Wednesday 12 June 2024

The Peopling of Greece (from the Paleolithic to ancient times)

It not known when man first appeared in the Greek Peninsula, but animal bones and Palaeolithic tools bear witness to his existence there in the Middle Palaeolithic (100,000-33,000 BP). About 40,000 years ago, a new type of man, Homo sapiens, who made stone tools by a new technique, emerged on the forestage of history, radically altering the course of mankind. The major climatic changes that took place around the ninth millennium BC, with the end of the Ice Age, had a dramatic effect on man's life and created the preconditions for the Neolithic Revolution.

Thus, from the seventh millennium BC man became involved with agriculture and animal husbandry, and began to live in organized settlements, such as Nea Nikomedeia, Sesklo, Dimini and other sites in Greece. Around 2800 BC, the use of metals, primarily bronze, was introduced in Greece. The land was now inhabited by Pelasgians, Carians and Lelegians (prehellenic tribes). Other tribes from Asia Minor settled on Crete and created the Minoan Civilization, the earliest civilization in Europe. In the islands of the Cyclades another distinct culture developed, known as Cycladic. Concurrently, the Helladic Culture flourished on the Greek Mainland.

The Achaeans, the Ionians and the Aeolians were the first Hellenic tribes of Indo-European origin to reach Greece around 2000 BC. They created the first truly Greek civilization, the Mycenaean (1580-1100 BC). Around 1400 BC, the Achaeans occupied Knossos, Rhodes and Cyprus, set up trading posts (emporia) in Asia Minor and developed commercial and diplomatic relations with the Egyptians, the Assyrians and the Hittites. They built palaces on hilltops fortified by Cyclopean walls and fostered all branches of the arts.

Another Hellenic tribe, the warlike Dorians, appeared in the late twelfth century BC. The "Coming of the Dorians" caused the collapse of the Mycenaean Civilization, with the resultant uprooting of large population groups from their ancestral hearths. The system of writing - Linear B script - was forgotten, artistic production declined and maritime trade ceased. This period is known as the "Dark Age" of Greece. It was followed by the Geometric period (1100-700 BC), principal characteristic of which was the decoration of vases with geometric and linear motifs.

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