During the Second and Third millennia BC, Aegean civilizations include three related yet diverse cultures. These cultures include the Minoan culture located on the island of Crete, the Cycladic culture located on the Cyclades Islands north of Crete, and the Mycenaean culture located on the mainland of Greece. Although there were many differences, there were many mutual traditions and styles (Janson 92).
Not much is known about the Cycladic civilization except what has been learned from the art they left behind. Around 2800 BC, Cycladic female nudes made of marble are described as “Generally they have a flat, wedge-shaped body; a strong columnar neck; a tilted oval shield of a face; and a long ridge like nose” (Janson 93). The Cycladic sculptors then embraced a new style. The newer sculptures were of nude female figures that lacked the full figure appearance and instead portrayed narrow hips and petite breasts. This change is believed to be related to a change in religious beliefs (Janson 94).
The Minoan civilization was the most prosperous and extraordinary. There are many stages of their civilization that materialize then vanish suddenly. The theory behind these sudden changes is archaeological disasters and historical forces (Janson 94). The Minoan people were undeterred by these disasters. When earthquakes destroyed the Minoan palaces, which occurred at least three times, the Minoans rebuilt them, each more impressive then the previous palace. One of the more remarkable palaces was the Knossos. The Knossos was covered with beautiful wall paintings of images of nature, showing the Minoans love of nature.
The Minoans were a peaceful people. They had no need for walls or fortresses since their island location provided them with a view of all their surroundings, enabling them to see attackers well in advance.
Minoan statues were very impressive in their detail. The “Snake Goddess” shows the fertility goddess in extravagant dress, breasts exposed, with a snake in each hand. The snakes represent male fertility, and the exposed breasts represent female fruitfulness (Janson 97).
The Mycenaean’s were a warlike people who built grand fortresses out of giant blocks of stone. There location on the mainland of Greece, and their warlike inclinations, required their palaces to be much larger then the Minoans. Mycenaean fortresses were very simple in design since they were built for defense, while the Minoan palaces, which were used for trade and worship, were beautifully decorated (Janson 103-104).
For all the Minoan and Mycenaean differences, there were many similarities. For example, religious architecture of both the Minoans and Mycenaean’s were “…modest structures with cult statues set apart from the palaces, which also included small shrines” (Janson 104).
The similarities of these three Aegean cultures prove they shared ideas and beliefs, yet there are many differences that show they were also three distinctly different cultures.
Janson, Anthony F, and H. W Janson. History of Art the Western Tradition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Pretice Hall, .
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