In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Bronze Age Architecture, Mainland Greece

  • Introduction
  • Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Early through Late Helladic Domestic Architecture
  • Early through Late Helladic Funerary Architecture
  • Religious Architecture
  • Early through Late Helladic Fortifications
  • Ports, Dams, Water Management, Roads, and Other Infrastructure
  • Settlement Organization and Distribution
  • House Models and Furniture

Architecture Planning and Preservation Bronze Age Architecture, Mainland Greece
Rebecca Worsham
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 March 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 March 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0093


Tension between conservation and dynamism marks the architecture of the mainland Greek Bronze Age, from about 3000 to 1100 BCE. Material may be best known from the Peloponnese, but considered here in addition is the Greek mainland as far north as Thessaly, as well as islands that are well integrated into mainland Greek culture, including particularly Aegina and Skyros, with their well-known fortified trading settlements. In no study is architecture of the entirety of the period considered together, and in general there are few synthetic treatments of mainland Greek Bronze Age architecture of any period, particularly in contrast to the number of studies on the architecture of Crete. It is standard to discuss the material of the Early Bronze Age (EBA or, regionally, Early Helladic, or EH) independent of the following periods, based on a perceived cultural break at the end of EH II, roughly at 2250 BCE. The subsequent EH III and Middle Helladic (MH) periods are grouped because of the continuity between them, though they have only recently been the topic of serious study. In contrast, there are many more studies handling Mycenaean architecture, beginning with the so-called Shaft Grave period in Late Helladic (LH) I (roughly 1650 BCE). In all periods, the focus has been on elite structures, including the corridor houses of EH II and the “palaces” and elite houses of the Mycenaean period, as well as large-scale works like fortifications and tholos tombs. And there is a good amount of still extant Bronze Age architecture on the Greek mainland, though in highly variable states of preservation—most commonly, only the foundations of a structure remain, even at the palatial level. On the other hand, some of the infrastructural works at this period are enormously large-scale, changing the landscape itself. The most abundant, if not the most monumental, categories of remaining architecture are relatively modest—that is, domestic architecture and the funerary material especially as represented by cemeteries.


Two handbooks, Shelmerdine 2008 and Cline 2010, provide brief overviews of the architecture of mainland Greece in English, focusing especially on the evidence from the Mycenaean period—Treuil, et al. 2008 is a similar offering in French. Cullen 2001 is now somewhat dated, but focuses on the state of archaeological work in the Aegean, divided broadly by geographic area and time period. Each of these offerings also provides a useful bibliography.

  • Cline, Eric H., ed. The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    Louise Hitchcock supplies a chapter specifically handling Mycenaean architecture, and this handbook discusses mainland Greek Bronze Age architecture in passing in several additional chapters, including three covering general trends for the EH, MH, and LH periods (by Jeannette Forsén, Sofia Voutsaki, and Kim Shelton respectively), as well as ten more focusing on specific regions (Argolid, Boeotia, etc.) and sites (Lerna, Pylos, etc.).

  • Cullen, Tracey, ed. Aegean Prehistory: A Review. Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, 2001.

    Pertinent (extensively footnoted) articles from this collection reviewing the state of the field in the 1990s are: Jeremy Rutter’s assessment of EH, MH, and early LH archaeology and Cynthia Shelmerdine’s evaluation of LH III archaeology, both focused on the Greek mainland as far north as Lamia. The area to the north, including several Bronze Age centers around the Pagasetic Gulf, is handled by Stelios Andreou, Michael Fotiadis, and Kostas Kotsakis.

  • Shelmerdine, Cynthia W., ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL9780521814447

    This handbook includes a chapter by James Wright covering EH and Early Mycenaean architecture within broader discussions of the material culture of those periods, as well as a more focused (if still brief) look at developed Mycenaean art and architecture by Janice Crowley. William Cavanagh treats Mycenaean tomb architecture in a separate chapter.

  • Treuil, René, Pascal Darcque, Jean-Claude Poursat, and Gilles Touchais. Les Civilisations Égéennes Du Néolithique et de l’Âge Du Bronze. 2d ed. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2008.

    One chapter (by René Treuil) provides a cross-Aegean look at the EBA cultures of the Greek Mainland, Crete, coastal Anatolia, and the Cyclades, including a brief consideration of settlement and funerary architecture. A longer section (Livre 3) handles Mycenaean culture, including architecture (pertinent sections by Pascal Darcque).

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