See also K.A. Wardle, Reshaping the past: Where was the “Cult Centre” at Mycenae? in Eds. Schallin A-L. and Tournavitou I., Mycenaeans up to date, Acta Instituti Atheniensis Regni Sueciae, 56, Stockholm 2015 (uploaded to

In the Middle Helladic and Early Mycenaean periods the western slope of the Acropolis hill at Mycenae had been used for burials, of which those in the Grave Circle (A) excavated by Schliemann are the richest and best known. These graves formed part of the early Prehistoric Cemetery.

Although burials had ceased by the LH II period, the Grave Circle remained a place of reverence, as shown by the remodelling which took place in the LH IIIB period, while a number of buildings were erected on the slope to the south, below the citadel wall which at this date was still located higher up the slope.

Illustration of the West Slope buildings in the 13th century in Mycenaean Style 

© Diana Wardle


The earliest of those buildings which still survive form two groups. The first includes the House of the Warrior Vase, the Ramp House and the South House. The South House Annex may have been added a little later. The second includes the Megaron and Tsountas House and, added at a later date, the Temple and the Room with the Fresco complexes, whose extraordinary finds prompted the use of the term 'Cult Centre' for  the group as a whole.

Dates for the construction of these buildings are based on tests below the floors and on the relationships between them. A drain channel which was out of use before the South House Annex was constructed contained pottery of very early LH IIIB date (K.A. Wardle, 'A group of LH IIIB 1 pottery from within the Citadel at Mycenae', Annual of the British School at Athens, 64 (1969), 261-298), while slightly later LH IIIB 1 pottery came from the foundation fill in a test below Room 21 in the South House (P.A. Mountjoy, 'Late Helladic IIIB 1 pottery dating the construction of the South House at Mycenae', Annual of the British School at Athens, 71 (1976), 77-111). Some material of similar date came from below the Room with the Fresco Complex, but this and the Temple complex are clearly built against the South House to the north and must thus be a little later.

At some later date, the Citadel was extended to include the whole of the western slope and a new Cyclopean wall was built to enclose the Grave Circle and these groups of buildings. The precise date of this extension is uncertain. It is certainly later than the construction of the Temple and the Room with the Fresco and, logically, later than the event that brought an end to the use of the Room with the Fresco since it effectively blocked access to it from this direction.

The citadel of Mycenae from the north west showing the extension to the Cyclopean wall to enclose Grave Circle A and the Cult Centre. April 2003 

Later still, almost at the end of the LH IIIB 2 period, the whole area to the south of the Grave Circle was affected by a devastating fire which left the mud bricks of the upper walls calcined from the heat (K.A. Wardle, 'A group of LH IIIB 2 pottery from within the Citadel at Mycenae', Annual of the British School at Athens, 68 (1973) 297-348).

Following this destruction, which may well have affected the whole Citadel, rebuilding followed in the LH III C period using some of the earlier walls and adding new ones to form rather insubstantial buildings, which were replaced a number of times. Finally, occupation of the Citadel was so reduced that a number of Sub Mycenaean and Protogeometric burials were made within the walls - returning to the first use of some six hundred years earlier (V.R. d'A. Desborough, 'Late Burials at Mycenae', Annual of the British School at Athens, 68 (1973) 87-101).

Although some slight traces of occupation have been found which date to the Archaic period, it was not until the citadel wall was repaired in the 3rd century BC period and a flourishing Hellenistic community occupied the Mycenae Acropolis and surrounding area, that this area was once more intensively used. The remains of a well planned group of buildings with shallow tanks and basins for some semi-industrial process, perhaps dying cloth, immediately overlie the Mycenaean debris. 

West slope The Prehistoric Cemetery
Cult Centre  Grave Circle A
Room with the Fresco Complex   South House
Temple Complex Hellenistic
Mycenae index page Publication

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