“Treasury of Atreus”

“Treasury of Atreus”

Date ca. 1300-1250 BCE

Movement Aegean | Late Helladic III

Location Mycenae, Greece


Over the centuries, the tombs of the Mycenaean elite became increasingly more grand, eventually resulting in structures known as tholoi, or beehive tombs; set at ground level, dromoi of ashlar stone lead to elaborate portals. Here Mycenae, the door slopes inward, a distinctly Egyptian characteristic, while columns of Egyptian marble would have flanked either side. The relieving triangle atop the door would have been concealed with decorative marble bands.


For the interior, architects employed a corbeled vault, which, in the round, effectively forms the beehive-like shape. Artificial hills of earth were built atop the structure, adding reinforcement to keep the corbeled stones from springing outward. A small side room would have been used for other burials, perhaps of the deceased’s family.


The scale of the resulting interior is impressive for its time—48 feet in diameter and 43 feet high. Architects would not create a circular interior like this for over a millennium later when Roman builders constructed the Pantheon.