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Open letter to science editors


Immanuel Velikovsky

Copyright 1974 by Immanuel Velikovsky

The same problem that caused the difference of opinions at the Heraion of Olympia and at the necropolis of Dipylon at Athens arose at other excavated sites in Greece. To demonstrate this on another case of Greek archaeology, I chose Tiryns, south-east of Mycenae.

Tiryns was excavated by Schliemann and Dörpfeld in 1884-85. Along with Mycenae, it is regarded as a center of Mycenaean culture. On an acropolis, foundations of a palace were discovered. Together with Mycenaean ware and mixed with it, geometric ware of the eighth and seventh centuries and archaic ware of the sixth century were found, among them many little flasks in which libations had been brought to the sacred place. According to Schliemann, Tiryns was destroyed simultaneously with Mycenae and the palace was burned down. But his collaborator, Dörpfeld, who agreed with him as to the time the palace had been built, disagreed as to when it had been destroyed, and their opinions differed by six hundred years [1].

From Greek literature it is known that in early Greek times, in the eighth or seventh century and until the first part of the fifth century, there was a temple of Hera in Tiryns which was deserted when the Argives vanquished the people of that place in -460. At later times, Tiryns was occasionally visited by travelers coming to pay homage to the sacred place of bygone days [2].

When the excavation of Tiryns was resumed in 1905 by a team headed by A. Frickenhaus and continued in the following years, special attention was paid to the question of the time in which the Mycenaean palace there was destroyed.

On the site of the palace and in part on its original foundations was built a smaller edifice, identified as the temple of Hera of Greek times. Many facts point definitely to the conclusion that the Greek temple was built on the foundations of the Mycenaean palace very shortly after the palace was destroyed by fire [3]. The altar of the temple was an adaptation of the Mycenaean palace altar; the plan of the Mycenaean palace was familiar to the builders of the temple; the floor of the palace served as the floor of the temple. However, the Greek temple was built in the seventh century. After deliberating on the evidence, the excavators refused to accept the end of the Mycenaean Age in the second millennium as the time of thp destruction of the palace, and decided that the palace had survived until the seventh century. In their opinion the Mycenaean pottery was refuse of an early stage of the palace; the terra cotta figures and flasks of archaic [seventh century] type were offerings of the pilgrims to the Greek temple of Hera. A continuity of culture from Mycenaean to Greek times was found; even the worship of Hera was inherited [4].

Frickenhaus and his team realized that their explanation required some unusual assumptions: for instance, that the inhabitants of the palace did not undertake any alteration for more than half a millennium [5], and that in one part of the palace the refuse of centuries was preserved, while in another part life went forward [6]. But the excavators knew no other explanation because it was clear to them that "the fire of the palace was followed immediately by the erection of the temple" [7].

A decade later, in the light of the fact that the temple of Hera was found very similar in plan to a Mycenaean building excavated at Korakou near Corinth, "grave doubts" were expressed concerning the correctness of the above interpretations of the excavators of Tiryns, who had been "involved in a number of difficulties, both architectural and chronological" [8].

The critic (C. W. Blegen) agreed that the temple had been built immediately after the palace was destroyed, but he could not agree that the temple was a building of the seventh century. "How is it possible, if a Greek temple was established at the Mycenaean level in the megaron [the hall of the palace] and if the open court before the megaron was used at its Mycenaean level from the seventh century B.C. onward--how is it then possible that this same area was later covered over with almost purely Mycenaean debris?" [9]. He therefore concluded that "the later building within the megaron at Tiryns is not a Greek temple." He also denied the relation of the Dorian capital found during the excavation of the temple.

Although Blegen's arguments seemed to carry weight when he denied that the Mycenaean palace had survived the Mycenaean Age by more than five centuries, they appeared without force when he asserted that the building erected on the foundations of the palace was not a Greek temple. Blegen's view was also questioned by an eminent classicist, M. P. Nilsson [10].

Because it is equally inconceivable that the Greek temple was built in the thirteenth century and that the Mycenaean palace stood until the seventh century without alterations, its floor not even showing signs of wear [11], Nilsson confessed his inability to draw a conclusion: "The time of the reconstruction being uncertain, the question whether or not the building is the temple of Hera remains unanswered."

