Jarrett Farmer, Ancient Studies
"The Megaron at Pylos: A New Interpretation"
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael Lane
Expected Graduation Date: May 2010
Linear B, an early syllabic form of Greek, provides little more than economic minutiae about Bronze Age society in the Aegean. From the Linear B tablets, Mycenaean society looks like a bureaucracy run by scribes preoccupied with tribute, inventory, and redistribution lists. The texts contain few explicit references to political, religious, or environmental life. Scholars then must turn to evidence such as building ruins, pottery, frescos, seals, jewelry, metalwork, and mortuary remains for a more complete reconstruction of Mycenaean life. One particular architectural form widespread in Mycenaean citadels (as at Tiryns, Pylos, Mycenae, and Knossos) is the “megaron:” an axially symmetric room with a large central hearth, an anteroom, and a courtyard. While archaeologists commonly assume these rooms to have been political audience chambers, a different conclusion emerges when one scrutinizes the archaeological data from the megaron at Pylos. This summer I will excavate a settlement in the Pylos region called Iklaina, and through artifact analysis, digging, survey, museum work, iconographic study, and examination of the relevant literature, I intend to assemble and put forward evidence that, instead of having been a “throne room,” the Pylos megaron was in fact the regional hub for ceremonial feasting. If the Mycenaean elite maintained authority through ritual eating and drinking, and not exclusively by warfare, trade, and diplomacy, we would have to rethink what we know about power in Mycenaean society.