|Creatures||In front of the house today there were about a million bunny tracks in the skiff of new-fallen snow. Either a herd of bunnies went by in the night, or a single bunny circled the house until it was too dizzy to stand...|
So it appears that the Greek dark age wasn't as black as all that.
Grant's The Ancient Mediterranean takes a geographical approach to history, starting about 15,000 years ago. He traces the development of what we are pleased to call civilization from Mesopotamia into Asia Minor and Egypt and finally out across Greece and Italy and North Africa. Although I think some of his interpretations are a little too pat, taking this geographic view is an excellent way of filling in the gaps left by culturally-focussed approaches. The scope of Egyptian expansion into the Eastern Mediterranian, for instance, isn't something that gets much scope in the histories of Egypt I've read, but in talking aboutthe history of the Eastern Mediterranean it necessarily gets some prominence.
It also is valuable in dealing with large scale phenomena like whatever it was that happened after 1200 BCE that lead to the collapse of the Hittite empire, the contraction of Egyptian influence, the displacement of the Ionians and the collapse of Mycenae. For the phenomenon clearly was large scale, but it's nature isn't clear. Grant acknowledges that "the Dorians dun it" isn't anything like a complete explanation but he doesn't have a lot of alternatives to offer.
The interesting thing from my point of view is that I didn't realize how much civilization, defined as freedom to travel and freedom to live in relative safety, was retained. Athens apparently never fell, and Ionian colonies in Asia minor retained enough cultural cohesion for their upper classes to continue to meet for yearly festivals on one of the Agean islands. So Homer had a much richer cultural background than I'd appreciated, and it all makes sense now.