Greece: Minoans and Mycenaeans (Room 12)

The Arthur I Fleischman Gallery
3200 – 1100 BC

Minoans (Room 12a)

Minoan Crete was dominated by great palaces, most of which were founded in about 1950 BC. Material from the palace of Knossos is displayed in this gallery, along with pottery, bronzes and stone vases from elsewhere in Crete.

An impressive group of jewellery and treasure on display in Room 12a, believed to have been found on the island of Aigina, demonstrates the craftsmanship of the period.

A bronze sculpture from around 1600 BC represents an acrobat ‘bull-jumping’. This sport may have had links with the legend of the Minotaur: the bull-headed monster slain by the hero Theseus.

Mycenaeans (Room 12b)

The Mycenaean period of the later Greek Bronze Age was viewed by the Greeks as the 'age of heroes' and perhaps provides the historical background to many of the stories told in later Greek mythology, including Homer's epics. Objects and artworks from this time are found throughout mainland Greece and the Greek islands. Distinctive Mycenaean pottery was distributed widely across the eastern Mediterranean.

Following the collapse of this civilisation in the twelfth century BC, Greece entered a 'Dark Age' of relative poverty and isolation.

The displays in Room 12b include a fine example of a krater (mixing bowl) and a number of bronzes from the later Geometric period. These show the beginnings of Greek mythology being used to decorate works of art. They come from about the same time that the epics of Homer were reaching the form in which we inherit them, as the earliest Greek literature.