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The Greek Dark Ages was the period of Greek history from the end of the Mycenaean palatial civilization, around 1100 BC, to the beginning of the Archaic age, around 750 BC. Archaeological evidence shows a widespread collapse of Bronze Age civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean world at the outset of the period, as the great palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or abandoned. At around the same time, the Hittite civilization also suffered serious disruption, with cities from Troy to Gaza being destroyed. In Egypt, the New Kingdom fell into disarray, leading to the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt. Following the collapse, there were fewer, smaller settlements, suggesting widespread famine and depopulation. In Greece, the Linear B script used by Mycenaean bureaucrats to write the Greek language ceased to be used, and the Greek alphabet did not develop until the beginning of the archaic period. The decoration on Greek pottery after about 1100 BC lacks the figurative decoration of Mycenaean ware and is restricted to simpler, generally geometric styles (1000–700 BC).
|Geographical range||Greek mainland and Aegean Sea|
|Dates||c. 1050 BC – c. 750 BC|
|Characteristics||Destruction of settlements and collapse of the socioeconomic system|
|Preceded by||Mycenaean Greece, Minoan civilization|
|Followed by||Archaic Greece|
Part of a series on the
|History of Greece|
It was previously thought that all contact was lost between mainland Hellenes and foreign powers during this period, yielding little cultural progress or growth. But archaeologist Alex Knodell considers that artifacts from excavations at Lefkandi on the Lelantine Plain in Euboea in the 1980s "revealed that some parts of Greece were much wealthier and more widely connected than traditionally thought, as a monumental building and its adjacent cemetery showed connections to Cyprus, Egypt, and the Levant as markers of elite status and authority, much as they had been in previous periods", and this shows that significant cultural and trade links with the east, particularly the Levant coast, developed from c. 900 BC onwards. Additionally, evidence has emerged of the new presence of Hellenes in sub-Mycenaean Cyprus and on the Syrian coast at Al-Mina.
During the Dark Ages of Greece, the old major settlements were abandoned (with the notable exception of Athens), and the population dropped dramatically. Within these three hundred years, the people of Greece lived in small groups that moved constantly in accordance with their new pastoral lifestyle and livestock needs, while they left no written record behind leading to the conclusion that they were illiterate. Later in the Dark Ages (between 950 and 750 BC), Greeks relearned how to write once again, but this time instead of using the Linear B script used by the Mycenaeans, they adopted the alphabet used by the Phoenicians "innovating in a fundamental way by introducing vowels as letters. The Greek version of the alphabet eventually formed the base of the alphabet used for English today."
Life was harsh for the Greeks of the Dark Ages. One major result of the period is the deconstruction of the old Mycenaean economic and social structures. The strict class hierarchies and hereditary rule were forgotten, and gradually replaced with new socio-political institutions that eventually allowed for the rise of democracy in 5th c. BC Athens. Notable events from the Dark Ages period that mark the transition to Classical Antiquity include the first Olympics, in 776 BC, and the composition of the Homeric epics the Iliad and the Odyssey.
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