“Bronze Age” The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age.
Two Civilizations During the Bronze Age, in Greece, two important civilizations ruled over all the others: Minoans Mycenaeans They left a legacy of stories and art that amazed even the Greeks who came after them.
Minoans While sailing about, the Greeks stumbled across a tribe of people living on the island of Crete. These people, the Minoans, were a very advanced civilization for the times. They had a strong navy, which is probably why the Greeks never succeeded in colonizing the Minoan people.
Living like a King The Minoan king lived in the capital city of Knossos, in a maze of a palace with 1500 rooms! It was a gorgeous palace. But during Minoan times, even poor people on the island of Crete had 4-room houses, with running water for drinking and bathing, and bathrooms that flushed! This was a very advanced civilization.
Traders Minoans spent much of their time at sea, because of where they lived (an island). Thus they became some of the best shipbuilders of their time. Their ships carried goods such as olive oil and pottery all around the eastern Mediterranean, trading them for gold, silver and jewels.
Historic records: Minoan Art The ancient Minoans did have a written language. Far more than the records they left behind, the paintings on the walls of the palace at Knossos share the daily life of these ancient people. Some walls were painted with pictures of starfish and water scenes, much as you would expect from a civilization that lived on an island.
Historic records: Minoan Art But some walls were painted with pictures of young people, both boys and girls, jumping over bulls (who represented the sun god). Scholars believed that bull jumping must have been a very popular sport in Minoan times.
Where did they go? Around 1700 BCE, an earthquake hit Crete. Much of the Minoan civilization was destroyed. The Minoans rebuilt. Around 1500 BCE, a volcano erupted near the island of Crete. Tidal waves followed the eruption. The Minoans might have been wiped out by natural disaster or by war. There were warrior tribes on the mainland of Greece. But scholars believe the tidal waves certainly weakened them. Whatever the cause, around 1500 BCE, this civilization disappeared from the island of Crete.
Mycenaeans Filling the void: As the intriguing Minoan Civilization disappeared, due to natural disasters or losses in war, a new tribe, the Mycenaeans, came to power on the Greek mainland.
Tough People The Mycenaeans believed themselves to be great warriors. They fought with everyone with whom they came in contact. Some people think that they might have been responsible for the disappearance of the Minoan civilization. They fought with stone weapons. The Mycenaean age is sometimes called the “Heroic Age” or The Age of Heroes. This is because much of their art depicts single warriors performing heroic feats, sometimes in war and sometimes against wild animals. They also believed trade should not be conducted peacefully and often attacked other kingdoms.
Leaving a Legacy We know quite a bit about the ancient Mycenaeans because they wrote things down. We know, for example, they worshiped a great many gods. The ancient Mycenaeans prayed to their gods for help. They expected their gods to take care of them, provided they said the right words in the right way. Also, they are suspected to be the attackers of the legendary city of Troy.
Healthy Habits The Mycenaeans built their palaces on hilltops. By building on hilltops, the Mycenaeans caught what rainwater they could. These early people learned from experience that if you drank dirty water, you got sick or died. A source of clean water was very important to them, as it is to all people, everywhere. They built on hilltops, but they also prayed to their gods to make their water safe to drink.
The End These prosperous period in history came to an end with the invasion of the Dorians, which led the way into a period of Greek history called the “Greek Dark Ages”
Ask Yourselves Recall: Were was the Minoan civilization located? Compare: How did Minoans and Mycenaeans relate with their neighbors? Locate: Where is Knossos located? (afterwards, locate it on a map) Analyze: How might the Minoans’ location provide them with protection?