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Textual and Archaeological Evidence for Late Bronze Age Lesbos, Mycenaean Hegemony, and the Name of a Great King of the Achaeans

Annette Teffeteller

It has long been clear that the Linear B tablets will not provide us with any evidence for international relations of the Mycenaean kingdoms with other great powers of the period since the tablets preserve records of only the lowest levels of administration of the local centres in which they are found, diplomatic records having evidently been kept on perishable materials which have not survived. The Hittite archives, however, have already yielded extremely important, if frustratingly fragmentary, evidence regarding relations of the Anatolians with the Mycenaeans, and additional finds, not yet published, promise further illumination. This textual evidence is invaluable in supplementing and in some instances counterbalancing the archaeological evidence or lack thereof pertaining to the Mycenaeans and their interactions with the Anatolians.

   The first concern of this paper is the linguistic and cultural identity of the population of Lesbos in the Late Bronze Age. The Hittite documents provide compelling indications that Lesbos was a Greek possession already in the 15th century B.C. The documents also provide evidence that Lesbos was contested in the 13th century, seized by Western Anatolians subservient to the Hittite king and retaken for the Greeks by their Anatolian allies. Subsequently Greek control of the island was evidently uninterrupted down to the Archaic period and beyond. And yet the archaeological evidence indicates that Lesbos was thoroughly Anatolian in culture throughout these periods. While the literary history of Lesbos from the Archaic period indicates a Greek heritage, the material evidence throughout the LBA and EIA, as shown by Spencer (1995) and reaffirmed by Rose (2008), suggests an Anatolian heritage. It is the documentary evidence preserved in the Hittite archives that allows us to synthesize these conflicting indications and see Lesbos in its fully integrated position between East and West.

   We may look to the Hittite documents as well for further evidence pertaining to the 2nd-millennium Mycenaean Greeks; indeed the tablets offer clues even for ascertaining the name of the Great King of the Achaeans in the early 13th century, with implications for our reconstruction of Mycenaean hegemony in the later periods of the LBA.

   Key documents include the ‘Kagamuna’ letter (KUB 26.91; cf. Starke apud Latacz 2004; Teffeteller forthcoming); the Manapa-Tarhunta letter (KUB 19.5 + KBo 19.79); and the Tawagalawa letter (KUB 14.3; cf. Miller 2010; Heinhold-Krahmer et al forthcoming).

Session/Panel Title

Lesbos and Anatolia: Linguistic, Archaeological, and Documentary Evidence for Greek-Anatolian Contact in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages

Session/Paper Number


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