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3.2: Aegean (3000 BCE – 1000 BCE)

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  • Aegean (3000 BCE – 1000 BCE)

    The ancient Aegean civilizations inhabited the area on or near the Aegean Sea, located between today’s countries of Greece and Turkey, encompassing over 2,000 islands, Crete the most significant island. Two dominant cultures established themselves in the geographic location; the Minoans (2600 BCE-1400 BCE) who lived on Crete, also controlling both Rhodes and Thera, and the Cycladic (3200 BCE-1050 BCE) who lived in the south on a group of islands near the gateway of the Aegean Sea. Both ancient civilizations are the precursors of the well-known Greek civilization. The Minoan and Cycladic cultures used the seas extensively for travel, trade, food, and materials of daily life as well as transportation to other islands for commercial trade. Food grown on the islands included figs, grapes, wheat, assorted vegetables, and a wide variety of different spices and herbs.

    All the islands have beautiful, natural formations of white marble (3.1) to quarry for stone building and statues and the Aegean’s took advantage of this natural resource using marble extensively. The Cycladic people are known for their small carvings of pure white marble funerary statues (3.2). The figurine of a woman has a modernist look to the figure with delicately carved features. This geometric sculpture displays her arms across her chest, has broad shoulders compared to the body, and lacks any facial features other than a prominent nose. The paint has since worn off the statue, which was carved first and then painted, a standard process of the day.

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    3.1 Marble quarry

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    3.2 Cycladic female figurine                                       Figure 3.3 Marble seated harp player    

    Another statue is the marble seated harp player (3.3) about 12 inches high and delicately carved from local marble. This piece represents the first known musician figurine found to date and is seated in a chair, the harp delicately balanced on his lap extending the overall shape of a person into a musician.

    One of the most famous discoveries from the Aegean period in the 1960s was the Minoan settlement of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini. Akrotiri became a strategic location on the trade routes resulting in the rapid growth of the island into a sophisticated settlement. However, the Theran volcano erupted and buried the settlement around 2000BCE, preserving the remains (3.4).

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    3.4 Akrotiri ruins

    Researchers found many frescoes on the walls of Akrotiri, paint pigments made from minerals helped preserve the images. The art method behind frescos is painted on wet plaster. Then when it dries, it is a permanent part of the plaster wall. However, the artists in Akrotiri started with the wet plaster and did not seem to mind if the surface dried, they kept painting. Unfortunately, some of the frescos crumbled from the walls. The Spring Fresco (3.5) painted with primary colors and black, white, and brown, perfectly preserved along three walls. Instead of a literal or natural implementation of the landscape and flowers, the scene is abstracted, an unusual application. It is unknown what the purpose of the room was or why the brightly colored fresco located in this area.

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    3.5 Spring Fresco 3.6 Cycladic “frying pan”

    The different islands in the Aegean area produced pottery with unique decorations using geometric forms and spirals (3.6) A dark color was painted over a light clay pot then covered with white paint. The Minoans made high-spouted, giant jugs, and drinking vessels with long spouts. Later they refined their designs and added more sophisticated designs with multi-colored images. The overall shape of their clay vessels would change depending on the current needs of the vessels. The Cycladic frying pan shaped vessel is adorned with spirals and incised decoration.

    READING: Santorini Archeology

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