Mycenae, an ancient city on a small hill in the Peloponnese region of Greece, was the most important center of Mycenaean civilization. Among the city's architectural achievements, the Tomb of Mycenae, also known as the Treasury of Atreus, stands out as an impressive example of the Mycenaean tholos or beehive tomb.

It is actually the largest and most elaborate tomb of its kind and dates back to the Aegean Bronze Age!

So in this article we will not focus so much on the archeological site of Mycenae. We will only analyze one of the most important finds: the tomb. We will discuss its discovery, the finds, its archeological significance and the legends associated with it. By the end of this read, you will know everything you need to know before visiting this site. Shall we begin?

Key Takeaways

  • Mycenae Tomb, also known as the Treasury of Atreus, represents the zenith of Mycenaean tholos tomb architecture during the Late Bronze Age.
  • Despite myths attributing the tomb to Agamemnon and Atreus, historical evidence associates it more closely with the Mycenaean civilization in the Peloponnesian Peninsula.
  • The intricate structure and artifacts found within the tomb offer valuable insight into the culture, beliefs, and power dynamics of the Mycenaean civilization.

Treasury of Atreus: The Discovery of the Mycenaean Tomb 

The Treasury of Atreus, also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon, is a large tholos or beehive tomb constructed between 1300 and 1250 BCE in Mycenae, Greece. This monumental tomb represents the Mycenaean civilization that thrived during the Late Bronze Age in Greece. 

Notably, the tomb has piqued the interest of archaeologists due to its size and location, which differs from other tholos tombs at Mycenae.

The discovery of Mycenae's archaeological site in general is credited to Heinrich Schliemann, a German businessman also known for his work on the ruins of Troy. The same is true for the Mycenaean tomb we’re exploring in this article. 

Ancient City of Troy in Turkey Credits Leonid Andronov Canva

Ancient City of Troy in Turkey - Credits: Leonid Andronov/ Canva

Initial Findings and Excavations

Schliemann began excavating the Mycenae site in 1874, where he uncovered a series of tombs and artifacts that provided significant insight into the Mycenaean civilization. Some of his most famous findings include:

  • Grave Circle A: A royal cemetery containing six shaft graves, richly adorned with gold artifacts, weapons, and burial goods
  • Grave Circle B: Another cemetery containing nine graves of lesser importance, revealing social stratification among Mycenaean society

During Schliemann's excavations at Mycenae, he also uncovered the Treasury of Atreus – a massive, corbelled dome structure with an impressive dromos (passageway) leading to the entrance. Built with polished conglomerate masonry, the tomb measures almost 50 feet in diameter and slightly less in height.

In addition to architectural details, Schliemann's discoveries within the Treasury of Atreus shed light on Mycenaean burial practices and the significance they placed on death. Artifacts recovered from the tomb included pottery vessels and figurines, bronze weapons and tools, gold jewelry and burial masks, including the widely-known golden mask of Agamemnon. The mask is currently showcased in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. 

golden mask of agamemnon Credits Antonio Gravate canva

Golden mask of Agamemnon - Credits: Antonio Gravate/ Canva

Although the Treasury of Atreus's true purpose and connection to Agamemnon remain speculative, Schliemann's excavations at Mycenae have provided crucial insights into the beliefs, society, and legacy of the Mycenaean civilization.

The Architectural Marvel of Mycenae Tomb

The Mycenae Tomb is the largest and most elaborate tholos tomb known to have been constructed in the Aegean Bronze Age. The tomb consists of a circular burial chamber, or thalamos, topped with a corbelled dome. The entrance to the tomb is through a long, sloping corridor lined with stone walls.

The diameter of the tomb is almost 50 feet (15 meters), while its height is slightly less, making it an impressive example of Mycenaean architecture. The tomb's walls are built of conglomerate masonry, cut and polished to give the appearance of a true vault.

Engineering Techniques of the Mycenaean Era

The tomb's construction showcases the Mycenaean civilization's engineering brilliance and artistic finesse. Its corbelled dome is built up of overhanging blocks of masonry, which are carefully arranged in a way that each layer slightly projects over the one below, ultimately forming a pointed or false vault. This style of construction is typical of tholos tombs of the era and effectively distributes the weight of the structure.

