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Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, and The Forging of History by Kenneth Lapatin.

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DESCRIPTION: Softcover: 288 pages. Publisher: Da Capo Press (2003). Dimensions: 8¼ x 5½ inches, 1 pound. The “Snake Goddess”, exquisitely crafted out of ivory and gold, with her withdrawn eyes and pouting face, stares deeply out from a distant past. Serpents encircle her outstretched arms. Her arresting posture and tiered costume radiate a modern-day sensuality. For decades archaeologists have lavishly praised this small but breathtaking statuette, giving it pride of place at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as the pinnacle of Minoan art.

Or is she? As Kenneth Lapatin reveals in this astonishing book, the origins of the Snake Goddess and her many counterparts aren’t as straightforward as we once believed. By delving into the worlds of the archaeologists, adventurers, and artisans that converged in Crete at the turn of the twentieth century, Lapatin raises essential questions about a period of history we thought we knew.

Exploring eccentric characters such as the legendary excavator of Knossos, Sir Arthur Evans; and Swiss painter Emile Gillieron, Lapatin shows how their concepts of Minoan life were largely products of their own imagination. “Mysteries of the Snake Goddess” reads like a mystery, but it is also a major work of intellectual discovery, bringing to light the ways in which we shape the past to suit our own tastes.

CONDITION: NEW. New oversized softcover. Da Capo Press (2003) 288 pages. Unblemished except for VERY faint (almost imperceptible) edge and corner shelf wear to the covers. Pages are pristine; clean, crisp, unmarked, unmutilated, tightly bound, unambiguously unread. Condition is entirely consistent with new stock from a traditional brick-and-mortar open-shelf bookstore environment wherein new books might show faint signs of shelfwear, consequence of routine handling and simply being shelved and re-shelved. Satisfaction unconditionally guaranteed. In stock, ready to ship. No disappointments, no excuses. PROMPT SHIPPING! HEAVILY PADDED, DAMAGE-FREE PACKAGING! Meticulous and accurate descriptions! Selling rare and out-of-print ancient history books on-line since 1997. We accept returns for any reason within 30 days! #1833.1a.

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PLEASE SEE PUBLISHER, PROFESSIONAL, AND READER REVIEWS BELOW.

PUBLISHER REVIEW:

REVIEW: A fascinating tale of archaeological detective work reveals that some of the most prized relics of Bronze Age Crete are in fact modern forgeries. Not only is one of the most famous pieces of ancient Greek art, the celebrated gold and ivory statuette of the Snake Goddess almost certainly modern, but Minoan civilization as it has been popularly imagined is largely an invention of the early twentieth century. This is Kenneth Lapatin's startling conclusion in “Mysteries of the Snake Goddess”, a brilliant investigation into the true origins of the celebrated Bronze Age artifact, and into the fascinating world of archaeologists, adventurers, and artisans that converged in Crete at the turn of the twentieth century.

Including characters from Sir Arthur Evans, legendary excavator of the Palace of Minos at Knossos, who was driven to discover a sophisticated early European civilization to rival that of the Orient, to his principal restorer Swiss painter Emil Gillieron, who out of handfuls of fragments fashioned a picture of Minoan life that conformed to contemporary taste, this is a riveting tale of archeological discovery. Author Kenneth Lapatin studied Greek art and archaeology at the University of California, Berkley; at Oxford; and in Athens as a Fulbright Scholar. He is currently Assistant Curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum Malibu, California.

REVIEW: Kenneth D. S. Lapatin studied Greek art and archaeology at Berkeley and Oxford and in Athens as a Fulbright Scholar. Currently president of the Boston society of the Archaeological Institute of America, he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, Marina Belozerskaya, a writer of historical nonfiction.

