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Agricultural Resurgence

Better and more plentiful farming implements of iron eventually helped to increase the production of food, a development reflected by the evidence of a burial from Athens. This grave, from about 850 B.C., held the remains of a woman and her treasures, including gold rings and earrings, a necklace of glass beads, and an unusual chest of baked clay. The necklace was an imported item from Egypt or Syria, and the technique of the gold jewelry was also that of the Near East. These objects reflected Greek trade with the more prosperous civilizations of that region1, a relationship whose influence on Greece increased as the Dark Age came to an end in the next century. The most intriguing object from the burial is the woman's terracotta storage chest. It was painted with characteristically intricate and regular designs, whose precision has led modern art historians to give the name Geometric to this style of the late Dark Age. On its top were sculpted five beehive-like urns that are miniature models of granaries (structures for storing grain2). If these models were important enough to be buried as objects of special value, we can deduce that actual granaries and the grain they held were valuable commodities in real life. This deduction in turn means that already by 850 B.C. agriculture had begun to recover from its devastation in the early Dark Age, when herding animals had become more prevalent and cultivation had decreased. Whether the woman was the owner of grain fields we cannot know, but from her sculpted chest we can glimpse the significance of farming for her and her contemporaries.

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