now be supplemented by Kardamaki (“Ein neuer Keramikfund aus dem Bereich der Westtreppe von Tiryns: Bemalte mykenische Keramik aus dem auf der Westtreppenanlage deponierten Palastschutt,” Ph.D. diss., University of Heidelberg [2013]; on the dumping of destruction debris originating from the palace over the western staircase and the stairway’s renovation in Postpalatial times as well as the limited evidence for Postpalatial reoccupation of the upper citadel of Tiryns.

The present Tiryns volume on the Postpalatial stratigraphy and architecture is a specialized study that will certainly become standard for any further engagement with the excavations in the Tirynthian lower citadel. In spite of the reservations expressed above, for some of which the author is clearly not to be blamed, Mühlenbruch has made the best of the given difficult circumstances, and whoever works with old excavation documentation will admire the meticulous work. Without this effort it would be impossible to understand and appreciate the development of this major Postpalatial center.

Walter Gauss
Austrian Archaeological Institute
Athens Branch

Book Review of Baubefunde und Stratigraphie der Unterburg und des nordwestlichen Stadtgebiets (Kampagnen 1976 bis 1983). Pt. 2, by Tobias Mühlenbruch; pt. 3, by Tobias Mühlenbruch and Ursula Damm-Meinhardt

Reviewed by Walter Gauss

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 119, No. 4 (October 2015)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1194.Gauss

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