PROFESSIONAL REVIEWS:

REVIEW: Archeologist and art historian Lapatin (president of the Boston Society of the Archaeological Institute of America) looks into the history of one of the most celebrated archeological finds of the 20th century and declares the work a modern forgery. A prized possession of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts since 1914, the six-inch ivory-and-gold statue known as the Snake Goddess was of doubtful provenance from the start. Supposedly excavated from the palace of Knossos in Crete, it was presented to the museum by Henrietta Fitz, a wealthy Boston Brahmin who had heard of the statue's discovery from the museum's director, Arthur Fairbanks, and provided the funds needed to acquire it. But precisely how Fairbanks obtained the statue is far from clear.

The museum maintained it had been brought to America in fragments by a Greek peasant who immigrated to the U.S. in 1913, but the account sounds intentionally vague and with good reason, says Lapatin. The great mania for Greek antiquities that swept through Europe and America in the 19th century spawned a brisk trade throughout the Aegean and led to severe laws restricting the export of antiquities from Greece. This, in turn, created choice opportunities for smuggling, bribery and forgery. Lapatin presents both historical and artistic evidence to call the statue's authenticity into question, but he admits that a definite verdict will probably never be possible.

He spends as much time examining the prevailing assumptions of antiquarians and archeologists of the period and speculates that the reconstructions of the ancient world by such figures as Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans owed as much to the contemporary imagination as to the science of archeology. Although somewhat minutely detailed, this study will interest any reader with a taste for antiquities or classical history. Illustrated. [Publisher’s Weekly].

REVIEW: In “Mysteries of the Snake Goddess”, Kenneth Lapatin traces the murky origins (and seriously debunks the authenticity of) "the most refined and precious" surviving object of Minoan art. The gold-and-ivory figure, now residing in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, was discovered in the early 20th century by renowned archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. Other, related figures (of equally dubious origin) retain pride of place in several North American and European museums. They are almost certainly forgeries, according to Lapatin, or at best, "neither entirely genuine nor fully fake”.

This is not a crime story but rather a tale of well-meaning over-extrapolation. Evans, and others, took kernels of evidence to bake a large loaf of an idealized, matriarchal Cretan civilization. In short, Evans's desire to believe clouded his scientific caution. As well, Lapatin gently points out that very often our re-creations of the past are influenced by the ideas, mores, and, even, inadequacies of our present. His book is one of calm, inviting erudition that, mercifully, avoids the mean wrangling so common in academia. [Amazon].

REVIEW: An astonishing intellectual detective story. Lapatin is to be commended for his research and knowledge of a subject he feels passionate about. Lapatin argues and most persuasively.

REVIEW: Riveting! Fascinating and in-depth, Lapatin writes persuasively and evenly, in a tone of thoughtfulness rather than overbearing opinionating.

REVIEW: For those who enjoy stories of fakes, forgeries, and questionable historical restorations, Arthur Evans, creator of ancient Minoan civilization, is here revealed to be as imaginative in his ambition as Heinrich Schliemann, creator of ancient Troy. Lapatin (a retired archaeologist) expands on Evans' recreation of the mythical King Minos and his court in ancient Crete to build a case that Evans invented wholesale the famous snake goddess figurines long identified as "Minoan”.

READER REVIEWS:

REVIEW: For over eighty years, within the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, pride of place has been given to the Snake Goddess, a statue that is sixteen centimeters tall. She is a spectacular sculpture, long regarded as the pinnacle of Minoan art from the sixteenth century B.C. She is of delicately carved ivory decorated with gold, a sensuous figure in a wide skirt of multiple tiers, a narrow, belt-encircled waist, and a bodice cut so low that her ample breasts are visible. She holds snakes in her outstretched arms. She pouts. She is one of the most famous pieces of ancient art in the world, a superb example of Cretan Bronze Age sculpture.

Except she isn't. Kenneth Lapatin, President of the Boston Society of the Archeological Institute of America, has been studying her for a decade, and casting doubts on her authenticity. Now he has published a book-length explanation, “Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, and the Forging of History”, of how the experts of art and archeology have been fooled, and with the book's exhaustive notes and appendices, this account is devastating. It also tells plenty about how archeology is done, what sort of characters do it, how we view the ancient past, and how wishful thinking, perhaps even more than greed, has perpetrated the forgery.

