Ancient Aegean Art

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Ancient Aegean Art

  1. 1. The Art Of The Ancient Aegean The Cycladics, Minoans, & Mycenaeans IntroductionTo Art History I ProfessorWill Adams
  2. 2. The Ancient Aegean
  3. 3. The Ancient Aegean  The ancient Aegean world was comprised of three distinct geographic cultures: 1. The Cycladics: Based on the Cyclades Islands at the mouth of the Aegean Sea. 2. The Minoans: Based on the large island of Crete. 3. The Mycenaeans: Based on mainland Greece’s Peloponnesian peninsula. 1 2 3
  4. 4. The Prehistoric Aegean  The three civilizations that flourished here 5000 - 3000 years ago were the direct forerunners of the first true European civilization of Greece.  Geographically, the Cyclades Islands, the Island of Crete and the region of Mycenae (on mainlandGreece) comprise the region of the Aegean.  Populations first settled in the region during the lower Paleolithic and established village life during the early Neolithic period.  The region reached its peak during the 2nd millennium BCE.  The three cultures were dominated by the sea, that allowed them to develop with a wealthy trade economy, and acted as a natural defense against their enemies.  Additionally, the area is rich in marble, a material put to great use by Aegean artists.
  5. 5. The Cycladic Culture
  6. 6. The Cycladic Culture  The Cyclades are islands in the south Aegean circling the island of Delos.  During the Early Bronze Age (c. 3200-2100 B.C.E.) pottery, marble, and metal goods were produced there that wound up in grave sites.  Among these are the marble female figurines that inspired 20th century artists.  Later in the Bronze Age, the Cyclades showed influence from Minoan and Mycenaean cultures.
  7. 7. Cycladic Art STANDING FEMALE FIGURE C. 2700 BCE MARBLE  Figurines of this type have been found almost exclusively in tombs.  Although it was first believed that these so-called "idols" represent deities, they probably should be interpreted more broadly as representations of "femaleness."  The geometric shapes, the position of the arms across the abdomen, and the close-set legs with dangling feet are distinctive and may appear strikingly modern to the viewer today.
  8. 8. Cycladic Art  The meaning and function of Cycladic figurines is a kind of an enigma.  The majority of Cycladic figurines come from graves.  This has led many scholars to associate them with funerary rituals, although the theories proposed vary considerably.  Although each of those interpretations may carry seeds of truth, there is a general consensus that that the nudity of the figurines and the emphatic rendering of the breast and the pubic triangle refer directly to the idea of fertility.
  9. 9. Cycladic Art MALE LYRE PLAYER C. 2700 BCE MARBLE  The islands of Naxos, Paros & Keros were renowned for their figurines.  Their sizes range from a few inches to almost life-size.  In style, they are strikingly abstract, utilizing geometric shapes & flat planes to render the human body in a schematized manner  Although austere today, figurines were originally painted in bright colors, probably in order to give the figurines individual identities.
  10. 10. Cycladic Art The Male Lyre Player was found on the island of Keros, Greece. It measures approximately 9" tall. Although the meaning of this statue is unknown, the musician is thought to have been playing for the deceased in the afterlife.
  11. 11. The Minoan Culture
  12. 12. The Minoan Culture  The story of European civilization really begins on the island of Crete with a civilization that probably thought of itself as Asian (in fact, Crete is closer to Asia than it is to Europe).  Around 1700 BCE, a highly sophisticated culture grew up around palace centers on Crete: the Minoans.  The Minoans produced a civilization oriented around trade and bureaucracy with little or no evidence of a military state.
  13. 13. The Minoan Culture  They built perhaps the single most efficient bureaucracy in antiquity.  This unique culture, of course, lasted only a few centuries, and European civilization shifts to Europe itself with the foundation of the military city-states on the mainland of Greece.
  14. 14. Minoan Homeland: Crete  On the island, the climate is comfortable and the soil fertile; as an island, it was isolated from the mainland of Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Egypt.  Being an island, resources were limited.  As the population began to thrive, it also began to increase, and it is evident that the resources of the island became increasingly insufficient to handle the increased population, so the Cretans improvised.  Some migrated, populating other islands in the Aegean Sea likeThera (modern day Santorini, Greece).
