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Lesley Dean-Jones, Chair 2210 Speedway, Mail Code C3400, Austin, TX 78712-1738 • 512-471-5742

Fall 2009


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32548 MWF
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
WAG 112

Course Description

What do we know historically about the palaces where legendary kings like Minos, Agamemnon, Nestor and Priam ruled? When did the Greeks arrive in what has since been their homeland and how and why did their peculiarly innovative and influential culture develop? What do the so-called Minoan and Mycenaean cultures, on the island of Crete and the Greek mainland, owe to surrounding cultures, and how and why did these cultures come into contact? What kinds of evidence do we have from the so-called palatial period of Aegean prehistory (the 2nd millennium BCE) and how can we use it to ask historical questions? Formal study of Aegean prehistory is now over 140 years old. One of the challenges for our understanding of the palatial palatial period (reflected in later Greek historical texts like the Iliad, Odyssey, Works and Days, and Thucydides) is to make sense of the material evidence recovered through excavation in conjunction with the data provided by peculiar documents (mostly inscribed economically focused records on clay in writing systems known as Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear A and Linear B) that have been found at most major sites. These documents have turned what used to be called a prehistoric period into what is now known as a proto-historic period. They present us with interesting problems concerning methods and principles of interpretation and historical reconstruction. In this course we will concentrate on how to make history or pre- and proto-history. We shall try to trace political, social, economic and general cultural developments (including such topics as religious beliefs, ethnicity, orality and literacy, law, regional and central power hierarchies, languages and dialects, trade, warfare, and cross-cultural borrowings and adaptations) on Crete and the Greek mainland between roughly 2200 and 1100 BCE, with some look at Cyprus and Hittite Anatolia. We shall try to define what history means in periods where we lack what we consider historical or annalistic works produced within the cultures we, as moderns, are studying. We shall ask questions most historians ask about human actions and the general quality of life in specific areas and time periods. We shall try to figure out where the 'high' Aegean cultures came from, what led to their eventual decline and collapse and what came after them? And we shall consider the historiography of research in this field.

Grading Policy

Grading: Grades will be based on: (1) three five-page papers with drafts due in the fourth, ninth and fourteenth weeks of the semester and re-writes in the sixth and eleventh weeks and at the time of the final examination; (2) one student presentation of the material assigned for a course meeting (graded on handout material and clarity and coverage of presentation per se); (3) final examination (an oral one-on-one with the instructor on the topic of the final paper and the main topics in the course). Breakdown of grade: papers (final drafts alone are given grades) first 20%, second 25%, third 30%; presentation 15%; final examination 10%.


TEXTS: This course will mainly use articles from specialized monographs and excerpted chapters from synthetic and collaborative handbooks on Greek prehistory. Basic texts are: The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age by Cynthia W. Shelmerdine (Editor), Cambridge University Press 2008, pb. The Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge World Archaeology) by Oliver Dickinson, Cambridge University Press 1994, pb. The Mycenaean World by John Chadwick, Cambridge University Press 1976, pb. Life and Society in the Hittite World by Trevor Bryce, Oxford University Press 2004, pb. Progress into the Past: The Rediscovery of Mycenaean Civilization, Second Edition by William A.; Carol G. Thomas McDonald, Indiana University Press 1990, pb. Resources will include: (1) translated and transliterated documents in Linear A and Linear B, and excerpted passages from later Greek historical texts; (2) studies bearing upon the evidence derived from languages per se; (3) specialized articles on topics mentioned in general course description.


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