Ancient Aegean World

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Survey of Ancient Aegean Cultures, specifically art and architecture

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Ancient Aegean World

  1. 1. Ancient Aegean World (3000 BCE-1100 BCE)
  2. 2. Ancient Aegean World (3000 BCE-1100 BCE) Map Ancient Greece, c. 1000 BCE- 300 BCE. Dates and Places: •Aegean=term used to describe the Bronze Age that occurred in the land in and around the Aegean Sea •Three basic periods: • CYCLADIC (Cyclades Islands) 3000-1600 BCE • MINOAN (Crete) 3000- 1400 BCE • MYCENEAN (Mainland Greece) 1400-1100 BCE
  3. 3. History •Ancient Greek Civilization is known through 3 sources: a. Monuments themselves b. Roman copies c. Literary sources (these often conflict) •Greek civilization started out as tribal groups: a. the Dorians, who settled mostly on the mainland b. the Ionians who inhabited the Aegean islands and Asia Minor •Greeks remained divided into small city-states (the polis) but united themselves for all-Greek festivals • Rivalry between states stimulated the growth of ideas Ancient Aegean World Figurine of a Cycladic idol, from Amorgos, ca. 2600- 2400 BCE. Marble, 24 ¾.” Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
  4. 4. Ancient Aegean Art People: • Precursors to Ancient Greek civilization – Cycladic – Minoan – Mycenaean • Kings, priests, warriors • Described in Homer’s Iliad Snake Goddess, from Knossos, Crete. Faïence, 13 ½ in. c. 1600 BCE. Heraklion Archaeological Museum
  5. 5. Ancient Aegean Art Themes: • Human figures (Gods and humans) • Nature • Funerary offerings • Palaces and citadels Forms: • Formal conventions vary • Post-and-lintel and masonry construction Stairwell in the residential quarter at the palace at Knossos, ca. 1700-1400BCE. Crete, Greece.
  6. 6. Ancient Aegean: Cycladic Dates and Places: • 2500-1700BCE • Cyclades Islands People: • Little known • Cycladic civilization probably based on herding, agriculture, and trade • Not much known about religion or politics-no written records survive • No evidence of the glorification of rulers, like found in Egypt – Old Kingdom Egypt and Cycladic very different Example: • Schematic figures • Painted funerary offerings Figurine of a Cycladic idol, from Amorgos, ca. 2600-2400 BCE. Marble, 24 ¾.” Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
  7. 7. •Most examples are from the NEOLITHIC period and are usually female •Cycladic Islands rich in metal ores and marble (Parian Marble from Paros considered some of the best in the world) •Very abstracted, geometric figures found in stone burial chambers •Many counterfeit! Prehistoric Aegean: Cycladic
  8. 8. Ancient Aegean World: Cycladic Example: •Abstract and geometric design with some painted details(facial features, hair and ornaments) •Many figures of women found, a few of men also found •Purposes unclear (fertility figure? Votive?) •Some found in graves placed on deceased •Design suggests meant to rest on back •Various sizes and designs, from a few inches tall to a 5’ tall •Warning! Many have been found to be counterfeit but still remain in museum collections Cycladic Woman/Figurine of a woman, ca. 2500- 2300 BCE. From Syros. Marble, 1’6” high.
  9. 9. Ancient Aegean World: Cycladic Seated Harp Player, from Keros, Cyclades; 3rd millennium BCE. Marble, height 11 ½.” Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Example: •Sculpture-in-the-round •Use of positive and negative space •Geometric essentials •Knees and feet separate to create balance •Sculptures like this mainly found in graves •Specific meaning and use remain unclear-some interpretations include use in worship, then ceremonially broken and buried with owner (may point to belief in afterlife)
  10. 10. Figurine of a Cycladic idol, from Amorgos, ca. 2600- 2400 BCE. Marble, 24 ¾.” Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC • A comparison of the Seated Khafre and Cycladic Woman show they share a rigid design • Khafre’s ka statue funerary, Cycladic figure MAY also be hint to belief in afterlife • Both are block-like, stiff • Cycladic artifact more abstract in design, less naturalistic • Ancient Egypt and Cycladic cultures very different Khafre Seated, front view, from Giza, c. 2520-2494 BCE, Diorite, 5’ 6.” Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
  11. 11. Figurine of a Cycladic idol, from Amorgos, ca. 2600- 2400 BCE. Marble, 24 ¾.” Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC Nude Woman (Venus of Willendorf), ca. 25,000- 21,000BCE. Limestone, 4 3/8. ” Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, Austria • A comparison of the Woman of Willendorf and Cycladic Woman show each has an incised pubic area, suggestive of each being a fertility fetish • Abstract design shared by each • Functions debated, early glorification of female?
