Middle Helladic Period of Greece

The typical MH site is located on the top of a rocky hill or eminence.

In contrast to the dispersed settlement pattern of the Korakou culture in the EH II period, that of the MH period seems to be a nucleated one with a relatively low overall site density. MH culture is at home throughout the Peloponnese and central Greece (including sites on the interior of Aetolia such as Thermon) as far north as the Spercheios River valley. MH ceramic imports are common in the northern Cyclades and in Thessaly, occasional in coastal Macedonia and Troy VI, and rare but present in the southern Cyclades and Crete. Malthi in Messenia is the only site to have been more or less completely excavated, but Lerna V will be the type site when it is fully published. Although the pottery from Kolonna VII-IX on Aegina consists overwhelmingly of standard MH types, the settlement there is sufficiently different from any known MH site on the Mainland in terms of its size and wealth that it should perhaps be considered in a special category, neither MH nor Middle Cycladic but rather intermediate between the two, much as Ayia Irini on Keos is during the EBA.

In Greece, the Middle Helladic period begins with the wide-scale emergence of the Minyan Ware, which may be directly related to the people whom ancient Greek historians called Minyans; a group of monochrome burnished pottery from Middle Helladic (and EH III) sites was conventionally dubbed "Minyan" ware by Troy's discoverer Heinrich Schliemann. Until about 1960, Gray Minyan ware was often identified as the pottery of northern invaders who destroyed Early Helladic civilization ca. 1900 BCE and introduced Middle Helladic material culture into the Greek peninsula[1]; excavations at Lerna have revealed the development of pottery styles to have been continuous. In general, painted pottery decors are rectilinear and abstract until Middle Helladic III, when Cycladic and Minoan influences inspire a variety of curvilinear and even representational motifs.

The Middle Helladic period corresponds in time to the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. Settlements draw more closely together and tend to be sited on hilltops. Middle Helladic sites are located throughout the Peloponnese and central Greece (including sites in the interior of Aetolia such as Thermon) as far north as the Spercheios River valley. Malthi in Messenia is the only Middle Helladic site to have been thoroughly excavated, but Lerna V will be the type site when it is fully published (Rutter).

Two major cultural and artistic shifts occurred in the Middle Helladic period; foreign invaders known today as the "Minyans" entered Greece , and the pottery wheel came into use. The potter's wheel, which arrived in Greece in about 2000 BCE, had been invented about 2000 years earlier in Mesopotamia. As a result of this new technology (and possibly due to influence by the foreign invaders), a new pottery type evolved from the simple, earlier types, possibly brought to Greece by the new arrivals evolved from the simple, earlier types; Minyan Ware was an undecorated but highly polished painted ware with a somewhat sharp-edged profile that seems to have been based on metal vessels. Made on the fast wheel, Minyan Ware is found in monochrome grey, black, yellow, and red, and has a distinctive soapy feel. Contemporary with Minyan Ware , but very different in almost every way, is the dark-on-light, handbuilt Matt-Painted Ware, decorated with simple geometric designs and, later, more naturalistic motifs. This ware may have been introduced by foreigners as well. In contrast to the fine fabric of Minyan ware, Matt-Painted Ware tends toward the course and chunky. Despite the innovations in pottery and arrival of the Minyans, life in Greece did not change much during the Middle Helladic period; farmers still tended their fields in the old ways and settlements remained small.