The details of the origin of the statue are still unclear, and probably always will be. But Lapatin has dug into as much as can be known of its shadowy past, and has provided an expert's details. He can write, for instance, "eyes with drilled pupils and canthi have no parallel in Aegean sculpture and do not appear in ancient statuary before the second century A.D." He gives an excellent section on why science can provide only limited evidence in this case (although none of it points to the statue's authenticity).

Lapatin does more than just debunk, for in his fascinating and original book, he shows how the Goddess is still important. She isn't the find Sir John Evans, the excavator of Knossos, and others thought she was. However, "she has provided a canvas on which archeologists and curators, looters and smugglers, dealers and forgers, art patrons and museum-goers, feminists and spiritualists, have painted their preconceptions, desires, and preoccupations for an idealized past." We may have to admit we know less about Minoan culture, but we can always learn more about human nature.

REVIEW: Snake Goddess, Fake Goddess? Readable, concise, and an absorbing account of the way archaeological interpretation and the manufacture of forgeries is influenced by current trends and fashions. Sheds light on the extent to which Minoan discoveries were 'tailored' to fit their discoverers' expectations. Very important reading for anyone who is interested in 'interpreting' the art and artifacts of Knossos and Minoan culture. Otherwise, one would never know that many of the now-accepted images of Minoan culture were highly 'edited' and even created by Arthur Evans and his employees at Knossos.

If anything the book is too concise and focused on the Snake Goddess. I'd like to have seen a bit more on Evans' background and life. I'd stop short of calling it an “expose’”, but it certainly shows how archaeologists, especially the gentleman adventurers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century were able to play fast and loose with the “facts” to their own advantage. In fairness to Evans, he comes off as a well-meaning, if egotistical; more guilty of self-deception than guile. But his complicity in the illicit trade in relics is documented.

REVIEW: Lapatin does a good job in sleuthing through the surviving letters and other documentary evidence. He reaches the conclusion, mirrored by the lab report contained in an appendix to the book that the "Boston Snake Goddess" is almost certainly a twentieth century forgery. He reveals that it is impossible to carbon-date the ivory of the figurine itself, because of the techniques used to restore it. Ivory fragments associated with the find but not used in the reconstruction date back about four hundred years. The chemical composition of the gold in the find does not match ancient gold. The facial expression is unlike genuine examples of Minoan art, lacking either the archaic smile or the manga-style eyes of genuine artifacts.

His verdict is stated with caution, but the evidence seems to weigh against the authenticity of the Goddess. He also catalogues a number of similar statues, some of which are definite forgeries, and others have similarly dubious histories. These images nevertheless reappear over and over again, not only in historical, but also in popular literature. They were adopted into popular culture, in fantasy novels, and as feminist symbols. They even became the keystone of enthusiasts' attempts to revive the worship of this apparently invented deity.

REVIEW: This particular study of the Minoan Snake Goddess is one that does not solely rely on the original or new archaeological data. Lapatin actually goes into details about Arthur Evans, his influences on what made him believe the famous snake woman statue is a goddess, and the other archaeologists around him. However, what makes Lapatin's research different is that not only does he tackle the debate of whether or not the Snake Goddess is an actual goddess or not, but that the famous Boston statuette is actually more modern than ancient in its construction.

In order to provide evidence for the statues Lapatin does supply results from various chemical tests of the material, particularly gold, that make up the statuette. He also talks about the statuette's actual appearance and how parts of it do not correspond to other authentic statuettes of its time. While I do believe this part of Laptin's argument, the other part of his argument (as reviewer S. Gustafson has pointed out as well) that Evans himself was influenced by the belief that Minoan Crete was a matriarchal goddess-worshiping society has me skeptical.

