aegean civilization



aegean civilization defined in 1939 year

aegean civilization - Aegean Civilization;
aegean civilization - Name given to the pre-Hellenic civilization, including the Minoan, Cycladic, and Mycenaean cultures. Its chief centres were Cnossus and Phaestus in Crete, the islands of Melos, Paros, and Naxos in the Cyclades, and Mycenae and Tiryns in Peloponnesus.

Crete was the first European land to attain high achievement in art. The term Minoan has been given to phases of Bronze Age civilization there, subdivided into three periods: Early (c. 3600-2100 b.c.), Middle (c. 2100-1600), and Late (c. 1600-1200). The golden age of Crete - in the Late Minoan period - lasted about a century (c. 1500-1400), towards the end of which the island was invaded by the Mycenaeans, and the palace at Cnossus burnt.

The Mycenaean culture was an offshoot of the great Cretan civilization. The evidence suggests that it was the result of conquest. There was no gradual Minoisation of the native community on the Greek mainland, but an abrupt and wholesale displacement of a lower by an incomparably higher culture. Mycenaean civilization ended with equal abruptness about 1000 b.c. as a result of the Dorian invasion from the north.

The excavations by Heinrich Schliemarm at Mycenae (begun in 1876) and Tiryns (1884) contributed much to modern knowledge of Mycenaean domestic and religious life, but his conviction that Crete would produce even more important results has been fully justified by the discoveries, since 1894, of Sir Arthur Evans and others.

The remains of the palace at Cnossus, Crete, exhibit architectural talent of a high order. Most interesting are the Throne Room, the Hall of the Double Axe, possibly the fetish of some divinity, and the Queen's Hall, with frescoes representing religious processions, bull fights, boxing contests, and other scenes from national life. Explorers have been struck by the excellence of the sanitary arrangements indicated, and the similarity of the female attire to that of a modern society lady. The early non-Aryan inhabitants of Crete probably belonged to the so-called Mediterranean race, distinguished by long heads, dark complexions, and shortness of stature. They at first used a pictorial system of writing, and later, linear signs; numerous specimens have been discovered but not deciphered. Essentially a seafaring people, they carried 011 an extensive commerce, especially with Egypt. Frescoes on the tomb of an Egyptian viceroy represent Keftiu, by whom Cretans undoubtedly are meant, bringing tribute to Thothmes III (1500-1450 b.c.). The chief industries were pottery and olive oil. The Cretans were skilled carpenters and metal-workers, but agriculture seems to have been little practised. They had a metal currency and a system of weights of Babylonian origin. The chief Cretan divinities were two, the most important a nature-goddess, with a younger male subordinate, the former identified with various Hellenic goddesses, the latter with Zeus.

Bibliography. Crete, the Forerunner of Greece, H. B. Hawes, 1911; The Oldest Civilization of Greece, H. B. Hall, 1901; The Palace of Minos at Cnossus, Sir Arthur Evans, 1921, and 1928; History of the Ancient World, M. Rostoetzeff, 1926; Dawn of European Civilization, V. Gordon Childe. 1925.

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