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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Treasure of Atreus in the Palace of Menelaus: The Terror of Anonymity in Mycenean Archaeology

From Pausanias time until today travelers, specialists and archaeologists continue to give names and to add prestige to the archaeological remnants that date from the second half of the second millennium B.C.. Most of these names are loans from the Iliad and Odyssey. The standard repetition of the phenomenon probably sug­gests that we believe even today in the complete his­toricity of the epic texts and myths. The archaeologists dealing with the Aegean world have often been nour­ished with the classic tradition to such an extent, that they quite easily pass from the archaeological evidence to the myths, because there is a continuity of data from the present to the past in their minds and culture. However, the existence of a city called “Troy” continues to have an untenable historical support and scientific reasoning, while the Homeric texts cannot be taken as testimonies for the Mycenaean age. Next to these scientific reasons, which prompt cer­tain archaeologists and historians to accept the epic or mythical accounts, the terror of anonymity can equally be explained by the prestige accompanying this or that name of a site. To pull an archaeological discovery out of anonymity and oblivion means that whoever achieves this task not only will become famous among his col­leagues, but he win also be praised by a broader public which still lives with the ideal that it is the Archaeologist who sets off to discover lost cities and he succeeds in his objective. Therefore, we must accept that our effort the Mycenaean place-names to coincide with those of the historic period is often a dangerous task. In addition, we must not forget that there is not any Mycenaean text supplying the name of a single Mycenaean lord. What seems, then, reasonable is to hope that the new texts of the Linear B script will enrich our knowledge about Mycenaean Greece.