Early Cycladic marble figurine
*There are fewer than 2000 of these Early Cycladic
Folded-Arm figurines known. They are fairly small, usually
not more than 20 cm in length. These anthropomorphic
figurines include more anatomical detail than the earlier EC
schematic figurines. The posture of these figurines appears
to be with pointed toes, head tilted back, and arms folded
over stomach. These figurines are typically displayed
standing, but perhaps their posture and burial context rather
suggest that the figurines were depicted as lying down.
There are different versions of these figurines: there are
male and female figurines, seated, double, musicians, and
warriors. Traces of bright-colored paint indicated that the
figurines were decorated with details of the face and body
representing tattooing, scarification, jewelry, feminine
post-partum lines or mourning face-gouging.
They were produced over a 600-700 year stretch during the third millennium BCE. These
figurines are found in contexts from the Early Cycladic period of the Early Bronze age of about
2500 BCE. These figurines are not found evenly through all of the islands of the Cyclades. They
have been mainly excavated in cemeteries and occasionally settlements such as Phylakopi on
Melos, Aya Irini on Kea, Akrotiri on Thera, as well as the (heavily robbed) concentrated deposit
at the mysterious Daskaleio Kavos site of the Keros hoard on Keros.
These Folded-Arm Figurines might have been decorative, ritual, or functional items. There is
a definite cultic context attested at least because the burial context signifies a religious element.
The small-scale human representation then suggests that these figurines may be representations
of devotees or worshippers. Their inclusion as grave goods suggests a caring for the individual
and the treatment of the dead body. The de-individualized shapes of these stone figurines could
suggest a communal mentality. However, paint traces might indicate individualizing decoration
of the figurines. Though not all burials have figurines, one or many figurines can accompany a
single burial, along with many valuable grave goods or none. This apparently uneven usage
complicates the question of meaning as we try to balance communalizing and individualizing
interpretations. In addition, our analysis of the Early Cycladic context is muddied by a high
incidence of forgeries and looting motivated by a high demand for Early Cycladic figurines as art
pieces, and improper archaeological techniques which create uncertain provenances. Scholars are
divided as to the use of these figurines, whether they were intended solely as funerary goods or
for broader consumption. They were buried with the dead but they were also used in houses and
other ritual activities which are difficult to reconstruct. The Cycladic peoples recycled these
figurines and discarded them when their usage expired. *What: The Early Cycladic Figurines are usually representations of nude standing female figures
with arms folded on top of their abdomen, slightly flexed knees and a barely uplifted backward-
slanting head (some are male representations standing or sitting with musical instruments). They
are made of marble and differ in size. Their forms are fat and simple ( Prof. mentioned that they
are abstract figurines).
Where: The Cyclades (Greek island group in the Aegean sea) and the first appearance of the
figurines come exclusively from cemeteries.
When: in the Early Cycladic Period (3200-2800 BC) and these include:
a) The schematic figurines which are flat pieces of marble that lack any clear indication of the
b) The Plastiras (named after the cemetery it was found in)- the most naturalistic type of the
Cycladic figurines. The figure is standing; the arms bent at the elbows, rest on the stomach.
Some of the features of the face, legs, fingers and pubic area, are modeled.
c) The Louros type- The figure is standing and, again, has some plastic features. There are no
facial features and no arms, just stumps at the shoulders.
The Early Cycladic II period (2800 - 2300 B.C.) and the characteristic type is the standing one.
The arms are folded at the waist and the head somewhat tilted back. The legs are often slightly
bent at the knees and in most cases; the feet are inclined as if the figure was standing on tiptoe.
Facial features or parts of the body are usually shown by modeling as well as by incision or
In the Early Cycladic III period (2300 - 2100 B.C.) the manufacture of the figurines is
significantly restricted. A schematic type with a conical outline and two small horizontal stumps
for the indication of the hands is characteristic of this period.
Why: Some interpretations suggest that these figurines were representations of deceased,
substitutes of servants, ancestors and associated with individual burials. Faint traces of
scarification, paint and jewelry personalizes them and connects them to a particular individual.
Context: Mostly female figurines associated directly with fertility because of exposed breasts and
pubic triangle; the characteristic posture with folded arms is similar to other statues from
Mediterranean and may represent symbolic type of divine representation *These figures were established circa 2500BC during the early Bronze Age
-Found in the grouping of islands known as the Cyclades.
-When we look at the figures now the provenance of the objects are constantly in question due to
a growth in demand from collectors and other interested parties, including the ROM who have
experienced fraud when purchasing such pieces.
-Theyre abstract figures; the only thing we know for certain is that they are female as is evident
by the anatomy presented.
-Infrared technology shows painting on the figures that has faded away. Multiple eyes,
scarification and jewelry were common depictions, which suggest that the figurines were
personalized, possibly for sacred, divine or cultic practices. It could be a representation of a
possible mother goddess or of the handler themselves.
-At the same time we have to stop and wonder if we are imaging our own interpretations of
modern society on to a past culture...maybe theres nothing sacred at all.
-Importance is given to size; larger figures could possibly be idols, where smaller depictions
could be devotees
VIEW OF MOUNT JUKTAS (PEAK SANCTUARY) FROM KNOSSOS
A peak sanctuary a few miles away from the
Knossos palace, believed to be the first peak
sanctuary around 2500 BC. Most peak
sanctuaries, about 25 in total are located in East
Crete and are visible by the town nearby. This
and other evidence has indicated that these peak
sanctuaries did play a significant role in Minoan
society. A common pattern noticed was that as
Knossos gained more power, there would be more
activity in the peak sanctuaries. The early use of
these sanctuaries did not see strong evidence of
cult equipment or installations, as these came
around 2000 BC which is when we began to see architectural features designated for cults in the
sanctuaries. Around this time we also began to see common cult equipment such as double axes
and horns of consecration. Another interesting find in juktas among other important peak
sanctuaries was clay figurines of humans and animals. The animal figurines seemed to have a
focus on domestic animals, such as bulls and lambs. Whereas on the other hand the iconography
in these peak sanctuaries tended to have representations of wild foreign animals such as lions.
The peak sanctuaries were pivotal in Minoan culture and their history, as they were the first time
the civilization had a common place for their practices; this lead to common equipment,
installations (with benches and snake tubes), as well as texts much later. Aerial photograph of Phaistos palace
When: excavated in 1900 by the Italian Archaeological School
under Federico Halbherr and Luigi Pernier.
From: the Middle Bronze Age around 1900 BC.
Where: located on the island of Crete.
Why: Its Key aspect was that it had a large court, series of
wings arranged around the court, and many rooms oriented in
the same way, south. It was first founded by Minos and was the
residence of the king Radamanthys, as a result, it was also the
political center for all state officials & advisors. The palace,
like many others, dominated the economy by serving as a redistribution
center for food supplies and as the main center for trade and
Malia the Quartier Mu complex
In 1966 the excavation of a major building complex at the
Minoan palatial site of Malia east of Knossos, on the north
coast began. This complex, situated close to the palace, soon
became known as 'Quartier Mu'; it turned out to be one of
the best preserved sets of buildings of any Middle Age site
on Crete. Consisting of 2 main buildings (Batiments A and
B), and a number of associated workshops, the complex had
been destroyed at the end of the Old Palace period (Middle
Minoan IIB) and never subsequently occupied. The pottery
found at that site is extremely abundant and hugely diverse.
A huge amount of different ceramic types was identified.
The findings helped clear up some of the vague ideas about
the administrative system at that time.