  12. 12. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Dates and Places: • 1700-1200BCE • Island of Crete (civilization emerges as early as 3000 BCE, same time as Cycladic and Old Kingdom Egypt) People: • Palace builders • Prosperous (trade with Egyptians and Mesopotamia) • Stratified society, king apex • Rituals involving animals Octopus jar, from Palaikastro, Crete, ca. 1500BCE. Ceramic, 11” high Archaeological Museum, Herakleion.
  13. 13. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan • Civilizations lasts approximately 1500 years, 1600-1450 “golden era” • Divided into “palace periods” – First Palace period ends with 1700 BCE earthquake – Second Palace period ends between 1620 and1450 BCE probably due to volcanic activity – Followed by invasion from mainland Greece • Artwork found on the island of CRETE – called Minoan because of the legend of King Minos • Very rich civilization with many references to bulls and ocean themes • PALACE OF KNOSSOS – Huge palace about 6 acres in size! 1st excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900
  14. 14. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan • Discovered 1908 • The Minoans developed their own writing system, known as linear A (as yet only partially deciphered) and Linear B • The Phaistos disc is of an unknown script similar to Anatolian Heiroglyphs and Linear A, as yet undeciphered • Purpose and meaning, even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed • Features 241 tokens, comprising 45 unique signs, which were apparently made by pressing hieroglyphic "seals" into a disc of soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling toward the disc's center The Phaistos Disc (side A), 2nd millennium BCE. Clay, approx. 6” diameter. Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete, Greece
  15. 15. • PALACE OF KNOSSOS – Huge palace about 6 acres in size! • Palaces made of rubble and mud bricks, faced with cut and finished limestone- marks the first use of dressed stone as building material in Aegean culture • Open construction and fresco design suggests peaceful people Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Artist rendering of the Palace of Knossos Palace at Knossos, ca. 1700-1400BCE.
  16. 16. Aerial view of Palace of Knossos. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: •First excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900 •Located on the north coast •Evidence shows palace was occupied in the Neolithic period •Built over a succession of Bronze Age palaces, the last of which was erected c. 1900 BCE • Possible earthquake and fire as early as 1700 BCE, most murals date to this period (within Second Palace period)
  17. 17. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: • Labyrinthine yet open palace plan • Open courtyard • Wood columns with bulbous capitals • Built near agriculturally rich center • Administrative, commercial and religious center • Minoan civilization seems to revolve around palace, not temple • Palace attests to wealth and power of Minoan kings whose role is not fully understood • Houses royal family, priests, government officials, and artisans Aerial view of the palace at Knossos.
  18. 18. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Scenes from excavation site, Palace of Knossos, c. 1900. See more at Sir Arthur Evans Archive
  19. 19. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: •Upon excavating the Palace at Knossos, Sir Arthur Evans proceeded to reconstruct its many buildings •We believe many of these to be incorrect today •For example, the columns seen here at the Great Propylea we believe are upside down The Great Propylea at the south entrance of the palace as it stands today in the Palace of Knossos
  20. 20. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Stairwell in the residential quarter at the palace at Knossos. Example: •Interior spaces made of wood; timber used for bracing and framing walls for strength, flexibility, and endurance to earthquakes, open air construction •Floors were either plastered, mixed with pebbles, stone, wood, or beaten earth •Residential areas include murals, sunlit courtyards, and a very sophisticated method of plumbing •Palaces designed for proper air flow and ventilation •Focus of the complex was inward toward the courtyard which was surrounded by staircases which allowed access to rooms, apartments, and ritual areas
  21. 21. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: •Walls decorated with various scenes of nature (especially marine scenes), human activity, and geometric patterning •Two approaches to wall painting represented at Knossos: buon fresco (wet plaster) and a secco (dry plaster) •Standard colors red, yellow, black, white, green, and blue (similar to Egyptian tomb painting) •Minoan palace painters filled in the outlines of figures and objects with unshaded areas of pure color, their landscapes are very different from Egyptians Marine fresco from the Queen’s megaron, palace of Minos, Knossos, Crete.
