Aegean civilization (ējē´ən), term for the Bronze Age cultures of pre-Hellenic Greece. The complexity of those early civilizations was not suspected before the excavations of archaeologists in the late 19th cent. The most remarkable of the cultures was perhaps that of Crete, which was flourishing by the beginning of the 3d millennium BC; this was the Minoan civilization. On the mainland of Greece excavations have uncovered the remains of Mycenaean civilization. The exploration of the ruins of Troy provided knowledge of another culture, and ruins in the Cyclades have demonstrated remarkable early development there. The exact relationships of these different centers are not yet known, and there are many subjects of conjecture, such as the role of the Achaeans and the causes of the decline of Crete before 1100 BC
See V. R. d'Arba Desborough, The Greek Dark Ages (1972); C. Renfrew, The Emergence of Civilisation (1972).