Several closely related but distinct cultures developed on islands and peninsular adjacent to the Aegean in the third and second millennia BCE. The Cycladic culture was named for the islands forming an irregular circle north of Crete. The culture on the mainland is called Helladic. Together these separate cultures forms the civilization known as Aegean. Until the second half of the nineteenth century, much of the civilization was known from the Iliad and the Odyssey, but much of the evidence has contradicted Homer's tales. The Early phase corresponds roughly to the predynastic and old kingdom period of Egypt, and Sumerian and Akkadian culture in Mesopotamia. The Middle phase is contemporaneous with the Middle Kingdom in Egypt and the rise of the Babylon in Mesopotamia. And the Late phase occurs at the same time as the Second Intermediate period and the start of the New Kingdom in Egypt. These cultures each produced distinct art forms. Stylized marble representations of the human figure and frescoes are paramount in the Cyclades. Large palaces with elaborate adornments on their walls dominate on Crete. Citadels and grave goods remain from the Greek mainland. Cycladic Figures, c. 2700-2300 BCE, Cycladic [4.2, 4.3]
Figures included in Cycladic burials. The figure is nude, with arms folded across the waist, and toes extended. The flat body is straight backed, while a long thick neck supports a shieldlike face at a slight angle. Long trianglelike nose, small pointed breasts, triangular pubic area. Some even appear pregnant. Thought them to be idols, and were pictured to have central roles in religion focusing on a mother goddess. Could have been made for funerary purposes. May have functioned in Cycladic daily life within household shrines. The largest figures may have been statues. Some have signs of repair, so they were used.
“Palace” Complex at Knossos (Crete), c. 1600-1400 BCE, Minoan [4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.8]
(plan; reconstruction; staircase; “Queen’s Megaron”)
The chief source of information for Minoan architecture. May have been the most powerful Cretan center of the Middle and Late Bronze Age. Much of the palace was reconceived and reconstructed in concrete. Consisted of courts, halls, workshops, storerooms ect. Lit and ventilated by frequent light wells. Clay pipes for drainage. Walls were framed with timbers and constructed of rubble masonry or mud brick. Columns gad a smooth shaft tapered downward from a generous cushionlike capital. The palace has a mazelike quality, but underlying logic. Its core is a large central court, onto which important rooms opened. The court divides the plan on an approx north south axis. On the west side, a corridor running north-south separates long, barrow store rooms. The palace appears to grow outwards from the court. The richly decorated walls give an idea about what hasn't survived.
Toreador Fresco, from the Palace Complex at Knossos, c. 1550-1450 BCE, Minoan [4.16] The decorative motifs were generally bordered scenes: people, mythological creatures, real animals, rocks, vegetation, and marine life. found in the residential wing of the palace shows a contest between a young man and woman and a bull. The scene vividly depicts the Minoan sport of bull leaping, with the participants grasping the horns of the animal as they leap over it. Scholars have interpreted this bull leaping scene as a ritual game in which performers vaulted over a bull's back. Against a blue background, white figures clad in a kilt clasps to the horns of a huge bull. The figures have long limbs and small waists, yet they are painted in true profile.
Spring Fresco (Akrotiri), c. 1600-1500 BCE, Minoan [4.9]
Located on the small ground floor room. Occupies almost the entire wall surface. The terrain undulates dramatically, its dark outline filled with rich washes of red, blue and ocher. Swirling black lines adding texture within Lilies flower, and swallows dart between...