  22. 22. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: • Palace fresco paintings of people and nature • Conventional representations by gender • Minoan figures slender and animated • Animal rituals Bull-leaping from the palace at Knossos, Fresco, ca. 1500-1400BCE. height approx. 32” The Great Palace at Knossos, Crete
  23. 23. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Bull-leaping from the palace at Knossos, Fresco, ca. 1500-1400BCE. height approx. 32” The Great Palace at Knossos, Crete Example: •Late Minoan period •Wall painting with areas of modern reconstruction, from the palace complex, Knossos, Crete •One of the best preserved wall paintings found at Knossos •Naturalistic details with stylized and rhythmic shapes •Part of a group of paintings with bulls as the subject, located in a room found in the east wing
  24. 24. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan • Significant difference between fresco subject matter – Art for living versus art for afterlife • For fun, ritual vs. material for ka Bull-leaping from the palace at Knossos, Fresco, ca. 1500-1400BCE. height approx. 32” The Great Palace at Knossos, Crete Ti Watching Hippo Hunt, from the mastaba of Ti, Saqqara, Egypt 5th Dynasty. Painted relief on limestone.
  25. 25. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: •Rhyton-vase from which drinks were poured to the dead or the gods •May have been used in religious rituals; bull itself may have had some religious significance, exactly what that was remains debated •Bulls represent virility •Bulls very important in Minoan art, represented in every medium: incised on seats, modeled in clay, cast in bronze, fashioned in gold and silver, painted on walls and pottery, carved in stone Bull’s-head rhyton, from the palace complex, Knossos, Crete; Second palace period, c. 1550-1450 BCE. Steatite with shell, rock crystal, and red jasper with restored gilt horns; height 12.” University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
  26. 26. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Harvester Vase, Hagia Triada, Crete. Second palace period 1550-1500 BCE. Steatite, diameter 4 ½.” Heraklion Archaeological Museum Example: •Also steatite rhyton •Continuous frieze of harvesters in shallow relief carrying winnowing forks and sheaves •May be part of a ritual precession •Figures energetic •Reflects Minoan tradition of lively, dynamic representation •Design with strong diagonals echoes shape of vase and exuberance of figures
  27. 27. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Snake Goddess, from Knossos, Crete, 1600BCE. Faïence, 13 ½” high. Heraklion Archaeological Museum Example: •Found at the Palace at Knossos in a pit with other ceremonial object •Tradition of women with snakes associated with water, regenerative powers, and the protection of the home •Other early Minoan Bronze Age figures have been found that also incorporate intertwined snakes •Human or deity? Goddess worship? Still debated •Stylistic and thematic elements are relative to Near Eastern sculpture •Shares style and subject matter with Cretan examples
  28. 28. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Snake Goddess, from Knossos, Crete, 1600BCE. Faïence, 13 ½” high. Heraklion Archaeological Museum Example: •Faïence • glazing technique in ceramics which uses glass paste that when fired (1000°C) gives a glossy finish •Flounced tiered skirt also found in Ancient Near East on goddesses (Enheduanna) •Minoan skirt with cinched waist, apron, and open bodice
  29. 29. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: • Amphora features octopus= creature with which the Aegean people would have been familiar • Tentacles echo the shape of the vessel • Design related to natural forms • tentacles and suction cups exhibit abstract character , repeated in the large oval eyes which in turn echo holes for handle • Imagery reflects the Minoans’ relationship with the sea • Subject matter of frescos and vases pronounce importance of sea Octopus jar, from Palaikastro, Crete, ca. 1500BCE. 11” high. Heraklion Archaeological Museum
