Ancient Aegean: c. 2700-1200 B.C.E.

19th century archaeologists sought evidence for Homer’s epic poems. Instead they uncovered the bronze-age art of the Cycladic islands (in the Aegean Sea), the Minoans (on Crete), and the Mycenaeans (on the Greek mainland).

There aren’t many places in the world like Knossos—after all, it is 9,000 years old.


Bull-leaping fresco from the palace of Knossos
The Bronze Age culture of Crete, called Minoan, is one of the most vibrant and admired in all of European prehistory.

Minoan art, an introduction

Cycladic period figures, marble, (National Archaeological Museum, Athens)
The ancient Cycladic islands are perhaps best known for the elegant, small-scale marble sculptures—nearly all of women—known as Cycladic Figurines.

Cycladic art, an introduction

Kamares ware jug
This delicate type of pottery helps us understand the far-reaching trade networks in the ancient Mediterranean.

Kamares Ware Jug

Hagia Triada sarcophagus
This beautifully painted sarcophagus depicts an elaborate burial ritual—was it made for royalty?

Hagia Triada sarcophagus

Bull's head rhyton from the palace at Knossos
This hollow stone vessel in the shape of a bull's head is both frighteningly realistic and beautifully stylized.

Bull’s Head Rhyton

Harvester Vase from Hagia Triada
The exuberant procession depicted on this small but luxurious object celebrates the fruits of farming the land.

Harvester Vase

Octopus vase from Palaikastro
This vase with a charming image of a writhing octopus was made during the height of the Minoan sea trade.

Octopus vase

Snake goddess from the palace at Knossos
Goddess, priestess, or simply a Minoan woman? Mysteries abound in this small figurine from Knossos.

Snake Goddess

Hidden under volcanic ash for millennia, the beautiful frescoes in the houses of Akrotiri were recently unearthed.

Akrotiri, Thera

Modern artists fell in the love with these abstract 5000 year old sculptures—but what was their real meaning?

Male Harp Player from Keros

“I have gazed into the face of Agamemnon,” boasted the man who discovered it—but is it really the Homeric hero?

Mask of Agamemnon

Below the great citadel of Mycenae, a passage into a hillside leads to a massive beehive-shaped tomb.

The Treasury of Atreus