Aegean Civilization: Term used to refer to the Bronze Age that developed in the Aegean basin, mainly in Crete , in the Cyclades Islands , in central Greece and even on the coast of Asia Minor , from approximately IV millennium to 1200 BC Its two main cultures were: the Minoan, which flourished in Crete and reached its splendor in the middle of the Bronze Age (c. 2000-1450 BC), especially at Knossos and Phaestos; and the Mycenaean, which developed in the late Bronze Age (c. 1450-1100 BC) from its center of Mycenae to other places, such as Tiryns and Pylos.. The writers of ancient Greece told stories of a remote ‘age of heroes’, but nothing concrete was known about the civilization of the Aegean until the late 19th century, when archaeological excavations began at the sites of the legendary cities of Troy . Mycenae, Knossos, and other Bronze Age centers.
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- 1 Greek Legends
- 2 Archaeological Discoveries
- 3 Historical Note
- 4 Early Bronze
- 5 Medium bronze
- 6 Ultimate Bronze
- 7 Aegean Architecture and Art
- 8 Architecture
- 9 Painting and sculpture
- 10 Fresh
- 11 Sculpture
- 12 Ceramics and metallurgy
- 13 Sources
According to Greek mythology, there was a time when great events took place, in which the gods themselves became involved in human affairs. The story of King Minos and the death of the Minotaur in the labyrinth at the hands of the Greek hero Theseus could be the mythical interpretation of the struggle for hegemony in the Aegean Sea , after which Mycenae gained control of Knossos. Homer’s epic poem The Iliaddescribes the events of the Trojan War, which is believed to have caused the fall (traditionally in 1184 BC) of Troy into the hands of the Greeks, or Achaeans, as the poet called them. It also mentions the famous places that are supposed to be the centers of the Mycenaean period, such as the ‘Golden Mycenae’, where King Agamemnon reigned; Pylos, where Nestor was killed, and Phtia in Thessaly, home of the hero Achilles .
An amateur German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann , was responsible for some of the most famous discoveries of the 19th century. In 1870 he began to excavate the mound called Hissarlik, in Turkey, and found what is believed to be the ruins of Troy. In Greece he found the enclaves of Mycenae in 1876-1878 and Tiryns in 1884. Discoveries of fortifications, ceramics, ornaments and royal tombs containing gold and other items demonstrated the existence of a highly developed civilization that had flourished from approximately 1500 to 1200 BC. Schliemann’s work was continued by numerous archaeologists in the 20th century. In 1900 the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans discovered a large and complex palace at Knossos (Crete), which he associated with King Minos and the labyrinth. Evans also discovered fired clay tablets with two types of writing, dating back to the middle of the second millennium BC, called linear A and linear B. Linear B tablets, approximately 1200 BC, have also been found at Pylos, Peloponnese and other places in Mycenae. British cryptologistsMichael Ventris and John Chadwick proved that linear B is a first form of Greek, and linear A the language of Minoan Crete, as yet undeciphered. The discovery of Linear B in Crete advances the conclusion that the Mycenaeans, from the Greek mainland, influenced the Minoans. Artifacts found in the Cyclades islands indicate the existence of a Cycladic culture that had connections with the continental and Cretan ones. Since the 1930s, Greek excavations of a Cycladic settlement in the city of Thera (Tera), on Santorín Island, have discovered frescoes and artifacts similar to those of the Minoan civilization. Thera was apparently destroyed by a large volcanic eruption around 1625 BC The disaster could have been the basis for Plato’s writings on the disappearance of the continent of Atlantis. More recent excavations on the islands around Delos date the Cycladic culture to the 4th millennium BC, when traders in search of obsidian (a volcanic crystal) and fishermen established temporary settlements on it. Although no writing samples have been found, the Cycladic culture worked with characteristic pottery, jewelry and marble idols, generally depicting women and often life-size, which were originally luxuriously painted. Incorrectly called ‘mother goddesses’, these idols associated the deceased with the power of the sea, which was the center of life in the Cyclades.