In a book on the architecture of the palace of Tiryns another excavator of that city, K. Müller, arrived at the conclusion that the difference of opinions is irreconcilable, but he shared the view of the scholars who ascribe the palace fire to about -750 and consider the temple a Greek edifice [12].

All agree on the continuity of the culture and cult of both buildings. Yet each of the attempts to bridge the chasm of five or six hundred years meets with insurmountable difficulties.

The answer would not be difficult if the Mycenaean Age were not displaced by this interval of time and pushed back into history, behind its proper place.

The divergence of over five hundred years in the archaeological age evaluations repeats itself with respect to many other sites of the Greek past. Because two timetables are applied simultaneously to the past of Greece-one built on the evidences of Greece itself, the other on the evidences of relations with Egypt-a clash of opinions in matters of age appraisal is almost inevitable, though the schismatic theories are banned from the dispute.

The theory that "a period covering the seventh century and extending, perhaps, into the eighth century, was the time in which pottery and other antiquities of the Mycenae class were produced for the home market of Greece and possibly in Greece itself" (Murray) [13] was pronounced an "archaeological insinuation" (Evans) [14].

The other attempt at synchronizing the geometric with the Mycenaean ware by ascribing them to the second millennium (Dörpfeld) was called "the naivete of complete ignorance" (Furtwängler) [15].

The separation of the Mycenaean Age from the Greek Age by five hundred years of Dark Age was paid for with an ever-growing mass of conflicting facts. Already in the shaft tombs of Mycenae some of the finds bore conflicting and unreconcilable evidence:

"Nor . . . is the evidence of Greek excavation always as simple and convincing as it looks. It has been usual to regard all the contents of the acropolis graves at Mycenae as dating more or less to the same period. But some of the objects from certain of these graves can be shown, if we are not to throw aside all that we have learned of the development of early Greek art, to be of far later date than others" [16].

The same author admitted that the graves in Greece were as a rule not re-used. This makes the presence of objects of two different epochs in the Mycenaean graves in Greece very enigmatic. The epochs, as usual, are separated by more than five hundred years.


[1]  See A. Frickenhaus, Tiryns, Vol. 1, Die Hera von Tiryns (Athens: 1912), p. 34.
[2]  Pausanias was one of those pilgrims, in the year 170 of the present era.
[3]  Frickenhaus, Tiryns, 1, pp. 31-40.
[4]  Ibid., 1, p. 31.
[5]  Ibid., p. 35.
[6]  Ibid., p. 36.
[7]  Ibid., p. 38.
[8]  C. W. Blegen, Korakou, a Prehistoric Settlement near Corinth (Boston: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1921), p. 130.
[9]  Ibid., p. 132.
[10]  M. P. Nilsson, The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and Its Survival in Greek Religion (Lund, 1927).
[11]  Rodenwaldt, quoted by K. Müller, Tiryns, Vol. 3, Die Architektur der Burg und des Palastes (Augsburg: 1930).
[12]  Müller, Tiryns, 3, p..207ff.
[13]  A. S. Murray, Handbook of Greek Archaeology (New York: 1892), p. 57.
[14]  Evans, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 30 (1900): 200.
[15]  Furtwängler, Kleine Schriften, 1, p. 456.
[16]  H. R. H. Hall, The Oldest Civilization of Greece (London, 1901), p. 16.

Velikovsky has promised for the next issues of Pensée a series of chapters dealing with stratigraphic archaeology in various lands of the Ancient East, under the common title "Personal Tragedies in Archaeology. " "Again and again conscientious excavators, misled by a fallacious chronological scheme, saw their names and careers brought into disrepute, because the result of their excavations, whether in Egypt, or Palestine, or Syria, or Cyprus, or Mesopotamia, or Anatolia, or Greece, or Crete, could not but result in a disaster that regularly became also personal."

In one of the next issues we plan to publish "The Scandal of Enkomi" (ancient capital of Cyprus) and "Olympia" (which gave rise to the great schism between Dörpfeld and Furtwängler,


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