  15. 15. Minoan Migration & Trade  In doing so, they took their growing civilization with them and spread Minoan culture, religion, and government all over the Aegean Sea.  For this reason, the Minoan culture is also called the "Aegean Palace civilization."  But the Cretans who remained turned to other economic pursuits to support the growing population; in particular, they turned to trade.
  16. 16. Minoan Migration & Trade  Crete became the central exporter of wine, oil, jewelry, and highly crafted works.  In turn, they became importers of raw materials and food.  In the process they built the first major navy in the world; its primary purpose, however, was mercantile not military.
  17. 17. Minoan Timeline: First Palace Period: 2200 - 1700 BCE  In this period, political power began to be centered around kings.  As a result, the first large palace centers came into being.  So far, excavation has revealed four large palaces on Crete at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Zakros.  The buildings are arranged around a central court and have fine facades of closely fitted stone blocks with monumental entrances.
  18. 18. Minoan Time Line: First Palace Period: 2200 - 1700 BCE Inside, they are multi- storied and have workshops, storage magazines and sacred rooms. The palaces’ workshops are also known for producing fine wares during this period.
  19. 19. The First Palace Period: The Palace At Phaistos: C. 1700 Bce  Phaistos is Minoan palace site situated on a hill with a commanding view of the Mesara Plain to the south and west.  It is in the fertile Mesara valley that is surrounded by mountain ranges and the plain extends south.  During Minoan times, Phaistos was a very important city-state, being the second largest city after Knossos.
  20. 20. The First Palace Period: The Palace At Phaistos: C. 1700 Bce
  21. 21. Phaistos In Mythology  According to mythology, Phaistos was the seat of King Radamanthis, brother of King Minos.  The city also participated in the Trojan War and was an important city-state in the Dorian period.  Phaistos continued to flourish during Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic times, but was destroyed by the Gortians during the 3rd century BCE.
  22. 22. The First Palace Period: The Palace At Phaistos: C. 1700 BCE  The Old Palace was built on the site at the beginning of the second millennium, c. 1900 - 1700 BCE.  Twice it was severely damaged by earthquakes and rebuilt so three distinct phases are visible to archaeologists.  It is believed that the first two phases of the Old Palace of Phaistos constitute the oldest Palatial buildings in Crete.  Other finds at the site include thousands of seal impressions and some tablets containing the oldest form of written European language: Linear A script.  Linear A has so far defied all attempts at decipherment.
  23. 23. The Palace At Phaistos: The Second Palace  When the Old Palace was finally destroyed, almost certainly by an earthquake, a new palace was built on the site.  Fortunately for us, the builders of the new palace did not destroy all traces of the old.  Some of the old palace can still be seen, especially in the north-east corner, but much of the Old Palace remains are accessible only to the experts.
  24. 24. The Palace At Phaistos: The Magazine Area  At Phaistos, the magazine (storage area) consisted of ten rooms, five on each side, opening onto an east-west corridor.  At its east end, it opened out into a two-columned hall with a portico facing the Central Court.  One storage room remains intact with a number of pithoi (storage vessels) inside.
  25. 25. The Palace At Phaistos: The Central Courtyard
  26. 26. The Palace At Phaistos: The King’s Megaron (Throne Room)
  27. 27. The Palace At Phaistos: The Queen’s Megaron (Throne Room)
  28. 28. The Palace At Phaistos: The Theater Space  From the Upper West Court, a staircase leads to the theatre area, with its eight rows of seats, each one 22 meters long on the Lower West Court.  On the north side of the theatre there is a retaining wall for the Upper Court and below this, the tiered seats overlooking the Lower West Court.  The court is traversed diagonally by a raised causeway.  On the east side of the causeway are six circular pits.  These are thought to have been for grain storage.
  29. 29. First Palace Period: Pottery & Workshops  The gorgeous Kamaresware pottery dates to this period and the style is named after the cave of Kamares where it was first discovered.  Kamaresware is pottery with polychrome motifs of rosettes, spirals and hatching vibrantly painted on a shiny black background, and was produced in a variety of vase shapes.
