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Lecture

The Aegean Bronze Age Lecture notes that outline the possible roles of women in Minoan and Mycenaean civilisation through literary and archaeological evidence.

7 Pages
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Department
Classics
Course Code
CLAS 370
Professor
Sheila Ager

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The Aegean Bronze Age January-18-11 1:14 PM  3000-1000 BCE. Have rough ideas for timelines of cultures  Cycladic culture of Cycladic islands, Minoans (based on Crete), Helladic culture (Mycenaean) Cycladic Figurines  Come from late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Before rise of Minoan and Mycenaean civilisation  Many have been found over long stretches of time  Female figurines that seem to be produced over and over  Lots of differences and similarities  Abstract vision of the female body  Steatopygous type figurine: means she has a fat butt. o Possibly pregnant o Cycladic version of Venus figurine  Slim down over time  No individual characteristics  Breasts are not exaggerated, genital area is sketched out, arms are crossed under the breasts  Range in size remarkably  Don't really know what they are, so we assume religious  Possible that they are mother goddesses, or icons of fertility Women in Minoan Society January-18-11 1:22 PM  Mostly talking about Crete, though Minoans traded beyond the island and possibility of colonisation of the Cycladic islands  3000-1450 BCE; establishment of culture in 3000, flourished around 2000BCE  Wealth and power measured by series of palace complexes around the island o Most significant is Knossos o Knossos always capital of Crete and most important place on Crete in Greek myth  Contemporaries of Bronze Age Greece. Rise to wealth and power predate rise of wealth and power of mainland Greece o Influenced mainland via trade on art, fashion etc. o Makes it difficult to determine what is Minoan and what is Mycenaean  Mythic memories: o Theseus battling the Minotaur who belongs to King Minos o Called Minoan after King Minos; don't know what language they spoke, don't know what they called themselves, they're not Greek. They had a writing system but we can't read it Discovery of Minoan Civilization  Purely archaeological find  Discovered by Sir Arthur Evans o Started excavations at Knossos around 1900 o Influenced by Bachofen's and Engel's ideas o Can see Bachofen's ideas in the interpretations of the finds at Minoan Crete  Common assumptions o Minoan women in held in high regard. o Minoans were a very peaceful people. Literature to back this up is largely made up Evidence  Mostly artefactual and material evidence.  Current Minoan evidence challenges past interpretations  Peacefulness: o Architecture of palaces show little evidence of defensive walls. Big open structure that looks like anyone could go in their o However, legends of King Minos tell us they have a powerful navy. Know Minoans made their way by sea, possible they would have a strong navy and no need of walls o Walls have been found further out from central complex o Art portrays peaceful scenes; jewellery, nature is depicted, animals, palace life. Scenes of ritual, palace gatherings. Don't feature lots of artwork of war scenes o Crete is in the middle of the Aegean, surrounded by warring regions  Primacy of women, especially in religion o Frescoes o Figurines o Jewellery - gold seal rings appear to have images of rituals. o Lots of art that features women or women engaging in some kind of ritual o Possible that women had significant role in religion, doubtful outside that  Written Sources (Linear A) are little help. o Basically an accounting system; number of slaves o Generally we can't read them and palace accounts don't say a whole lot about the society  Interpretation of the artefacts has been ideas about primitive matriarchy Priestesses and Goddesses  La Parisienne fresco: o Woman considered decorative o Part of the camp stool fresco o Men typically red in Minoan art, women typically white o (scarf thing she's wearing) Sacred knot: suggested symbol of some significance o Seems to be a woman of some importance  The Procession Fresco o Men and women walking in procession with gifts toward a woman of some importance (all we have is her feet) o Religious transvestism: male figures dressed in robes worn by women. Possible that they are worshipping a female goddess, but it’s all interpretation  The Priest King or Lily Prince o Don't really know if ancient Crete was a theocracy. o Probably someone important if the hat belongs to him, not certain it does. o Has fair skin - usually the colour of a woman's skin and men are typically red. Back to the procession fresco, it's possible the white footed figure isn't a woman o New reconstruction shows him more like a guard and not really someone special.  Sarcophagus from Hagia Triadha o Looks like a series of offerings for the dead o Women seem to be offering liquid sacrifice o On the other side shows animal sacrifice lead by women  Sacred Grove and Dance fresco: o Shows women engaged in some sort of behaviour, possibly dancing, possibly worship o Is a public activity, what is generally assumed to be a ritual scene o Only women are participating  Seal ring o Looks like another dancing scene. Possible that its worship o Probably engaged in some sort of ritual o Lots of scenes of women engaged in what seems to be ritual behaviour  Are examples of art that shows males in some kind of ritual gesture  Suggested representatives of the goddesses, or priestesses of the goddess o If they're not goddesses, they're probably doing something uncanny. Both are clutching snakes, attire is not common. If they're not goddesses then they're probably priestesses. o Snakes symbols of fertility throughout antiquity: are phallic; shed their skins as an element of rebirth o Open bodice is normal form women  Grandstand Fresco: o Series of grandstands with spectators in the stands and below them. o Women are sitting in the front row. Shows women in a public setting, probably important, elite women. They're larger than the other figures, dressed nicely o Shows possibility of segregated seating between women and men - IF the fresco was accurately restored  The Toreador Fresco o Appears to engage both men and women o Men and women tend to have the same body shapes in art, difficult to distinguish between males and females. o Possible that they're slaves or professional acrobats  Reconstruction of art and artefacts were formed by thoughts of Evans Women as Decoration  Possible that frescoes featuring women were just decorative. Equivalent to our billboards with random people  "Queen's Chamber" as designated by Evans at Knossos o Has a semi throne in it o Considered it to be a Queen's room because of the decorative frescoes of nature and dolphins o Is just pretty pictures on the wall Akrotiri on Thera  Lots of Minoan influence  Technically Cycladic, but seems to have adopted Minoan themes and styles in art  Volcano erupted and buried Akrotiri  Buildings filled with Minoan like frescoes  The Spring Fresco o Scenes from nature o Lilies and swallows and weird hills  The house of the Ladies o Appear to be in some sort of ritual activity o Minoan like outfits, open bodice, flounce skirts  Saffron Gatherers o Older woman and younger girl gathering saffron o Younger girl has a shaved head, seen on younger people. Seen as a rite of initia
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