Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

ship model

Cat. No.





Mycenae, Petsas' House A15a: Room Γ, north end; A15b: T, south half along southern wall



Two fragments, possibly belonging to a single figurine. Red paint in interior only.

Accession Number

A15a:3886 (BE 467), 1951; A15b: (71) 06/19035, 2006


Wedde 2000: 312, no. 327; Shelton 2009; 2010 (context)

A15a: stern end of a boat with an applied seat (partially missing). Four red painted parallel lines along the interior running length wise.

A15b: mid-section fragment of a boat with a pointed keel. V-shaped hull in section. Four red painted parallel lines along the interior length wise, including along the gunwale.

Located on the slope of the hill to the NW of the citadel of Mycenae in what is presumed to have been the main settlement, Petsas' House appears to have functioned as a ceramic production and storage complex together with habitation of varying degrees. It was built during LH IIIA 1 or very early in LH IIIA2 and thus appears to have had a fairly short life-span given that it was destroyed in LH IIIA2. The assemblage included over 500 decorated vases and 186 figurines dating to the building's final use and destruction by fire. The complex has also provided Linear B tablets. The earliest structures excavated in the 1950s comprised two parallel rows of rooms situated along a terraced slope, most of which were used as storerooms for new (unused) pottery vessels which had fallen from shelves where they had been arranged by shape and size. Renewed excavations have revealed further evidence for production and industry as well as purely domestic contexts. Evidence of sophistication in its construction (elite architecture?) includes manipulation of the natural rock hillside, multi-level construction, use of ashlar blocks (corner stones, and extensive use of wall paintings. According to Shelton: "The complex nature of this structure exhibits a high level of organization and use for ceramic production, storage and distribution on a large scale. Petsas House is a multi-use or multi-task structure. It could have accommodated a significant number of people as residence or business. It is also possible that it was at least used, if not owned as well, by a single-family unit. Its size and complexity place it in a category of domestic structures at Mycenae known otherwise exclusively from the Late Helladic IIIB period, such as the "Ivory Houses.""(Shelton 2010: 189) The position of such houses within the architectural hierarchy at Mycenae is still a matter of debate. These are extra-palatial and outside of the citadel, and appear to be part of the greater settlement yet they have prominent positioning, are larger, more architecturally complex, and functionally more diverse than regular houses.

The majority of the figurines from the 1950-1951 excavation were found in room Γ which is a narrow basement level area at the southwestern edge of the excavation. A large proportion of the figurines were found in the northern end of the room in a rather deep deposit along with a number of whole vases (predominantly undecorated kylikes and bowls). The renewed excavations have added 10 additional figurines from room Γ and a total of 34 from the entire excavation area. It has now become clear that Γ was the main entrance to the building complex with an open southern end from which point there was a ramp of poros slabs intended for wheeled traffic (wheel-barrow or hand-cart) descending to the north. A wide staircase of stone (2.1 m) located at the southern end of the eastern wall led from room Γ at the basement level up four steps to the first floor. The figurines (and some vases) which were found just at the beginning of the ramp, in the interior north end of the building's entrance, probably represent a shipment of ceramic goods which were caught up at the loading dock so to speak in the sudden destruction of the building. The figurines' context is therefore one of production/origin rather than use. The figurines are furthermore not an accumulated deposit but instead represent a single event and were produced in the same area as the vases and the larger wheel-made figurines. Shelton notes that there is no indication of specialized production based on either their quantity of exclusive storage. The most notable characteristic of the assemblage is the wide range of types represented.

Two fragments potentially belonging to the same figurine, the first recovered from the 1951 excavations, the second from 2006 in an adjoining area. Pending publication.1

1. I am thankful to Dr. Shelton for commenting on the fragments and providing me with photographs for my personal consultation.

Shelton, K. 2009. “The Figurines from Petsas House,” in A.-L. Schallin and P. Pakkanen (eds.) Encounters with Mycenaean Figures and Figurines: Papers Presented at a Seminar at the Swedish Institute at Athens, 27-29 April 2001. Stockholm: Svenska Instritutet i Athen, pp. 55-60.

―――. 2010. “Citadel and Settlement: A Developing Economy at Mycenae, the Case of Petsas House,” in D. J. Pullen (ed.) Political Economies of the Aegean Bronze Age. Papers from the Langford Conference, 22-24 February 2007, Florida State University, Tallahassee, 22-24 February 2007. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 184-204.

Wedde, M. 2000. Towards a Hermeneutics of Aegean Bronze Age Ship Imagery. Peleus Studien zur Archäologie und Geschichte Griechenlands und Zyperns, vol. 6. Bibliopolis: Mannheim and Möhnsee.

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