  30. 30. First Palace Period: Pottery & Workshops  The workshops also produced fine vases and vessels of stone and faience; seal stones of precious or semi-precious stones, with hieroglyphics & dynamic natural scenes; elegant weapons and tools; vessels of bronze or silver; jewelry of marvelous technique, as well as miniature sculptures.
  31. 31. Minoan Timeline: Second Palace Period: 1700 - 1500 BCE  Magnificent new palaces were built upon the ruins of the old ones.  The cities around them expanded.  Many lords in rural villas controlled areas in the same way as the feudal lords of the Middle Ages.  Their ships carried both the products of Minoan and other societies throughout the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean to trade.
  32. 32. Minoan Timeline: Second Palace Period: 1700 - 1500 BCE  The new palaces were multistoried and more complex.  They had great courtyards with grand porticoes, broad staircases, processional paths and monumental entrances.  Many rooms could be opened for air circulation and sunlight to enter via pier and door partitions, making the rooms quite bright and pleasant in the summer.  Benches and thrones were found in royal rooms.
  33. 33. Minoan Timeline: Second Palace Period: 1700 - 1500 BCE  There were many interior light wells to allow light in through all levels of the palace via the roof.  Bathrooms and water supply and drainage systems allowed for a easier style of life.  Sections of the palaces were royal quarters, sacred areas (pillar crypts, tripartite shrines), audience and banquet halls.  Large areas of these palaces were set aside as storage areas (magazines), and workshops also existed within the palaces.  Wonderful fresco paintings decorated the walls with fresh, lively scenes in an array of colors.  Gypsum was a common building material used for wall siding and floors.  The Marine Style of pottery developed with flowing elements including stylized octopuses and seaweed.
  34. 34. Minoan Timeline: Second Palace Period: 1700 - 1500 BCE  The Floral Style also developed, which featured inventive plants and open flowers.  Frescos depicted landscapes with animals along with scenes from religious and social life.  Bull jumping and other festivities were shown on the frescos.  Faience work, decorative plaques, figurines such as the snake goddesses, royal gaming boards, and detailed gold and silver jewelry and vessels were produced in the workshops of the day.  Some very fine bronze work was achieved during this period.
  35. 35. Minoan Timeline: Second Palace Period: 1700 - 1500 BCE
  36. 36. Minoan Timeline: Second Palace Period: 1700 - 1500 BCE  When Sir Arthur Evans began his excavation of Knossos, he uncovered one of the richest finds in all of modern archaeology.  Although he was not the first to excavate at the site, it was to be Evans who uncovered the Knossos Palace and brought to light a hitherto unknown civilization.  The basic excavation of the site took four years and for the rest of his life Evans continued working on the site, reconstructing and building, often in an attempt to preserve the remains from the weather to which they had been exposed for the first time in 3,500 years.  The palace’s first occupation lasted 1900 - 1700 BCE  Following an earthquake in 1700 BCE, then repaired and reoccupied until around 1500 BCE.
  37. 37. Minoan Timeline: Second Palace Period: 1700 - 1500 BCE
  38. 38. The Palace at Knossos: The Grand Staircase Horns of consecration atop the palace walls.
  39. 39. The Palace at Knossos: The Bull Chamber Immediately south of the North Pillar Hall is the Bull Chamber, which was on the same level as the Central Court. It was here that the Bull Relief Fresco was found. Opposite this chamber there would originally have been another, also decorated with a fresco.
  40. 40. The Palace at Knossos: The Central Court
  41. 41. The Palace at Knossos: The Dolphin Sanctuary  Near the Hall of the Double Axes is the Dolphin Sanctuary, which Evans assigned as the Queen's Apartment (Megaron).  The area takes its name from a Dolphin Fresco which was found here in pieces, although it probably fell from the floor above during the destruction of the palace.  A replica of the fresco now adorns the north wall.
