A career in archaeology in Greece must be like driving a snow plow in Buffalo, New York – job security is no problem. There are enough ruins scattered around the country to keep Indiana Jones busy for 25 sequels.
Athens, in particular, is home to a number of intriguing sites, and thanks to early Athenian intellectuals, good historical records survive to document their culture. But not all early Greek cultures are so easy to unravel.
The Minoan Culture of Crete as well as the Mycenaean Culture from the Peloponnesos both vanished without leaving behind any clear clues as to why.
What they did leave behind, other than questions for scholars, were beautiful, sophisticated artifacts. Normally, these exceptional pieces were buried with the owner; the fact that they were made of gold or ceramic aided in their survival.
The Archaeology Museum in Athens has an extensive collection from both groups. Many of these relics are world famous and instantly recognizable (if you’ve ever taken an art history course that is). A prime example is the golden funerary mask, known as the “Mask of Agamemnon” – which modern academics believe was actually created before his time.
The Mycenaeans were know for their wonderful frescoes, and the “Lady of Mycenae” is a romantic example.
Both of these groups flourished for hundreds of years. They had complex, successful societies, and considerable influence well beyond their borders. Then, they just vanished. Theories for their demise range from competition from other groups, to earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. The debate continues, and the mystery remains an unsolved puzzle.