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Aegean Civilization - history.

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Aegean Civilization - history. I INTRODUCTION Aegean Civilization, term used to denote the Bronze Age civilization that developed (circa 3000-1200 BC) in the basin of the Aegean Sea, mainly on Crete (Kríti), the Cyclades (Kikládhes) Islands, and the mainland of Greece. It had two major cultures: the Minoan, which flourished in Crete and reached its height in the Middle Bronze period, notably at Knossos (Knosós) and Phaestos; and the Mycenaean, which developed in the Late Bronze period on the mainland at Mycenae and other centers, including Tiryns and Pílos (Pylos). See Achaeans; Minoan Culture; Mycenae. Ancient Greek writers had related stories of an "age of heroes" before their time, but nothing definite was known about the Aegean civilization until the late 19th century, when archaeological excavations began at the sites of the legendary cities of Troy, Mycenae, Knossos, and other centers of the Bronze Age. II GREEK LEGENDS According to Greek mythology, there once was a time when great events had occurred and the gods had involved themselves in human affairs. The story of King Minos and the slaying of the Minotaur he kept in the labyrinth by the Greek hero Theseus may be the mythic rendering of the battle for hegemony in the Aegean in which Mycenae took over Knossos. Homer's epic the Iliad describes events of the Trojan War, which is believed to have brought about the fall of Troy sometime between 1230 BC BC and 1180 at the hands of the Greeks, or Achaeans as the poet calls them. The poet also mentions well-known places believed to be the centers of the Mycenaean period, such as "golden Mycenae," where King Agamemnon ruled; Pylos, where Nestor was king; and Phthia in Thessaly (Thessalia), the home of the hero Achilles. III ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES Mask of Agamemnon The so-called Mask of Agamemnon was discovered in a grave at Mycenae by German amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1876. It is believed to be the death mask of a Mycenaean king. Nimatallah/Art Resource, NY A German amateur archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, was responsible for some of the most famous discoveries of the 19th century. In 1870 he began excavating a mound called Hisarl?k, in what is now Turkey, and found what is believed to be the ruins of Troy. In Greece he uncovered the sites of Mycenae in 1876-1878 and Tiryns in 1884. Finds of fortress palaces, pottery, ornaments, and royal tombs containing gold and other artifacts demonstrated the existence of a well-developed civilization that had flourished about 1500-1200 BC. Schliemann's work has been continued by modern archaeologists, including the American Carl Blegen. In 1900 the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans discovered at Knossos, Crete, a huge palace complex that he associated with King Minos and the labyrinth. Evans also found baked clay tablets with two types of writing, dating from the middle of the 2nd millennium BC; these are called Linear A and Linear B. Linear B tablets from about 1200 BC have been found at Pylos and other Mycenaean sites. The British cryptologist Michael Ventris and John Chadwick, a classical scholar, proved that Linear B is an early form of Greek. Linear A, the language of Minoan Crete, has not yet been deciphered. The discovery of Linear B on Crete supported the conclusion that the mainland people, the Mycenaeans, gained ascendancy over the Minoans. Cycladic Figure from Amorgos Highly schematic, nude human figures produced during the Bronze Age are typical of Cycladic culture. Their simplicity influenced artists of the early 20th century, such as Constantin Brancusi and Amedeo Modigliani. This figure, made about 2000 bc, comes from Amorgos, one of the many Aegean islands on which Cycladic culture flourished. It is now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Bridgeman Art Library, London/New York The existence of a Cycladic civilization that had connections with both the mainland and Crete is indicated by artifacts found in these islands. Since the 1930s Greek excavations of a Cycladic settlement on the island of Thíra (Thera), also known as Santoríni, have yielded frescoes and artifacts similar to the Minoan. Thíra was apparently destroyed by a great volcanic eruption about 1640 BC. The disaster may have been the basis for Plato's writings on the lost continent of Atlantis. More recent excavations on the islands encircling Delos tra...

« powers of the sea, which was central to Cycladic life. IV HISTORICAL RECORD Recent archaeological discoveries, such as the excavated village of Dimini in Thessaly, produced material evidence of a cultural progression from the Neolithic (New StoneAge) to the Bronze Age, which commenced about 3000 BC and of which three phases were recognized: Early, Middle, and Late. A Early Bronze Age Cycladic FigureStylized marble figures, like this one, are distinctive of Cycladic culture, the earliest culture of the Aegean Bronze Age. Most of thefigures are of naked females depicted with folded arms. They range in size from about 15 cm (6 in) to about 140 cm (55 in).Although the majority of such figures have been found in graves, their precise significance remains a mystery. This one was madeabout 3000 bc.THE BETTMANN ARCHIVE About 3000 BC new people apparently arrived in the Aegean, perhaps from Asia Minor. They used bronze for their weapons and tools, thus introducing the Bronze Age to the area. On the mainland their villages appear to have been small independent units, often protected by thick walls; over time, the buildings on Crete and in the Cycladesbecame more complex. Burials were communal throughout the Aegean, but burial practices varied. On the mainland, pit graves and some of more elaborate constructionwere common; in the Cyclades, stone-lined burial chambers (cists); and on Crete, circular stone tombs, rectangular ossuaries (bone depositories), and caves. All had placesfor cult offerings, and the dead were often buried with beautiful objects. B Middle Bronze Age Minoan Palace of KnossosNear the north coast of Crete, just southeast of the modern city of Iráklion, lies one of the most significant archaeological sites inGreece. The colorful Palace of Knossos was once the center of a flourishing Minoan city with a population of more than 50,000. TheMinoans, named for the legendary King Minos of Greek myth, prospered in the Aegean from about 3000 to 1200 bc. Excavationsbegan on the site in the early 20th century ad.Joan Iaconetti/Bruce Coleman, Inc. About 2200-1800 BC another wave of newcomers arrived in the Cyclades and on the mainland. They caused considerable destruction, and for about two centuriescivilization was disrupted, especially on the mainland. New pottery and the introduction of horses at this time indicate that the invaders were of the Indo-European languagefamily, to which both Ancient and Modern Greek belong. On Crete, impressive buildings, frescoes, vases, and early writing are evidence of a flourishing culture of the 2nd millennium BC, which came to be known as Minoan. Great royal palaces built around large courtyards were the focal points of these communities. The most magnificent of the palaces was at Knossos. Destroyed presumably by anearthquake or a foreign invasion about 1700 BC, it was rebuilt on a grand scale. It seems likely that the Minoans maintained a marine empire, trading not only with theCyclades and the mainland but also with Sicily, Egypt, and cities on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. »

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