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9 July 2016

Formerly known as Gla but apparently now Glas we have an article in the journal Popular Archaeology – see http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/summer-2016/article/rediscovering-a… … where the site of Glas has recently been reassessed by archaeologists (with more up to date instruments). Glas is the largest Mycenaean site from Bronze Age Greece. It is located in what was known as Boeotia in the marshland of the Kopais Basin. Glas was ten times the size of Tiryns and seven times the size of Mycenae. A vast citadel was built on top of an island like flat topped bedrock outcrop rising out of the plain. It has always been considered to be a massive fort – but that was before the current investigation. It comprises an area of nearly 50 acres and is fortified by a massive cyclopean wall nearly 6m thick (which suffered structural damage at the end of the LB age). The wall follows a natural platform for some 3km.

In the 14th century BC the Kopais Basin was transformed into fertile fields. The marshes were drained by a complex system which included the diversion of six rivers into two canals – right where Glas is situated. The canals were flanked by high embankments 2m high and 30m wide. The Kopais drainage project was a major engineering undertaking and it involved moving 2 million cubic metres of earth. Some 250,000 cubic metres of stone was used to revet the embankments – what could go wrong?

The palaces of Thebes and Archimenos as well as Glas controlled the rich agricultural produce derived from draining the marsh. It made them rich. They produced crops and large amounts of wine which was exported. The Mycenaean civilisation flourished in the 14th and 13th centuries but suffered a major setback in the 12th century – overrun by the sea peoples according to some, civil breakdown by others, or natural disaster which included an earthquake storm according to catastrophists. This article combines all three in the demise of the Mycenaean civilisation – which is being pragmatic if nothing else. The postulated timetable of events doesn't appear to agree with the actual destruction levels – which was a double whammy. It is however the first time I have seen in a mainstream source a mention of an 'earthquake storm' – and something like this was necessary in order to uproot the cyclopean walls and embankments. The idea of an earthquake storm was first suggested by Claude Schaeffer as long ago as 1948 – but in those days catastrophism was unmentionable and it hindered his career thereafter. Since those heady days after WWII archaeologists have refrained from suggesting a normal earthquake let alone an earthquake storm – but here it is in writing (plain as day). However, the author is clever enough to have the earthquake come first and then set in motion all the other explanations – hardship as a result of loss of an agricultural wonderland (why didn't they rebuild it) followed by invasions and the Trojan War as well as a general collapse of civil administration. Fact is the destruction levels are evidence of not just the demise of Glas but of most other Mycenaean sites in Greece and the Agean and in all likelihood the destructions were all part and parcel of the same earthquake storm (and whatever phenomenon that set in motion the storm of earthquakes that broke out across the Late Bronze world from Greece through Anatolia into the Levant and beyond). This is the big picture that is missing from the article – but once an earthquake storm becomes acceptable, who knows – two and two might be put together. 

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