Recent archaeological discoveries, such as those at the town of Dimini in Thessaly, in northern Greece, have provided material evidence of a cultural progression from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age, beginning around 3000 BC and dating from around 3000 BC. identified three phases: primitive, middle and last.
Around 3000 BC, apparently new settlers arrived in the Aegean, perhaps from Asia Minor. They used bronze for their weapons and tools, which can be considered the beginning of the bronze age in the area. On the continent, the towns were small independent units, generally protected by thick walls; over time the constructions of Crete and the Cycladic islands became more complex. Burials were communal throughout the Aegean, but customs changed. On the mainland, graves were mass graves, although some were more elaborate. In the Cyclades, burials consisted of stone-covered chambers (cists), and in Crete they used circular stone tombs, rectangular ossuaries (bone deposits), and caves. In all these constructions there was a place of offerings for worship,
Around 2200-1800 BC another wave of new settlers reached the Cyclades islands and the mainland. They caused considerable destruction, and for about two centuries the development of culture, especially on the continent, stagnated. The invaders introduced new types of pottery and the use of the horse. They were also part of the Indo-European language family, to which both modern and ancient Greece belong. On Crete, impressive buildings, frescoes, vases and early writing attest to a flourishing culture in the 2nd millennium BC, which came to be known as Minoan. Large royal palaces built around wide courtyards were the focal points of these communities. The palacemore important was in Knossos. Supposedly destroyed by an earthquake or foreign invasion around 1700 BC, it was rebuilt on a large scale. It is likely that the Minoans maintained a maritime empire , trading not only with the Cyclades and the mainland but also with Sicily , Egypt, and cities on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. The Minoan religion is artistically represented by a serpent-priestess, or serpent-goddess , whose cult was associated with fertility and the lunar and solar cycle . This cult figure had been a Near Eastern type goddess, who probably, together with her dying and risen consort, symbolized the seasons.
The destruction of the Cretan palaces in approximately 1450 BC (that of Knossos took place shortly after 1400 BC) was followed by the decline of the Minoans and the subsequent development of Mycenae. Some scholars have linked this change to the volcanic eruption on Thera, but recent estimates place the disaster approximately 200 years earlier. Mycenaean-style art and linear B tablets found on the island of Crete indicate the presence there of settlers from the peninsula. In any case, the heavily fortified cities of the continent became the new centers of Aegean civilization. The existence of painted vases and scenes depicting hunting and battle weapons suggest that the Mycenaeans were warriors. The styles are also more formal and geometric than those of the first samples, anticipating the art of classical Greece. A typical Mycenaean city had, in the center, the fortress palace of the king. The cities were fortified with massive structures of uneven stone, calledcyclopean walls . Linear B tablets from this period contain names of Greek gods, such as Zeus , and detailed notations of royal possessions. The gold, masks, weapons and jewelry found by Schliemann at the royal burial sites indicate the great wealth and power obtained by the Mycenaeans when they conquered the Minoan merchant empire. Troy, located on the coast of Asia Minor, near the Hellespont, it was in a good location to harass ships and collect exorbitant tolls from the Mycenaeans. Archaeological evidence indicates that a city on this site was destroyed in approximately 1200 BC, close to the date (1184 BC) accepted by the ancient Greeks. Shortly after 1200 BC the Aegean civilization collapsed, a fact that some scholars attribute to a natural disaster or, more likely, to the invasion of the Dorians. A period generally referred to as the Dark Ages followed.
Aegean Art and Architecture
Aegean art stands out for its naturalistic pictorial style , which began in Minoan Crete ; the movement and variety of Minoan art, even in its first abstract phase, suggests life. From Crete, this style spread to other Aegean islands and to the Greek mainland, where it was modified by geometric trends. The rhythmic pulse that characterizes Aegean art suggests a deep reverence for the divinities of nature.
