Subject: elite warrior
Setting: Late Helladic, Greece/Aegean mid 2nd millenium BC
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Chadwick 1976 p159
"Minoan society in Crete seems to have been relatively peaceful; military scenes are not common in art, and the latest frescoes from Thera are unusual in showing lines of armed troops and a fleet of warships. No Minoan towns seems to have been fortified. But with the coming of the Greeks to Crete in the second half of the fifteenth century, a change comes over the pacific face of society. Archaeologists were at first puzzled by the discovery of tombs of this period in the neighborhood of Knossos, which they named 'warrior tombs' from the weapons and armour discovered in them. This impression is now supported by the Linear B tablets at Knossos which list military equipment, though not apparently armed forces. Greek rule in Crete is distinguished by this warlike aspect."
"Anthony Snodgrass referred to the period between Late Helladic II and Late Helladic IIIA2/IIIB (or ca. 1500 to 1300 BC) as the Mycenaean 'Age of Plate' (Snodgrass 1965, p. 106). It should be stressed that the term 'Age of Plate' is mostly based on limited evidence from several Late Bronze Age palatial centres from Crete and Southern and Central Greece (but note the wide-ranging survey of European body-armour in Mödlinger 2017). Some high-ranking warriors in these regions may have been equipped with heavy armour during this period, but these will almost certainly have been a minority.
"In any event, we can use the “Age of Plate” as a convenient shorthand for now. Chronologically, it follows the so-called 'Shaft Grave' period, named after the burials unearthed in Mycenae’s Grave Circles A and B, which date to the very end of the Middle Helladic period and Late Helladic I. Again, the evidence we have is limited, but the challenge of archaeology is to do the best you can with what you have on hand."
* Müller/Kunter 1984 p16
"In mykenischer Zeit waren derartige Glockenhelme ... aus Leder, manche Lederhelme mit Bronzeplätten oder Eberzähnen belegt."
* Brouwers 2020-06-26 online (describing the Dendra panoply)
"The panoply consists of several different pieces (Åström et al. 1977, pp. 28-34). There are two plates that protected the torso: a back plate and a breast plate, which essentially encased the entire upper body. Along the bottom edge of the cuirass were fixed a further six bronze plates: three in front and three behind. A throat guard protected the wearer’s neck, an area where warriors were particularly vulnerable to judge from Aegean art of virtually all periods. Two triangular pieces were attached to the front of the breastplate to further protect the chest.
"The panoply also included two objects that were virtually identical to the object retrieved by Persson from tomb no. 8 and identified as a “helmet”. It was obvious from their location relative to the rest of the panoply that they were not helmets, but rather shoulder guards or pauldrons. Two pieces of bronze armour were attached to the underside of these shoulder guards to protect the upper arms.
"The tomb also yielded a single bronze greave. Diane Fortenberry has argued that single greaves were used to indicate rank in Mycenaean Greece, so it is possible that the tomb only ever had one greave (Fortenberry 1991). It is not clear whether the greave belonged to the left or right leg.
"There are also several bronze fragments from the tomb that may have belonged to other pieces of armour, including, perhaps, a second greave. Another flat piece of bronze has been interpreted as a forearm guard, which means that the panoply covered almost every inch of the wearer, especially if the leftover pieces of bronze belonged to a second greave and perhaps also a second forearm guard.
"Armour like the panoply from Dendra is usually made to fit a specific person, and it stands to reason that it belonged to one of the bodies that had been interred in the tomb. Many scholars have argued that it was too cumbersome a suit of armour to have been used by anyone except someone associated with a chariot. As Joost Crouwel notes in his book on Bronze Age wheeled vehicles (p. 126, original emphasis):
While it is certainly difficult to visualize a warrior thus equipped marching to and from a battlefield in the Greek summer, it is equally difficult to see him as fighting in a chariot. If we look at contemporary oriental armour, we see that the corselets worn by Asiatic and Egyptian chariot crews are long, flexible, short-sleeved tunics, covered with many scales of bronze or leather. This type of armour […] is much less cumbersome than the Dendra panoply.
Crouwel argues that the armour would have made it difficult for the wearer to stretch a bow. “Instead,” he argues (ibid., p. 126):
he would have fought with a sword, a dagger or thrusting spear, all close-range weapons which are useless from a moving chariot […]. Such weapons, together with the metal greaves [sic] that were found in the Dendra panoply tomb and which seem a peculiarly Aegean piece of armour (they are not known in the Near East or Egypt), must have been designed for fighting on foot.
Crouwel suggests that the Dendra warrior would have been driven to the battlefield by his charioteer, where he would dismount to fight on foot. This means that he would not have needed to wear himself out walking long distances, instead driving to exactly where he had to be to face his opponents.
"The armour may also not have been as cumbersome as is often assumed, as experiments with a replica have shown. Since the Dendra tomb contained a set of two swords, Piotr Taracha suggests that whoever wore the cuirass was a swordsman (Taracha 2007, p. 150-151), which seems a reasonable supposition if we assume that the assemblage in the grave is supposed to represent a complete set of equipment for one of the bodies who was buried there. The armour would have made the use of a shield redundant; Taracha even proposes that the owner of the panoply fought with two swords (ibid., pp. 151-152)."