In 1876, German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann began his excavation of Mycenae and ultimately uncovered critical artifacts pertaining to Greece’s Late Bronze Age. Figure 1 represents images of burial daggers, more famously known as the “Lion Hunt” daggers, found in grave-shaft IV of Mycenae’s Grave Circle A. While Schliemann’s original intentions were to unearth the remains of Agamemnon and the time period of the Trojan War, the artifacts found in Grave Circle A date from the 16thcentury B.C.E. Many of these artifacts, including the daggers being examined in this exhibit, were laden with gold due to their burial significance.
The “Lion Hunt” daggers were not used in actual warfare but held importance as decorative burial goods for powerful and wealthy Mycenaean citizens. The golden artwork on the three daggers reflects Minoan influence on Mycenaean in several ways. The main sword depicts a lion-hunting scene with four hunters attacking three lions. The middle sword simply depicts three lions running in stride, and the final sword has swirling elaborate golden patterns. In regards to artwork, Minoan influences include delicate creations, figure-of-eight shields, and the introduction of animal figures. Examples of the figure-of-eight shields can be seen in the gold artwork on the primary dagger in Figure 2. Of the four hunters, two are wearing the Minoan inspired shields while the other two shields reflect a square Mycenaean pattern. The introduction of lions, as well as the delicate patterns seen on the final dagger, also represents the introduction of Minoan influence on Mycenaean craftsmanship. It is important to note that while the influence was foreign, the works found in Grave Circle A are all of indigenous artistry. These Late Bronze Age daggers serve as vital examples linking the relationship between Minoan and Mycenaean society.
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