The organic quality of the Minoan style is most clearly seen in the palaces of Crete. The four main palaces [[Knossos [[, Festus , Malia and ZákrosThey followed the same basic plan, with rooms on various levels, organized functionally around a large central courtyard. These courtyards must have housed multitudes of worshipers, who gathered in front of the western rooms of worship. The palaces also had large cellars, artists’ workshops, refectories, and luxurious living quarters (including bathrooms) for the ruling noble families. The structures were light and flexible, rather than monumental, and entirely open. The distinctive Minoan columns, with their descending recordings, suggest movement rather than stability. Another specifically Minoan feature was the polythyron, a wall made of doors, which facilitated ventilation and closure of a room. The private residence of Minoan Crete ranges from simple peasant houses to rich mansions and villas, built with the same refined features and techniques as palaces. A great variety of constructions for burials were made. Most prominent were the southern Cretan tombs (tholos), circular buildings with cantilevered stone vaults, large enough to bury the entire family for many centuries. The rulers’ palaces on the Greek mainland were completely different from those on Crete. They had the characteristic megaron, a dominant central room, which was reached from a courtyard by crossing a portico flanked by columns, and had a large central fireplace surrounded by four columns. The megarons in the palaces of Mycenae, Tiryns, and Pylos were strikingly similar. The cities of the continent tended to fortification with great walls of cyclopean masonry, built with massive and irregular blocks. Recent excavations in Mycenae indicate that, as in Crete, the palaces served as centers of work as well as government. For royal burials the Mycenaean Greeks originally used wells as tombs, but later adopted the Minoan tholos, turning them into an impressive structure. The tombs were covered with mounds or artificial earth embankments, and they were entered through long corridors. In the more advanced tombs, such as the one known as the Atreus treasure at Mycenae, the large, circular space was impressively vaulted with thick stone canopies. As in Crete, the palaces served as centers of work as well as government. For royal burials the Mycenaean Greeks originally used wells as tombs, but later adopted the Minoan tholos, turning them into an impressive structure. The tombs were covered with mounds or artificial earth embankments, and they were entered through long corridors. In the more advanced tombs, such as the one known as the Atreus treasure at Mycenae, the large, circular space was impressively vaulted with thick stone canopies. As in Crete, the palaces served as centers of work as well as of government. For royal burials the Mycenaean Greeks originally used wells as tombs, but later adopted the Minoan tholos, turning them into an impressive structure. The tombs were covered with mounds or artificial earth embankments, and they were entered through long corridors. In the more advanced tombs, such as the one known as the Atreus treasure at Mycenae, the large, circular space was impressively vaulted with thick stone canopies. turning them into an impressive structure. The tombs were covered with mounds or artificial earth embankments, and they were entered through long corridors. In the more advanced tombs, such as the one known as the Atreus treasure at Mycenae, the large, circular space was impressively vaulted with thick stone canopies. turning them into an impressive structure. The tombs were covered with mounds or artificial earth embankments, and they were entered through long corridors. In the more advanced tombs, such as the one known as the Atreus treasure at Mycenae, the large, circular space was impressively vaulted with thick stone canopies.
Painting and sculpture
Minoan painting developed two styles, either the picturesque frescoes on the walls of palaces or the elegant designs that decorate Minoan pottery. Most of the existing Minoan sculptures are statues and statuettes of various materials and seals of semi-precious stones with carved motifs.
