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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

F. B. Tarbell, A History of Ancient Greek Art

Prehistoric Art in Greece

The "bee-hive" tombs

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Next to the walls of fortification the most numerous early remains of the builder's art in Greece are the "bee-hive" tombs of which many examples have been discovered in Argolis, Laconia, Attica, Boeotia, Thessaly, and Crete. At Mycenae alone there are eight now known, all of them outside the citadel. The largest and most imposing of these, and indeed of the entire class, is the one commonly referred to by the misleading name of the "Treasury of Atreus." Fig 26 gives a section through this tomb.

A straight passage, A B, flanked by walls of ashlar masonry and open to the sky, leads to a doorway, B. This doorway, once closed with heavy doors, was framed with an elaborate aichitectural composition, of which only small fragments now exist and these widely dispersed in London, Berlin, Carlsruhe, Munich, Athens, and Mycenae itself. In the decoration of this facade rosettes and running spirals played a conspicuous part, and on either side of the doorway stood a column which tapered downwards and was ornamented with spirals arranged in zigzag bands.

This downward-tapering column, so unlike the columns of classic times, seems to have been in common use in Mycenaean architecture. Inside the doors comes a short passage, B C, roofed by two huge lintel blocks, the inner one of which is estimated to weigh 132 tons. The principal chamber, D, which is embedded in the hill, is circular in plan, with a lower diameter of about forty-seven feet. Its wall is formed of horizontal courses of stone, each pushed further inward than the one below it, until the opening was small enough to be covered by a single stone.


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