  42. 42. The Palace at Knossos: The Throne Room  On the West Side of the Palace is one of the most famous of rooms unearthed by Evans:TheThrone Room.  With its low ceiling and lack of windows it was separated from the Central Court by an anteroom.  The throne is placed along a side wall facing across the room. On either side of the throne there are stone benches and, in front of the throne, a stone basin.  Its walls are decorated with pastoral frescoes of the Cretan countryside.
  43. 43. The Palace at Knossos: The Minoan Column’s Design  Wooden Minoan columns were created from felled tree trunks, and thus tapered from top to bottom, the opposite of later Greek columns.  This allowed them to bear the immense load of multiple stories without buckling.  It is thought the Minoan need for timber actually deforested the majority of ancient Crete.  Minoan columns also had bulbous capitals rather than square or scroll- shaped capitals to aide in displacing the structural load.
  44. 44. The Palace at Knossos: The Frescoes of Crete  The type of painting that decorates the walls of Knossos is referred to as fresco (meaning “fresh” in Italian).  When the walls were constructed, they were covered with a smooth layer of plaster.  To create the frescoes, pigments were mixed with water (the vehicle), and lime (a drying or curing agent).  Next, the pigment mixture would be applied to the still-damp plaster wall.  As a result, the pigment was absorbed into the wall as it dried, creating an incredibly durable image.  This is now referred to as buon fresco (“true fresco”) technique, as opposed to applying pigment to an already-dry wall (fresco secco).
  45. 45. Minoan Religion  The Minoans gave thanks for their beautiful land by worshipping a small number of gods and goddesses; their main deities represented the male and female aspects of life.  They worshipped them on mountains, in temples on the ground and in caves. It was believed that gods and goddesses could live in tress and columns because these linked the earth and the heavens.  The Goddesses:  The main deity is still the Mother Goddess, who is portrayed in different forms such as the Snake Goddess.  The Bull was also worshipped as a powerful symbol of male fertility beside her.  Deities were worshipped in sanctuaries of the palaces, various dwellings, the peak sanctuaries, and in sacred caves.
  46. 46. Minoan Religion: The Snake Goddess: c. 1600 BCE  The Snake Goddess’s representation as a ceremonial leader in Minoan religion may indicate that Minoan culture was matriarchal.  The Goddess was created using the faience technique, in which beach sand is low-fired to create am opaque glass- like silicate.  Additionally, she may be a fertility figure, as the emphasis on her bare chest indicates.  It isn’t clear whether she represents a priestess or a goddess, as figures easily identifiable as gods or goddesses are not found in Minoan cities  The snakes she grasps are associated with both female and earthly fertility, not evil.
  47. 47. Minoan Religion: The Symbolism of the Bull  The male aspect of life was represented by the bull.  The bull figure is found in many pictures of Minoan life.  The angry beast which lived in the labyrinth beneath the palace of Knossos, the Minotaur, had the body of a man and the head of a bull.  Bull's horns – called horns of consecration - are found as decorations in many parts of palace ruins and on vases, seals and ornaments.  Little model bulls were placed between the stalactites in caves as offerings to the gods; many stayed there for over 3000 years before they were discovered.  Bulls may have been sacrificed in some religious ceremonies.  Blood would have been collected in vessels called rhytons.  In a libation ceremony the blood would have been poured over columns or into caves.  This represented a releasing of the bull's energy.
  48. 48. Minoan Religion: The Bull-Leaping Fresco: c. 1450 BCE
  49. 49. Minoan Religion: The Bull-Leaping Fresco: c. 1450 BCE  This controversial fresco of bull-leapers comes from Knossos.  It is generally thought that, imported from the Egyptian tradition, the pale figures are women and the dark figure is male.  Usually referred to as "bull jumping," the event appears to have involved grasping the bull by the horns and then flipping backwards over the animal, landing behind it.  This would have been a very dangerous undertaking and, if the full were indeed a sacred animal in Crete, would have had religious significance.  The placement of the people may show either three stages of the bull-leaping, or the women as attendants while the male alone leaps over the bull.  It is thought that both men and women participated in the contests, perhaps to show their worthiness as aristocrats.  It has also been argued that the white figures are boys before initiation and that there is no gender implied in the basic form: hourglass body, slim waist, round hips, and broad shoulders; details like color, hair, jewelry and costume providing the gendering details.  Additionally, the bull was probably offered as a sacrifice after the bull-leaping contest.
