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Aegean Civilizations

3000 BCE - 1200 BCE

The Ancient World

Aegean Civilizations

In the early years of the classical world Egypt gets all the love — but they weren’t the only game in town. From 3000 to 1200 B.C., the Cycladic, Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations developed on the coasts of the Aegean Sea.

We know little of these cultures outside of a few major excavations in the Peloponnese Peninsula, Knossos on the island of Crete, and in the volcanic ash that buried much of the island of Santorini. The homes and palaces discovered show a society that seems to have been centered around commerce. Large palaces were home to the ruling class, and served as storage houses for agricultural produce. The sprawling palaces of Crete at Knossos, Mallia, Phaistos and Zakros distinguish themselves from the Mesopotamian cities by their lack of defensive walls, and their vibrant decorations and frescos. The Minoan cultures used a language called 'Linear A' — though linguists have so far been unable to translate it, it's use on cylinder seals and clay vessel seals often resembles receipts for transactions and labels of ownership. The later Mycenaean cultures wrote with a system known now as 'Linear B' — a variant of early Greek.

The art of the Aegean cultures provide our best glimpse into what seems to be a vibrant world of seafaring trade, snake wielding goddesses & boxing children. Many of the stories told in Greek mythology — Theseus and his minotaur, the Trojan horse and the fall of Troy, may have originated in the tangled walls of the King Minos’s labyrinthine palace & frescos of women dancing with the bulls.

metmuseum.org: Minoan Cretearthistoryteachingresources.org: Aegean Artmetmuseum.org: Mycenaean Civilization
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Early Cycladic female figure

Early Cycladic female figure

3200 BCE-2800 BCE
Cycladic seated harp player

Cycladic seated harp player

2800 BCE-2700 BCE
Cycladic female figure

Cycladic female figure

2300 BCE-2200 BCE
Cycladic Kernos — Vase for Offerings

Cycladic Kernos — Vase for Offerings

2300 BCE-2200 BCE
Minoan Haematite Cylinder Seal

Minoan Haematite Cylinder Seal

1400 BCE-1300 BCE
Mycenaean Octopus Stirrup Jar

Mycenaean Octopus Stirrup Jar

1200 BCE-1100 BCE