Mycenaean culture flourished on the Greek mainland in the Late Bronze Age, from about 1600 to 1100 BC. The name comes from the site of Mycenae, where the culture was first recognized after the exacavations in 1876 of Heinrich Schliemann (1822-90).
The earliest phase, known as the Shaft Grave Era, was characterised by rich burials, their contents strongly influenced by Minoan culture. From about 1400 BC the Mycenaeans built palaces similar to those of the Minoans, but characteristically centred on a megaron or great hall. Also at this time the huge fortifications of the Mycenaean citadels were first constructed. Three of these citadels, Mycenae, Tiryns and Midea, dominate the Argive plain in the north-eastern Peloponnese - the heart of Mycenaean culture. Rich palaces have also been found at Pylos in the south-western Peloponnese and at Thebes in Boiotia.
Clay tablets from the palaces inscribed in the Linear B script show that the Mycenaeans spoke Greek. The presence of Linear B tablets at Knossos in its latest phase indicates that the Mycenaeans, growing in power and prosperity, took control of Crete around 1450 BC. Thereafter, they moved into previously Minoan spheres of influence, trading widely with lands such as Egypt, the Near East and Italy.