  50. 50. Minoan Timeline: Second Palace Period: 1700 - 1500 BCE  The still-undeciphered Linear A written language was now in use.  There are about 200 surviving texts on clay tablets, that apparently deal with accounting and inventory information.  The tablets come from the archives of palaces such as Knossos or villas and were preserved by firing in the fires that destroyed the palaces.  The Phaistos Disk, with its unique hieroglyphic text, belongs to the Second Palace Period.
  51. 51. Discovery Channel’s Look At The Palace At Knossos
  52. 52. Minoan Writing  Three types of picture writing have been discovered in ancient Crete.  Unfortunately, the writings have told us very little about the Minoan way of life.  Linear A: This type of writing has been found in many places in Crete. Most examples are scratched on clay tablets but there are some samples engraved on metal.  In order to be able to translate Linear A we will probably have to find a bilingual text.
  53. 53. Minoan Writing  Linear B: Linear B has been found at one site only in Crete; this was at the palace at Knossos.  It has been found in many sites in Greece, however, including Mycenae.  It is now known to be an early form of Greek.  The Phaistos Disc: It is the only example of the third type of writing has ever been found.  It is on a decorative disc found at the palace at Phaistos.  It may not be Cretan.  It may have come from Anatolia (modern-dayTurkey).
  54. 54. Minoan Writing: The Phaistos Disc: c. 1700 BCE  This 15 cm disc is an early example of moveable type for printing.  Europeans did not use this technique again until the 1400’s CE.  Previously it had been thought that the Chinese had invented moveable type.  The Phaistos Disc is remarkable because its 45 different figures are not scratched on, but pressed in.  An individual block was made for each pictograph.  The same block was pressed into clay whenever that particular sign was needed.
  55. 55. Minoan Timeline: Volcanic Eruption: 1450 BCE  All of the centers of the Second Palace Period were destroyed around 1450 BCE.  The terrible volcanic eruption of Thera (Santorini) had large impacts on Crete depending on how the ash fell, but did not have enough effects to destroy the palaces or the Minoan way of life.  The eruption ofThera may have destroyed some coastal towns and shipping, and would have depressed the economies of the eastern Mediterranean though.  Terrible palace destructions did happen though (probably through earthquake).
  56. 56. Minoan Timeline: Volcanic Eruption: 1450 BCE  Life resumed only at the palace at Knossos, which was reconstructed and served as the residence of a new Mycenaean rulers from the mainland.  Their presence is inferred by the appearance of the very archaic written Greek language of Linear B and by the appearance of Palace Style pottery.  Changes were made in the arrangement of the palaces, and the Knossos Throne Room and many surviving frescoes date from this period.
  57. 57. Minoan Timeline Continued  TheThird Palace Period: 1450 - 1200 BCE:  After a final eruption of about 1380, none of the Minoan palaces were rebuilt.  Even the palace at Knossos was not rebuilt, although the city around it stayed alive.  The Post-Palace Period: 1200 – 1050 BCE:  The last phase of this period was a time of decline and disorder caused by the movement of many peoples in the East Mediterranean.  The forerunners of the Dorians may have begun to arrive in Crete.  The Sub-Minoan Period: 1100 – 1000 BCE:  Crete entered upon the purely Greek period of its history with the arrival of massive waves of Dorians at about 1100 BC.  The Proto-Geometric period that followed (1000-900 BCE) saw many earlier Minoan cultural traditions continued on, especially in the mountain areas of central and eastern Crete.
  58. 58. The End Of The Minoan Civilization At around 1400 BCE, the Mycenaean civilization from mainland Greece began to gain control of the weakened Minoan Crete. As a result, the Minoans were engaged in increased warfare. They subsequently abandoned their indefensible palaces in favor of settlements higher in the mountains. These provided the Minoans with greater natural protection from invasion.
  59. 59. Na Synechistoún…

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