Map of Bronze Age Greece

click to see largerThe processing of bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin, was introduced into Greece around 3000 BC, by Indo-European nomadic peoples.

This technological innovation marked the beginning of the Cycladic and Minoan civilizations, which overlapped with the mainland Mycenaean civilization.

The Cycladic civilization (named for the eponymous island group in the central Aegean Sea) was a highly developed maritime trading civilization, with trade links to Asia Minor, mainland Greece, Crete, north Africa and Europe.

It is famous for the figurines carved by Parian and Naxian marble, believed to depict the Great Mother, as did earlier Neolithic statuettes. Bronze and obsidian weapons and tools, gold jewelry, stone and clay vases and pots, were among the other finds from this civilization, which is divided into Early, Middle and Late Periods (3000-2000 BC;2000-1500 BC;1500-1100 BC).

Cycladic civilization was influenced by both the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. Also beginning around 3000 BC, the Minoan civilization is also divided into three periods, with almost exactly the same dates as the Cycladic civilization, reaching it peak during the middle period, from 2100-1500 BC.

It is noted for its exceptional frescoes, painted pottery, and metalwork. It is believed that this civilization centered in Crete but with colonies in the Cyclades, declined with the commercial and military competition of the mainland Mycenaean civilization, and that it ended with the disastrous eruption of the volcano on the island of Thira (Santorini), though the date of the latter occurrence has now been pushed back by scholars to around 1600 BC (from the previously agreed upon date of 1450 BC).

The rise of the Mycenaean civilization, with its first period from around 1900-1100 BC and its peak between 1500 and 1200 BC, coincided with the decline of the Minoan civilization.

The Mycenaeans were also known as the Achaeans. Mycenaean civilization was marked by heavily fortified city states at Mycenae, Tiryns, Korinth, and Pylos, whereas Minoan palace complexes were unfortified.

Beautifully wrought gold jewelry and masks, and beautifully constructed 'tholos' tombs, are among the best known works of this civilization. Records were kept in a script known as Linear B, and worship was focussed on gods which foreshadowed the latter Greek pantheon (unlike the earlier Mother Goddess worship of the other two civilizations mentioned here.

The Mycenaean civilization is widely believed to have ended with the Dorian invasions during the 12th century BC.