The pathway leading to the burial chamber is also an engineering marvel, as it had to be dug into the hillside and fortified with retaining walls. The long, sloping passageway is lined with large, finely-cut stone blocks, adding to the tomb's overall structural integrity.

The Significance of the Beehive Shape and Tholos Design

The beehive shape and tholos design of the Mycenae Tomb is not only an architectural masterpiece. It also holds cultural significance. Tholos tombs were used for housing the remains of Mycenaean royalty and important figures. The beehive shape represents the cosmos, with the pointed dome symbolizing the heavenly sphere and the dromos leading to the underworld, emphasizing the tomb's role as a passage between life and death.

In terms of practicality, the beehive shape also provided additional strength and stability to the tomb's structure, as the design effectively distributed the weight of the stones, allowing the construction of such a large and elaborate tomb.

Overall, the Mycenae Tomb is a testament to the engineering prowess and architectural sophistication of the Mycenaean civilization, showcasing their ability to create monumental structures of incredible durability and cultural significance.

The Myths and Legends: Agamemnon and Atreus 

Treasury of atreus at mycenae Greece Credits ankarb Canva

Treasury of atreus at mycenae, Greece - Credits: ankarb/ Canva

In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the king of Mycenae and a central figure in the epic saga of the Trojan War, as well as other tales. He was the son (or grandson) of Atreus, another notable king of Mycenae. These influential characters played significant roles in various Greek legends, particularly during the ancient Mycenaean civilization.

Agamemnon led the Achaeans in the Trojan War and was the brother of Menelaus, who was married to Helen—the catalyst for the conflict. Agamemnon himself was married to Clytemnestra, which added to the complexity and tragedy of these epic stories.

Atreus, on the other hand, was the father (or grandfather) of Agamemnon and Menelaus and played an essential role in the legendary feud with his brother Thyestes. Their bitter rivalry for the throne of Mycenae was marked by murder, deception, and political intrigue.

Greek poet Homer immortalized Agamemnon and Atreus in his literary works, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. Moreover, their legends were remembered through the influence of the Mycenaean civilization and the enactment of various hero cults.

Connection Between the Legends and the Mycenae Tomb

The famous Mycenae tomb, often referred to as the Treasury of Atreus or the Tomb of Agamemnon, signifies the significant link between the myths of Agamemnon and Atreus and the archaeological site of Mycenae itself. 

The tomb stands out for its monumental size and elaborate construction. Interestingly, the Treasury of Atreus is located away from other royal tholos tombs, sparking curiosity and speculation about its distinct purpose.

Throughout the years, this tomb has captured the imagination of scholars, archaeologists, and historians alike. Its nomenclature is deeply rooted in the stories of Agamemnon and Atreus, showcasing the cultural significance of these legendary characters to the Mycenaean civilization and its distinct architectural and historical heritage.

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Inside the Mycenae Tomb: Artifacts and Relics

Inside the Mycenae Tomb, archaeologists have discovered a wealth of artifacts thought to be around 3,300 years old, providing a rare glimpse into Mycenaean culture. Among the items found are grave goods such as ceramics, jewelry, bronze weapons, and gold objects. 

What's truly remarkable about the tomb is that it has remained untouched, offering a unique and authentic look at the items left behind by the Mycenaeans.

The Significance of the Relics to Our Understanding of Mycenaean Culture

These relics hold great significance as they provide valuable insights into the Mycenaean culture during the Late Bronze Age. For instance, the presence of both Mycenaean and Minoan artifacts within a Griffin Warrior's grave highlights how these two civilizations likely co-existed and were influenced by one another.

Moreover, the artifacts help shed light on Mycenaean funerary practices and beliefs, and their social status. The opulent items left in the tomb indicate the high social standing of those buried there. Additionally, the presence of personal items such as weapons and jewelry suggests a belief in an afterlife or an intention to honor the deceased.

Preservation and Display of the Artifacts Today

The preservation of these artifacts is essential to ensure that they remain available for future study and to increase public understanding of Mycenaean culture. Currently, many of the discovered artifacts are displayed in various archaeological museums.

