The archaeological site of Mycenae comprises the fortified acropolis and surrounding funerary and habitation sites, which are located mainly to its west and southwest. Most of the visible monuments date to the centre’s great floruit, from 1350 to 1200 BC.
Great Cyclopean walls surround the almost triangular acropolis, which is accessed from the northwest through the famous Lion Gate, the symbol of the Mycenaean rulers’ power. The gate was named after the two opposing lions carved in relief and set into the relieving triangle, a typical feature of Mycenaean architecture, over the door. To the right of the Lion Gate are the remains of a building dubbed the ‘Granary’, because its basement contained carbonized grain. South of the Granary is Grave Circle A, whose six large shaft graves contained numerous gold objects and other works of art.
Beyond this is a series of buildings, possibly the residences of high officials: the House of the Warrior Krater, the Ramp House, the South House and the Citadel House. The citadel’s religious centre, along the south fortification wall, includes the Temple of the Idols, the House of the Frescoes, Tsountas’s House and the Priest’s House. A staircase and a large processional street connected these shrines to the palace.
The palace, symbol of the power of Mycenaean rulers, dominates the citadel’s highest point. It sprawls over artificial terraces and was reached by a large ramp beginning at the Lion Gate. The main palace building includes a large courtyard, a guesthouse and, at its very centre, the Mycenaean megaron. The latter consisted of three parts: a columned porch, a vestibule (prodomos) and the main chamber (domos), which housed the ruler’s throne. The palace also included workshops and storerooms, both related to the palatial monopoly of goods, cult buildings and houses, which probably belonged to high officials.
At the northeast corner of the fortifications is the entrance to the underground spring, built during the third construction phase to safeguard access from the interior of the citadel during sieges. A corbelled corridor leads to the underground cistern located eighteen metres below, outside the fortification walls. Near the entrance to the cistern, to its west, is the citadel’s second gate, the so-called North Gate, of similar construction as the Lion Gate, only smaller.
Outside the fortification walls, west of the Lion Gate, is Grave Circle B, which encloses fourteen shaft-graves. Four of the nine tholos tombs discovered so far at Mycenae are also located in this area. The so-called tombs of the Lions, Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra, and the Treasury of Atreus, further south, illustrate the development of this type of funerary structure, the latter being its most perfect example, with its enormous lintels, imposing vault and richly decorated fa?ade.
Approximately fifty metres south of Grave Circle B, next to the modern asphalt road, are the remains of four buildings, the so-called houses of the Shields, of the Oil-Merchant, of the Sphinxes and the West House. Several inscribed clay tablets discovered in the House of the Oil-Merchant mention workers, oil and perfumes. These indicate that this was probably a workshop specializing in the production of perfumes and perfumed oils, which the Mycenaeans exported.
Traces of the highly developed road network, which connected Mycenae with the other large centres in the area, are still preserved around the citadel. One of these roads with its bridge is visible near the cemetery of the modern village, while a second road along the northern fortification wall still shows tracks made by ancient chariot wheels.