+
3 Tutorials that teach Aegean Art
Take your pick:
Aegean Art

Aegean Art

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will provide an overview of Aegean Art.

(more)
See More

Try Sophia’s Art History Course. For Free.

Our self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

An overview of Aegean Art.

Video Transcription

Download PDF

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McCannell, and today's lesson is about Aegean art. As you're watching the video feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe some general characteristics about the early Bronze Age civilizations of the Aegean, describe some physical characteristics of Cycladic sculptures, and explain how myth and legend inspired the search for and discovery of major archaeological discoveries.

Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Bronze Age, prehistoric period between the Stone Age and the Iron Age when many tools and weapons were made of bronze. Aegean is related to the Aegean Sea and or the Bronze Age civilization that flourished there. Cycladic is relating to the Cyclades, a group of islands in the Aegean Sea, also used to discuss Bronze Age civilization that flourished there. Sculpture in the Round Is a type of sculpture that is completely freestanding, not attached to a flat surface.

Key terms continued, first one, Votive Figures, sculptures placed in a shrine in fulfillment of a vow. An Abstraction of the human figure is a type of art that involves a simplification usually into geometric shapes of objects or bodies seen in lived experience. Big idea for today is that early Aegean civilizations were able to share cultural, technological, and religious ideas due to their proximity to each other and mutual reliance on the sea for trade. Sidenote, this lesson has required artwork that's listed in purple.

The period of time we're looking at covers almost 2,000 years from about 3,000 BC to 1,100 BC. And one thing I'd like to point out before we move forward is it's difficult to provide accurate dates from this period. Of the tools used to determine accurate dates, they all rely on the examination of the decay rates of organic compounds which contain carbon. Now, this is one of the primary limitations of carbon dating. If there aren't any organic compounds to measure, researchers can only make an educated guess.

Quick geography lesson, we'll be looking at the Aegean region around Greece and a circular collection of islands known as the Cyclades islands. Here's modern day Greece. Zooming in, in red there's the Aegean Sea, and here are the Cyclades islands. In addition to the use of the sea for trade, one of the things that linked together the many different cultures of this region is their use of bronze.

The term Bronze Age comes from the metal alloy bronze which was first used to make tools and weapons during this period. Now, bronze is an alloy, or a combination of the metals copper and tin. Like many great breakthroughs this was discovered by accident, as tin melts at temperatures you would find in the average fire, but copper melts only at much higher temperatures like those you'd find in a kiln for drying pottery. Production of pottery probably led to the discovery of copper alloys. Smelting is the process by which an ore is reduced through heat and chemical change to obtain metal compounds.

Now, the Cyclades islands provide us with many examples of ceramic and marble figures. This example on the right, called Figure of a Woman from Syros, which is an island of the Cyclades, is a great example. And like the majority of figures discovered here it is of a female. It's also interesting in its abstract appearance and the use of triangular features, which we'll explore in a moment. It seems to emphasize feminine features such as the breasts and genital area, which has led some to believe that they may have been fertility idols.

They were commonly found in graves. And their portability indicates that they were likely of some religious importance and may have been used in religious processions. Unlike their appearance today they would have originally been colorfully painted with facial features like the mouth and eyes painted on. There is additional evidence of eye symbolism appearing on many of these. Not only were large eyes similar to what we would see in Sumerian votive idols.

Not only were they painted on the face, but they were also painted on other areas of the body like the stomach, which again leads to the idea that they may have functioned as fertility idols. However, their true purpose remains debated. In this overlay we can clearly see the triangular design elements, which is pretty cool.

This is a marble figure of a male harp player from the island of Keros. Why do we care? Well, male figures were much less common than female figures, for one. And secondly, it's interesting in its abstraction, or its general abstraction juxtaposed with the careful modeling of the arms, hands, and feet.

So the area in and around the Aegean is rich in historical art and architectural remains. The focus on the exploration of this area is due in no small part to the rich culture of mythology and legend that exists here as well. In fact, it was legend that led to two major discoveries here, that of Knossos and Crete and the supposed remains of the ancient and the legendary city of Troy. So it's the stories about characters like King Minos and the stories from the Greek author Homer that led some pioneering archaeologists to search for the possible remains of these places.

And one of those pioneering archaeologists was Heinrich Schliemann and his search and eventual discovery of the supposed city of Troy. And I say supposed because they think it is the actual ancient city of Troy as well as the legendary city of Troy that was referred to in Homer's Iliad. And secondly, Arthur Evans and his search for the palace of King Minos led to the discovery of the palace complex at Knossos in Crete and led to the civilization that existed there being called the Minoan civilization after the legendary King Minos.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson are you able to identify and define today's key terms, can you describe some general characteristics about the early Bronze Age civilizations of the Aegean, can you describe some physical characteristics of Cycladic sculptures, and can you explain how myth and legend inspired the search for and discovery of major archaeological discoveries?

Once again, the big idea for today is that early Aegean civilizations were able to share cultural, technological, and religious ideas due to their proximity to each other and mutual reliance on the sea for trade. And there you go. Thank you for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Citations

Image of Greece Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EU-Greece.svg; Image of Figure of a Cycladic Woman, Photo by Xuan Che, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dokathismata_female_idol_-_NAMA.jpg Image of Cycladic Harp Player, Photo by Ad Meskens, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Metropolitan_harp_player.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Votive Figures

    Sculptures placed in a shrine in fulfillment of a vow.

  • Abstraction (of the human figure)

    A type of art that involves a simplification, usually into geometric shapes, of objects (bodies) seen in lived experience.

  • Sculpture in the Round

    A type of sculpture that is completely free-standing, not attached to a flat surface.

  • Cycladic

    Relating to the Cyclades, a group of islands in the Aegean Sea, also used to discuss Bronze Age civilization that flourished there.

  • Bronze Age

    A prehistoric period between the Stone Age and the Iron Age when many tools and weapons were made of bronze.

  • Aegean

    Relating to the Aegean Sea and/or the Bronze Age civilization that flourished there.