For example, the Treasury of Atreus, a well-preserved example of a tholos tomb from the Mycenaean era, showcases Mycenaean art and craftsmanship through its construction and treasures that were once housed within. 

The ceramics, gold objects, and other significant artifacts offer insights into the life and death of the ancient Mycenaean civilization. Through these displays, we can gain a deeper understanding of their cultural practices, artistic preferences, and remarkable artistry.

Visiting the Mycenae Tomb: What You Need to Know

When planning a visit to the Mycenae UNESCO site, it's essential to be aware of the opening hours. During the winter period, the site is open from 8:30 to 15:30, while in summer, the following schedule applies:

  • April-August: 08:00-20:00
  • 1st September-15th September: 08:00-19:30

To get there from Athens, the easiest way is by car or book an archaeological minivan tour, which takes about two hours. If you don't have your own vehicle, you can rent a car.

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Visiting the Tomb: Things to Keep in Mind

The archaeological site of Mycenae is divided into two main parts: the Tholos tomb (also known as the Treasury of Atreus) and the Lion Gate citadel, which houses the ruins of a palace, a cemetery, and a museum. When visiting the Treasury of Atreus, it's essential to:

  1. Stay on designated pathways: Avoid straying off the marked trails to protect the integrity of the site and ensure your safety.
  2. Refrain from touching artifacts: Help preserve the artifacts by not touching them.
  3. Be respectful: Treat the site with the reverence it deserves as an ancient cultural landmark.

Accessibility and Facilities Available at the Site

The Mycenae site offers basic facilities, such as restrooms and a small café for refreshments. It is essential to note that the site's uneven terrain and steep steps may pose challenges for visitors with mobility issues.


The Mycenae tomb holds great cultural importance and historical significance. As an integral part of the Mycenaean civilization, these tombs provide valuable insights into the customs, beliefs, and social hierarchy of the period.

Some key features of these tombs include their construction using chamber tombs and tholos tombs. While chamber tombs were cut into bedrock and used throughout the Late Bronze Age, the Treasury of Atreus is an example of a large tholos tomb, dating from approximately 1300-1250 BCE.

In addition to the tomb, the archaeological site of Mycenae offers a wealth of discoveries, including ancient palaces, artifacts, and other structures, such as the famous Lion Gate. The site has been consistently excavated, shedding light on the lifestyle and customs of the Bronze Age people who inhabited the region.

In summary, the Mycenae tomb represents a significant cultural and historical milestone in the development of Aegean civilizations. Its enduring presence provides an opportunity for both scholars and visitors to explore and appreciate the achievements of the Mycenaean people.


What are the opening hours of the Mycenaean tombs?

As the opening hours for visiting the Mycenaean tombs may differ depending on the season and site, it is best to check with the official archaeological site before planning your visit.

Can you provide information on the architecture of Mycenaean tombs?

The Mycenaean tombs are known for their distinctive architectural style, with the tholos tomb being the most well-known type. The tholos is a circular, beehive-shaped tomb with a corbelled roof, built below ground level. Another type of tomb is the chamber tomb, which consists of several rooms carved into the hillside and sealed by a stone blocking the entrance.

What significant artifacts have been discovered in the Mycenaean tombs?

Mycenaean tombs have yielded numerous artifacts that provide insights into the art, culture, and society of the Mycenaean civilization. Gold funeral masks, intricate frescoes, pottery, weapons, and jewelry are among the many valuable items that have been discovered from these tombs.

How did the Mycenaeans use their tombs for burial practices?

The Mycenaeans buried their dead in multiple ways, including interring them in chamber tombs, tholos tombs, or burying them in grave circles within their cities. These burial practices reflected their beliefs about death and the afterlife, as well as their social and economic hierarchy. 

What is the historical significance of the Tomb of Agamemnon?

The Tomb of Agamemnon, also called the Treasury of Atreus, is a Mycenaean tholos tomb situated at Mycenae. Constructed around 1250 BCE, it is considered one of the most impressive examples of Mycenaean architecture. The tomb is named after the mythical Agamemnon, who led the Greeks during the Trojan War, but the tomb's true occupant remains unknown.