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'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany


The Schloss Karlsruhe Museum is hosting the largest exhibition ever held on Mycenaean Greece's cultural history. Titled "Mycenaean Greece: The legendary world of Agamemnon," the show presents over 400 exhibits loaned from Greece, many of which are shown for the first time outside of the country.

'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany

"The visitors will be guided through an ancient world and can experience Mycenaean culture from its beginnings to its downfall," co-curator Bernhard Steinmann told DW.

The museum also aims to support Greece's efforts to fight against the looting of its antiquities: All exhibits come from Greek museums, as well as heritage agencies and secured excavation sites.


Homer, the guide to archaeological treasures

Paris, the son of the legendary king of Troy, Priam, kidnapped the beautiful Helen, thereby attracting the wrath of the king of Mycenae, Agamemnon. The events depicted in Homer's Illiad led to the Trojan War, which took place from circa 1260 to 1180 BC.

Heinrich Schliemann, a German pioneer in the field of archaeology and the study of the Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age, was convinced that Homer's epic reflected historical events.

'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
Heinrich Schliemann, born in 1822 near the German city of Rostock, did not have a lucky start in life. Due to financial
 hardship, he broke off his studies as a young man and began a business apprenticeship. He quickly made a career
using his skill and talent for languages. He built his fortune in Moscow, selling ammunition to the tsar's army.
Then he began to educate himself and travel [Credit: DW]
'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
During his excavations in Mycenae, Schliemann discovered a grave with two skeletons. Obsessed with his idea to
uncover traces of the Trojan War, he dubbed one of the death masks "Mask of Agamemnon." It later turned
out not to belong to the famous ruler, but to a Mycenaean princess [Credit: DW]
'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
The masks discovered by Heinrich Schliemann are highlights of the exhibition "Mycenaean Greece: The legendary
world of Agamemnon" [Credit: DW]
'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
The center of power of a Mycenaean palace is a great hall known as the megaron, along with the throne room. The ruler,
or wanax, held political and religious ceremonies there. Visitors of the exhibition in Karlsruhe can walk through
 impressive replicas of these palaces displaying elaborately decorated vases, amphorae, frescoes,
 swords as well as stone and gold jewelry from that era [Credit: DW]
'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
A mysterious smile and a determined gaze: This fresco fragment depicts the so-called "White Goddess" from the Pylos
palace and dates back to the 13th century BC. Mycenaean tile paintings reveal impressive details,
and this piece is one of the highlights of the exhibition [Credit: DW]
He was 52 when he traveled in 1874 to the citadel of Mycenae in Greece, which was according to mythology Agamemnon's center of power. Two years later, the archaeologist made a sensational find: He discovered a grave with three skeletons and numerous burial treasures, including two ornate gold masks. Schliemann believed at the time that it was the tomb of the legendary Agamemnon.

However, scientists later realized that the tomb could not have been his, determining that the masks predated the period of the Trojan War by some 400 years.


A flourishing culture — and an enigmatic downfall

Whether the Greek king actually existed still hasn't been determined with certainty. There is however archaeological evidence that Troy, the city described by Homer, did exist. From there, Europe's first advanced civilization found its way onto the European continent.

Impressive Cycleopan masonry fortifications were also found in Pylos, Athens, Tiryns and Thebes. The large palaces served as administrative centers with a sophisticated bureaucracy to monitor tax revenues and control the palaces' economy.

'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
Mycenaean artists were renowned for their intricate gold art. This button from the 16th century BC was found in 1876
 in the Mycenaean shaft graves excavated by Heinrich Schliemann. It is made of bone that was then covered
with gold foil. The spiral ornamentation is typical of the art of the early Mycenaean period [Credit: DW]
'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
Precious possessions accompanied the wealthy deceased on their journey to eternity. This gold cup was found by
Heinrich Schliemann in one of the shaft graves of Mycenae. It shows dolphins swimming
in an underwater landscape [Credit: DW]
'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
Luxurious jewelry made of gold and glass beads has always fascinated humanity. Such noble pieces were
however reserved to the elite. This necklace from the 14th century BC is made of rosettes
covered in gold leaf [Credit: DW]
'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
A larnax is a chest made of wood or clay, which also served for the burial of the dead. Idols, miniatures
and glass jewelry were often added to the tomb. This larnax from the 13th century BC is made of clay
 and comes from Tanagra in Boeotia, north of Athens. It shows a procession of four mourning
women holding their hair, a funeral ritual at the time [Credit: DW]
'Mycenae: The legendary world of Agamemnon' at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, Germany
Bull figurines such as the ones shown above were not uncommon in Mycenaean settlements. However, it remains
unclear to this day whether they were an expression of popular piety and served as sacrificial offerings
to the gods or if children used them as toys [Credit: DW]
From the 15th to the 12th century BC, Mycenaeans dominated the Peloponnese, building magnificent palaces and trading with other civilizations. However, the empire mysteriously disappeared after 400 years. Scholars still do not now why the civilization was in decline by 1200 BC.

Remaining from the Mycenean period are rich tombs, jewelry and numerous bronze weapons.


Their fine ceramics also demonstrate their high level of craftsmanship: "The Mycenaeans mastered the abstraction of Minoan Cretan works and their motifs were used emblematically again and again," says Steinmann. Some of these artistic tendencies can be found in Art Deco or Art Nouveau.

Along with Schliemann's world-famous gold mask, the exhibition also includes other highlights. An ancient "crown" found in a tomb in Routsi, which was unknown to researchers until recently, will be exhibited for the first time. Also on show are artifacts from the Griffin Warrior Tomb, discovered near Pylos in May 2015 — one of the most important archaeological finds in Greece of the last 65 years.

"Mycenaean Greece: The legendary world of Agamemnon" runs until June 2, 2019.

Source: Deutsche Welle [January 08, 2019]

TANN

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