The first high civilization on European soil, with stately palaces, fine craftsmanship, and writing, developed on the island of Crete.Later, the peoples of the mainland adapted the Cretan civilization to form their own, much as the Romans adapted the civilization of later .
Two important landmarks are fragments of Cretan pottery from the town at weapons and objects such as helmets plated with tusks of wild boar that went out of use before the end of the Aegean Bronze Age.Greek, American, French, and Italian excavators added further knowledge of the Cretan Bronze Age during the years that followed, and American and German expeditions opened new sites on the mainland.Inscribed clay tablets in the script called Linear B, such as those found at Knossos in Crete at the turn of the century, were recovered in ; others have since come to light at Mycenae and elsewhere on the mainland.The belief that the language of these tablets was a very archaic form of Greek was established in 1952 by the English architect and cryptographer Chipped stone tools made by Paleolithic hunters have been found in many parts of mainland Greece, but none are yet recorded from Crete or the other islands.Massive Bronze Age defense walls survived at Mycenae and elsewhere on the mainland; they were called Cyclopean because, according to Greek tradition, the Cyclopes had built them.Apart from these , contained princely gifts from an age when Greece, Crete, and Troy engaged in trade.
Schliemann’s discoveries led to intensive exploration of Bronze Age and earlier sites on the Greek mainland.
On the island of Thera in 1866–67, before Schliemann, sealed in under a thick shroud of volcanic pumice and ash.
He found houses, frescoes, pottery imported from as far as Cyprus, and well-preserved agricultural produce.
Because Bronze Age Crete and Greece were not explored at the time, this important find lay fallow for a century.
Later in the 19th century, , a Greek archaeologist, dug cemeteries of earlier phases of the Bronze Age on other Cycladic islands and continued the work begun by Schliemann at Mycenae.
At the end of the century, a British expedition excavated the important Bronze Age town of Phylakopi on tablets with the first positive evidence for Bronze Age writing in the Aegean.