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date: 08 February 2023

Thebes (1), prehistoricfree

Thebes (1), prehistoricfree

  • O. T. P. K. Dickinson


  • Greek Material Culture: Bronze Age

Thebes, on the south edge of the eastern plain of Boeotia, has been one of the major settlements of Greece since the early bronze age, but its prehistoric phases remain relatively poorly known. The oval plateau of the Cadmea (the acropolis or citadel of Thebes) was already extensively occupied in early Helladic II, to which period belong the remains of a ‘corridor house’, an associated fortification wall, and other substantial structures in the centre. An elaborate, originally rich mud-brick and stone tomb on the Ampheion hill to the north may belong to this time, but its date is disputed. Thebes Middle Helladic and early Mycenaean history (see mycenaean civilization) is obscure, although it evidently remained a large settlement. Some relatively well-provided graves belong to the beginning of the Mycenaean period and have interesting links with the shaft graves of Mycenae. By the mid-14th cent. bce Thebes was one of the great centres of the Mycenaean world. Some have argued that it was the capital of the state Ahhiyawā (see J. Latacz, Troy and Homer: towards a Solution of an Old Mystery (2004), 242-3); to judge from references in the Linear B material (see mycenaean language), its control extended at least as far as south Euboea. There is evidence for fortifications, maybe originally early Mycenaean in date, and the very extensive chamber tomb cemetery dates from the 15th cent. bce onwards. Substantial buildings that belong to successive stages of the 14th and 13th cents., some of definitely palatial quality, but including storerooms and jewellery and ivory workshops, have been excavated on the Kadmea, but no unified palace plan has yet been identified. Various destructions can be dated around the beginning, middle and end of the Late Helladic IIIB phase, so from before 1300 to c.1200; to the last belongs a large archive of Linear B tablets (well over 200) found on Pelopidou street in 1994. This and other late finds demonstrate the existence of a palatial administration at Thebes as late as at Mycenae and Pylos, in contradiction of earlier beliefs. Reoccupation is attested on the Pelopidou street site in the 12th cent., and burials in chamber tombs and other graves indicate continued occupation into and through the Early Iron Age, but information is scanty.


  • T. Cullen (ed.), Aegean Prehistory: A review (2001), 340, 350.
  • A. Dakouri-Hild, Annual of the British School at Athens 2001, 81 ff.
  • V. L. Aravantinos, L. Godart, and A. Sacconi, Thèbes: Fouilles de la Cadmée I: Les tablettes en Linéaire B de la Odos Pelopidou: Édition et commentaire (2001).
  • A. Kühr, Als Kadmos nach Boiotien kam (2006).