  30. 30. Akrotiri is located on the island of Thera. This civilization was buried in volcanic pumice helping to keep many of its items intact Children Boxing, from Akrotiri, Thera, c 2,000- 1,800 BCE. Fresco, 9’ x 3‘1.” National Archaeological Museum of Athens Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: •Figurative fresco also good depictions of daily activities that were common in Akrotiri. •Another similarity to Egyptian art is how men were depicted as having darker tan skin and women were shown having pale skin •As the Minoan civilization was centered on the Aegean islands there is a wealth of marine life imagery shown in their art, such as the fish in the Young Fisherman Fresco and the swimming dolphins shown below in the Flotilla Fresco. Vases were painted with octopi and on the main island of Crete there were fish and dolphins painted in the Palace of Knossos
  31. 31. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: •House decoration •Displays wealth and potential for family renown •Rite of passage – Young man’s ability to catch fish – Shaved head communicates youth •Mackerel shows importance of sea to people for food and commerce Fisherman Fresco, Akrotiri, c-1,500 BCE. National Archaeological Museum of
  32. 32. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Young Girl Gathering Crocus Flowers, detail of wall painting, Room 3 of House of Xeste 3, Akrotiri, Thera. Second Palace period c., 1700- 1450 BCE. Thera Foundation, Petros M. Nomikos, Greece Example: •Island of Santorini/Thera 60 miles North of Crete, minor Minoan colony •Houses and fresco fragments from around 1500 BCE found, preserved after volcano erupted preserved under feet of ash •Houses had living rooms decorated with fresco scenes of joyful, everyday life •Landscapes are stylized, show an exuberant vision of nature •Flat and two dimensional, decorative, almost whimsical
  33. 33. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan “Spring fresco” Akrotiri, Thera; Second Palace period c. 1700- 1450 BCE . National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece. Example: •Landscapes are stylized, show an exuberant vision of nature •Stylized patterns imposed on natural forms •Alternating bright and neutral colors to create shadows •Flat and two dimensional, decorative, almost whimsical •Naturalistic details which remain nonetheless subservient to overall decorative effect •Actually not Springtime-we know this because of the birds (swallows)
  34. 34. Prehistoric Aegean: Minoan Example: •Most significant painting found on Thera •Rich in detail •Ships coming in and out of port • Characteristically served as the frame in top portion of room • Testifies to technology of ship building, seafaring, navigational techniques • No apparent religious significance, but that is still debated • City-scene and landscape • Observance of nature Details from Flotilla fresco, c. 1650 BCE. Fresco, 13’ wide x 17.3 high. Room 5 of West House, Akrotiri, Thera (Santorini).
  35. 35. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Dates and Places: • 1700-1200BCE • Peloponnesos (Mainland Greece) People: • Kings and warriors • Prosperous • Ancestors of the Greeks “Mask of Agamemnon,” Funerary mask, ca. 1600-1500 BCE. Beaten gold, approx. 12.“ National Archaeological Museum of Athens
  36. 36. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean • The people of Mycenae lived richly in large citadels that had to be built with strong walls to prevent attacks, including: Citadel at Tiryns, Greece Lion Gate, Mycenae, c. 1300-1250 B.C.E., Limestone, relief panel 9' 6" high. Mycenae, Greece.
  37. 37. Citadel of Mycenae (Artist’s Rendering) Palace of Knossos (Artist’s Rendering) Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean • A comparison of the architectural structures of Knossos and Mycenae tell the story of two very different cultures
  38. 38. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Example: • Citadel built of Cyclopean masonry • Discovered • Corbelled arch • Relief sculpture on relieving triangle • Inside: tholos with dome housing funerary goods Lion Gate, Mycenae, c. 1300-1250 B.C.E. Limestone relief panel, 9' 6" high. Mycenae.
  39. 39. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean • German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated the Lion Gate in 1876. He used the writings of Homer to find the ruins Portraits of Heinrich Schliemann at the Lion Gate and his wife, Sophia Schliemann (née Engastromenos) wearing treasures recovered at Hisarlik.
  40. 40. • Guardian-like lions guard the entrance to the Citadel (original heads are now gone) Post & Lintel Corbelled Arch Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Lion Gate, Mycenae, c. 1300-1250 B.C.E. Limestone relief panel, 9' 6" high. Mycenae, Greece.
