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Archaeology of Ancient Greece

Archaeology is the scientific study of the remains of a culture. Most of these remains lie buried in the soil. They include abandoned communities, graves, and garbage dumps. Sometimes a natural disaster such as a volcano or a flood will cover a site which can be uncovered later.

Scientists carefully study the terrain to find likely sites. Then they
dig, carefully removing the soil, and even sifting it so even small remains can be studied. Sometimes all that remains of an artifact is a hole that it occupies. If the hole is carefully filled with plaster the shape of the artifact can be preserved. Shattered pots can be reconstructed. A map of the site documents the location of all objects found.

Dates of objects can be determined by the style of the object, the level of its recovery in the soil, and its proximity to other objects. Tree rings can be counted and used to reconstruct weather patterns. Chemical analysis and atomic radiation dating can also be used.

A written record can be confirmed or dis-confirmed with archaeology. In the case of the Trojan war, evidence of a battle exists, but the date of the remains differ by some 20 years from the written record.

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey have stimulated many archaeological studies but the knowledge gained is confusing compared to what is revealed in Homer.

In the Iliad Homer lists a number of mortal women:

  • Astyoche — “Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Ares, whom, in the palace of Actor, son of Azeus, Astyoche, the honoured maiden, conceived of mighty Ares, when she had entered into her upper chamber;” Homer, Iliad, 2.513
  • Hippodameia — “Polypoetes, staunch in fight, son of Peirithous, whom immortal Zeus begat— even him whom glorious Hippodameia conceived to Peirithous” Homer, Iliad, 2.741
  • Hippodameia — “Then the dear son of Aesyetes, fostered of Zeus, the warrior Alcathous—son by marriage was he to Anchises, and had married the eldest of his daughters, Hippodameia, [430] whom her father and queenly mother heartily loved in their hall, for that she excelled all maidens of her years in comeliness, and in handiwork, and in wisdom; wherefore the best man in wide Troy had taken her to wife” Homer, Iliad, 13.426
  • Polydora — “Menesthius of the flashing corselet, son of Spercheius, the heaven-fed river. Him did fair Polydora, daughter of Peleus, bear to tireless Spercheius, a woman couched with a god, but in name she bare him to Borus, son of Perieres, who openly wedded her, when he had given gifts of wooing past counting.” Homer, Iliad, 16.173
  • Polymele — “Eudorus was captain, the son of a girl unwed, and him did Polymele, fair in the dance, daughter of Phylas, bear. Of her the strong Argeiphontes became enamoured, when his eyes had sight of her amid the singing maidens, in the dancing-floor of Artemis, huntress of the golden arrows and the echoing chase. Forthwith then he went up into her upper chamber, and lay with her secretly, even Hermes the helper,1 and she gave him a goodly son, Eudorus, pre-eminent in speed of foot and as a warrior. But when at length Eileithyia, goddess of child-birth, had brought him to the light, and he saw the rays of the sun, then her did the stalwart and mighty Echecles, son of Actor, lead to his home, when he had given countless gifts of wooing, and Eudorus did old Phylas nurse and cherish tenderly, loving him dearly, as he had been his own son.” Homer, Iliad, 16.179
  • Rhene — “Medon marshalled them, the bastard son of Oïleus, whom Rhene bare to Oïleus, sacker of cities.” Homer, Iliad, 2.727

Why would Homer include this kind of information unless it was history. And yet there is little archaeological information to substantiate this.

Timeline of Ancient Greece:

  • 7000-3300 BCE — Neolithic and Copper Age, The age before history
  • 3300-1050 BCE — Bronze Age, The age of heroes creates stories
  • 1050-750 BCE — Dark Age, History as told by poets
  • 750-479 BCE — Archaic Age, History is writeen down for the first time
  • 479-336 BCE — Classical Age, The beginnings of scientific history
  • 336-30 BCE — Hellenistic Age, Greek culture and its history are spread


  • Bahn, Paul G./ Tidy, Bill (Ilt)/ Bahn, Paul
  • Archaeology : A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
    xford University Press 
    Publication Date: April 2000
    Dimensions: 7.09" x 4.77" x 0.33"
    Type: Hardcover 
    Category: Social Science/Archaeology
    ISBN: 0192853791
  • Bahn, Paul G. (Edt)/ Bahn, Paul G.,Archaeology Detectives : How We
    Know What We Know About the Past
    , Reader’s Digest Association, May 2001,
    10.67″ x 7.99″ x 0.94″, Hardcover, Category: Social Science/Archaeology,
    ISBN: 076210306X
  • Nelson, Sarah Milledge (Edt)/ Rosen-Ayalon, Myriam (Edt)
    In Pursuit of Gender : Worldwide Archaeological Approaches (Gender and Archaeology Series, V. 1),
    ISBN: 0759100861
  • Bawden, Garth (Edt)/ Reycraft, Richard (Edt), Environmental Disaster
    and the Archaeology of Human Response (Anthropological Papers (Maxwell Museum
    of Anthropology), No. 7,), University of New Mexico, Maxwell Museum of A,
    February 2001,
    11.01" x 8.58" x 0.66",
    Category: Social Science/Anthropology - General,
    ISBN: 0912535148.
  • Sorensen, Marie Louise Stig, Gender Archaeology, Polity Press, July
    2000, 9.3″ x 6.27″ x 0.92″, hardcover, Category: Social Science/Archaeology,
    ISBN: 0745620140
  • Thomas, Julian (Edt), Interpretive Archaeology : A Reader
    Continuum International Publishing Group 
    Publication Date: September 2000
    Dimensions: 9.59" x 6.64" x 1.26"
    Type: Paperback 
    Category: Social Science/Archaeology
    ISBN: 0718501926
  • Renfrew, Colin (Edt)/ Zubrow, Ezra B.W. (Edt)/ Renfrew, Colin
    Ancient Mind : Elements of Cognitive Archaeology (New Directions in Archaeology)
    Cambridge University Press 
    Publication Date: May 1994
    Dimensions: 9.68" x 7.48" x 0.45"
    Type: Paperback 
    Category: Social Science/Archaeology
    ISBN: 052145620

Archaeology and the Study of Ancient Greek Culture

Questions and Answers

Question: I writing an essay for my world archaeology class and I choose the topic of women in the classical world , it sounds like an essay to do essay but I have to have archaeological evidence in the essay.

Answer: You may need to reduce your topic because it is so large. The Greeks produced a profusion of artifacts. And they did not ignore illustrations of women. In fact the images of women in society on pottery are plentiful. You might want to study images of women shopping. Because ancient Greek women were supposed to stay home there are supposed to be no such images. But I doubt it. It is hard to believe that ancient Greek women left shopping entirely to their husbands. You could start by looking at greek pottery in general and see what you can find. Look at the page Click here
for example. You have to be careful to study the pictures to see what the women are doing. Some conclusions can be drawn about ancient Greek Women from these images. The range of dates of the pots are fairly narrow and so you really focus on a limited time frame. But you have to consider carefully many factors. It would seem, consistent with the theory that the women stayed home and did not shop, that the images were constructed for men and the women illustrated are appearing as the men would want them to appear.