The Iklaina Archaeological Project

The transition from a world without states to a world where the state is the dominant political institution is one of the most fascinating chapters in human history.  The earliest recorded states in western civilization emerged in ancient Greece, during the second millennium BC.  The purpose of the Iklaina Archaeological Project (IKAP)   is to investigate the processes by which states and governments emerged in Greece and the western world.

Situated at a strategic location overlooking the Ionian Sea, Iklaina appears to have been an important capital city of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1600-1100 BC), a period also known as “Mycenaean” and famous for such mythical sagas as the Trojan War.  Through the systematic and interdisciplinary investigation of Iklaina, we seek to shed new light on the mechanisms that led to the formation of the Mycenaean state of Pylos and to generate cross-cultural models that help us to understand the processes of state formation around the world.

The Iklaina Archaeological Project is conducted under the auspices of the Athens Archaeological Society and the direction of Professor Michael Cosmopoulos of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

The project has already produced unexpected finds in the form of monumental buildings that may belong to a Mycenaean palace, Cyclopean walls, frescoes, pottery, metal finds, and administrative records in the form of a Linear B tablet.  These surprising discoveries challenge the current model  of  chiefdom-to-state evolution and suggest that until now we had been missing an important piece of the puzzle: the new evidence suggests that  bureaucracy and literacy appeared earlier than what was previously thought and that they were not restricted to the major palatial centers.   The interaction between Iklaina and the neighboring Palace of Nestor is crucial in understanding how a two-tiered form of government, with central and district capitals, was formed.