Cretan palaces and houses were usually decorated with glittering paintings on the walls. The Minoans made an important contribution to the art of landscape painting. Only in the Aegean landscapes were painted without human figures. Minoan artists reflected the terrain with wavy contours and bands of turbulent colors to emphasize the vitality of existence. The scenes were animated with animals, such as donkeys and birds, in energetic movements among swaying foliage. The Minoans had a remarkable facility among ancient peoples in capturing movement. The figures were represented in instantaneous moments of action and in a great variety of poses. Minoan figures are typically slender, which enhances their mobility aspect. The representation of human figures is essential in ritual scenes, such as the fresco of the jump to the bull Occasionally, the frescoes were reproduced by a special method of painting known as the miniaturist style, by means of which multitudes of people were represented in a small area with just a few slight lines. In recent excavations in Thera, in the Cyclades islands, well-preserved frescoes from prosperous private homes have been discovered that are related to Cretan art, although scenes from nature are painted more abstractly. Many of the Thera frescoes depict children, who are portrayed at different ages and with their heads shaved, except for a few curls. In one particularly important painting, of a site known as the Western House,Greek ; they describe the entire Aegean world, with a fleet of luxuriously decorated ships sailing from city to city. Despite the distinguished quality of this painting, the artist evidently lacked any notion of perspective. The Minoan pictorial repertoire and fresco technique were later adopted on the Greek mainland, where religious scenes similar to those of Crete and Thera were painted. Hunting and fighting scenes were also popular. Recent excavations at Tell-el-Daba, in the western part of the delta in Egypt, have uncovered fragments of frescoes that include scenes of the jump to the bull painted by the Minoans. In light of these discoveries, it is clear that the relationship between Egypt and Minoan culture should be reviewed.
Among the first sculptural samples of the Aegean are the figures of the Cyclades islands in the form of schematic idols recalling the contours of violins. From the beginning they made life-size brightly painted marble figures, usually of women with their arms folded under their chests, and an astonishing collection of sculptures of seated men playing the harp or holding goblets in their hands. Among the most important articles of the Aegean civilization are the bronze statuettes associated exclusively with the Minoan enclaves. They include worshiping men and women with their arms raised in a prayerful pose as well as images of a crawling child, a bull and its jumper, or a reclining goat. Minoan artists excelled at carving ivory figures in which they added other materials to intensify their effects. In addition to goddesses related to animals, in Palaiokastro (Crete) another image was found in 1987 of a young god, whose body is sculpted in ivory covered with gold and the head is carved from a single piece of blue-gray serpentine. The Minoans also excelled in carving stone vases, many of which were enhanced with relief decoration. Large-scale stone sculpture, however, is best represented in Mycenaean culture, which embellished its architecture with reliefs. The façade of the so-called Atreus treasure in Mycenae is adorned with column-shaped red and green marbles and a spiral frieze. The stelae stones, or commemorative plaques, found on the royal tombs of Mycenae, contain geometric motifs and figures. A characteristic sample of this type of decoration is the monumental stone relief on the Puerta de los Leones in Mycenae, in which there are two majestic lions on each side of a column. The Mycenaeans also stood out as carvers of circular ivory vessels and decorative plates.
Ceramics and metallurgy
With the construction of the great palaces of Crete, ceramics developed as a luxury art. Using the same three-part firing technique later used by Attic potters, Cretan artists created splendid vases in numerous shapes as well as a seemingly endless variety of lively ornaments. Much admired in the ancient world, Minoan pottery was copied throughout the Aegean and even exported to Egypt and the Near East. In later periods, ornaments included naturalistic themes, such as floral shapes and the well-known maritime style, with octopuses, crustaceans and seaweed painted in rich global designs. Minoan pottery was imitated on the Greek mainland, where it gradually evolved both in form and according to ornamentation into more disciplined forms. In the final phase, the Mycenaeans introduced animals and human figures as part of the decoration. The art of metal working also developed in Minoan Crete under royal patronage. The few objects that have survived to this day, such as granulated gold, demonstrate the existence of experts in precious metal work from Malia to Minos. The most impressive Mycenaean metalwork discoveries appeared in shaft tombs and tholos on the continent. Include The most impressive Mycenaean metalwork discoveries appeared in shaft tombs and tholos on the continent. Include The most impressive Mycenaean metalwork discoveries appeared in shaft tombs and tholos on the continent. Includegold masks and funeral goods embossed with geometric patterns. The burials also contained luxurious gold and silver vases and ornamental bronze weapons, most made by Minoan artists. Some of the vases were decorated with intricate drawings and scenes forged in embossed relief. Other vases, as well as bronze daggers, were adorned with different colored metals, a technique sometimes referred to as ‘metal painting’. These complex products were the most prized objects in the Aegean.