  41. 41. Excavation of Grave Circle A started by Heinrich Schliemann in 1877 where many items like the “Mask of Agamemnon,” and Vapheio Cups would be found. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean
  42. 42. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Example: •The 'Mask of Agamemnon', discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876 at Mycenae •Schliemann believed it was the remains of the legendary leader Agamemnon (commander of Greek troops in Trojan War) •Like Egyptians, masks placed on bodies of the dead •Stylized, abstracted •One thick gold sheet, heated and hammered against a wooden background with the details chased on later with a sharp tool “Mask of Agamemnon,” Funerary mask, ca. 1600-1500 BCE. Beaten gold, approx. 12.“ National Archaeological Museum of Athens
  43. 43. • Thanks to tombs such as “Grave Circle A,” graves excavated in Mycenae find many kings and their families buried with gold, much like the Egyptians • Woman with jewelry, men with weapons and golden cups Mask of Agamemnon Minoan/Mycenaean Vapheio Cup, near Sparta, c. 16th cent. Gold, 3 ½.” National Archaeological Museum of Athens “Mask of Agamemnon,” Funerary mask, ca. 1600-1500 BCE. Beaten gold, approx. 12.“ National Archaeological Museum of Athens Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean
  44. 44. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean • One thing the Mycenaeans did not copy or adapt from the Minoans was their skill in metalwork, especially inlay on swords or dagger blades. The top two examples show a dagger-blade from Grave Circle A at Mycenae, with lion-hunting scenes on opposite sides (16th century); the example below that is from Pylos (15th century). The scenes are reminiscent of similes and descriptions in Homer. Mycenaean Dagger Blades, from Shaft Grave IV, Grave Circle A, Mycenae, Greece, c. 1600-1550 BCE. Bronze inlaid with gold, silver, and copper; length 9 3/8.” National Archaeological Museum, Athens
  45. 45. • A comparison of objects from the Assyrians and the Mycenaeans demonstrate similar subject matter decorating ancient artifacts as seen in a fresco from the palace at Ninevah on the left and a dagger blade on the right. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Ashurbanipal Hunting Lions, gypsum hall relief from the North Palace, Ninevah, c. 645-635 B.C.E., excavated by H. Rassam beginning in 1853. British Museum, London Mycenaean Dagger Blades, from Shaft Grave IV, Grave Circle A, Mycenae, Greece, c. 1600-1550 BCE. Bronze inlaid with gold, silver, and copper; length 9 3/8.” National Archaeological Museum, Athens
  46. 46. Façade and dromos (entrance passageway) of the Treasury of Atreus, Mycenae, 13th century BCE. The door was originally framed by half columns made of gypsum. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean
  47. 47. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean • Interior of a tholos tomb, showing the entrance lintel and a door to the side chamber, Treasury of Atreus, Mycenae, 13th cent. BCE The Treasury of Atreus, c. 1300-1250 B.C.E. Diameter of interior 43 ft., height 40 ft., doorway 17’ 8” x 8’10” Mycenae, Greece
  48. 48. The Treasury of Atreus, c. 1300-1250 B.C.E., Mycenae, Greece Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Example: •Once believed to be the location of Royal storage, it was actually built as a tomb •Until the Roman Pantheon, it was the largest domed interior ever built
  49. 49. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Example: •1400 -1200 BCE, Tiryns was one of the most important centers of the Mycenaean world •1300 BCE population of citadel and lower town reached 10,000 people •Most notable features were its palace with cyclopean tunnels and especially its walls, which gave the city its Homeric epithet of "mighty walled Tiryns” Citadel at Tiryns, Greece
  50. 50. The Citadel at Tiryns, Greece Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Example: •The walls extend to the entire area of the top of the hill. Their bases survive throughout all of their length, and their height in some places reaches 23 ft., slightly below the original height, which is estimated at 30 ft. The wall is extremely thick, reaching approximately 20 ft., while at the points that are opened the famous tunnels up to 56 ft.
  51. 51. Masonry wall, the Citadel at Tiryns, Greece 1400 -1200 BCE. Stone, 23’ high (currently). Tiryns, Greece. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Example: •Palace much like that found at Mycenae, more heavily fortified •Cyclopean walls and tunnels – Ancient legend tells us the walls were built by the Cyclops •Walls designed to protect from attack – Irregular design to confuse invaders •Walls contain spaces for storage of goods and weapons
  52. 52. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean Example: •Walls richly decorated with frescos •Frescos used to hide poor building materials •Registers of alabaster slabs with relief rosettes and flowers, martial themes of horses, chariots, and soldiers •Wild Boar Hunt dates to Tiryns’ later palace period •Boar hunting favorite past time of elite •Mycenaean aesthetic of stylized abstraction over naturalism Wild Boar Hunt, Fresco, Later Tiryns palace. National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
  53. 53. Prehistoric Aegean: Mycenaean • Like relief sculpture from Ninevah, hunting scene declares ability of Mycenaean ruling class to protect its people and land from attack and danger Wild Boar Hunt, Fresco, Later Tiryns palace. National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Ashurbanipal Hunting Lions, gypsum hall relief from the North Palace, Ninevah, c. 645-635 B.C.E., excavated by H. Rassam beginning in 1853. British Museum, London
  54. 54. Prehistoric Aegean • Fresco discovered 1884, prior to Palace at Knossos fresco. • An acrobat leaps over the bull while holding onto its horns. This ritual theme symbolizes the struggle and dominion of man over wild nature. • Scholars have debated the meaning of the bull leaper frescos since their discovery. Bull-leaping from the palace at Knossos, c. 1500-1400 BCE. Fresco, height approx. 32.” The Great Palace at Knossos, Crete Bull Leaper, c. The Citadel at Tiryns. National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

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