What was daily existence like in the Cyclades five millennia ago?A new exhibition looks beyond the simplistic Cycladic figures so loved by Modigliani and Picasso and aims to uncover a more three-dimensional imprint of this fascinating age.
A new exhibition – Cycladic Society: 5,000 years ago – opens its doors at the Museum of Cycladic Art this week (to celebrate the Museum’s 30th anniversary), and explores all aspects of this misunderstood ancient era.
Much mystery remains about life across the Cycladic Archipelago due to the absence of written records from the time. But as museum director Professor Nikos Stampolidis explains, there is still a lot of valuable information to be gleaned from Cycladic Art which stand as silent witness – and provide important clues about the social structure, activities, living environment, convictions and beliefs of the Cycladic islanders in the Early Bronze Age (3,200-2,000 BC).
Cycladic figurines, in their present form, with their simple shape and clean outline, became popular through their association with abstract art by 20th-century artists like Modigliani, Brancusi, Matisse, and Picasso. But this artistic preoccupation did little to help us understand and explore the real daily life and undertakings of the Cycladic islanders 5,000 ago.
Viewed primarily as works of art, they were often presented in a strictly typological manner, without reference to their creators’ cultural sphere.
“Cycladic Society 5,000 Years Ago” aims to fill that void by probing questions such as:
What was Cycladic flora and fauna like 5,000 years ago?
What were the nuclei of Cycladic society?
How was Cycladic society stratified?
How did the islanders subsist? (farming, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing, farming?)
Did the islanders practice shipbuilding, weaving, and basketry?
What were their forms of entertainment?
What role did music, drink, and dance play in their lives?
What were their rituals and cults?
What do we know about their religious beliefs?
Organized in collaboration with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture (Antiquities Ephorate of the Cyclades, National Archaeological Museum, Antiquities Ephorate of Athens), the exhibition showcases 200 ancient artefacts from the collections of the Museum of Cycladic Art, the National Archaeological Museum, the Archaeological Museums of Naxos, Syros, Apeiranthos, and Paros, and the Paul and Alexandra Kanellopoulos Museum.
The exhibition will be further enriched by ceramic and ceremonial vessels, animal figurines, pyxis (jewelry boxes), jewelry, bronze hooks, bone pins, shells and pottery spindles.
“Cycladic Society 5,000 Years Ago” is on from December 8 until March 2017, at the Museum of Cycladic Art, Neofitou Douka 4, tel: 210.722.8321, www.cycladic.gr
Insider Weekly, November 30, 2016.