Evans' own research is what influenced that idea and although writers like J. J. Bachofen and Jane Harrison had presented the same ideas before or around the same time as Evans, I'm not entirely convinced that Evans was influenced by such ideas based on Lapatin's writing. While he does detail Evans' early life and the impact of the loss of his mother at a young age which may have caused him to sympathetic to the goddess-matriarchy idea (not unlike Bachofen and the relationship with his mother) there's not much detail about Evans' actual interaction with the idea except that such theories from Bachofen and Harrison had survived into his time.

REVIEW: This is a fascinating, if disillusioning, detective story. But it confirms what I have long uneasily suspected when I lectured my students about Minoan art -- that many, indeed MOST of my assumptions rested on modern recreations of that art, rather than the hard evidence of the original objects. Lapatin convincingly demonstrates here what I suspected but didn't want to believe about the exquisite Boston ivory. More important, however, he helped me understand what I can trust and what I can't about the heavily restored sculpture and painting from Knossos.

Of course we all tend to interpret history in light of our own experiences; that's a fact of life. However, some historians and archaeologists go farther overboard than necessary. Evans, to give him the great credit he deserves, had a wonderful and empathetic imagination, and his discovery of an ancient civilization was an extraordinary achievement. But even in his own time, his determination to make such extensive restorations to the art and architecture was controversial.

One more observation: the less we know about an ancient civilization, the easier it is for us to idealize it. Even as recently as the 1960's, Crete was usually described as a peaceable kingdom, despite the rather suspicious fact that its royal symbol was the battle axe. As for matriarchy, I hate to disappoint a previous reviewer, but the evidence for matriarchy in ancient Crete consists of two statuettes that come from secure archaeological proveniences, and a great many forgeries. The fact that the people of ancient Crete worshiped goddesses doesn't make them unusual; so did the citizens of classical Athens, whose city housed one of the most magnificent images of that goddess ever created. But their women had about the same legal rights as their goats.

Final note: Read this and then read Arthur Phillips's entertainingly black-comic novel "The Egyptologist," for a take on the same phenomenon that Lapatin describes here.

REVIEW: Though this book focuses on a single artifact its importance for anyone seriously interested in the Minoans extends very far because it proves through the references for its extensive and detailed research (which extends beyond the Snake Goddess) that all Minoan artifacts without full provenance must be excluded from serious analytic consideration. That there are many such artifacts makes this revelation worse than depressing. But archeology is a science and as such owes its first allegiance to objectivity and truth. More than a little of the Minoan archeology of the first part of the last century simply fails as science. And by necessary implication so too fail all works built on unprovenanced artifacts. Still, we can be thankful for people like Mackenzie, and that Schliemann died before he got to Crete … it could have been worse.

REVIEW: A very worthwhile read! I can't add much to what others have already written here, other than that I was intrigued, enthralled, and somewhat wistfully saddened by this book. My view of the Minoans was mostly formed in junior high (many, many years ago!) By my reading of then-current archeology and Mary Renault's "The King Must Die". Alas, all wrong. However, I now have that much more to learn as it becomes available, so heigh-ho, and away we go!

REVIEW: Lapatin does a masterful job of tracking down the many Minoan forgeries and tracing them back to very persons who were fabricating the now famous Minoan frescoes from Knossos. I long had suspected that the bull-leaping Knossos fresco was problematic, but with Lapatin I now know it is a collage of various frescoes and in fact is based in part on an earlier fresco at Mycenaea "restored" by the same member of Evans' staff who, with his son, was at night churning out fake after fake newly "discovered" Minoan artifacts. This is a detective story, but it is no thriller. Lapatin does not trumpet his own horn and lets his findings speak for themselves.

REVIEW: This book was recommended to me and from its title I thought it would be a racy "detective"-type paperback, more at home on the fiction shelves. I had to order it from the States, but certainly couldn't put it down once I started reading. This at least it shares with detective novels...but that is all. Lapatin's book is meticulously researched and referenced, and its cumulative effect is to make one look very carefully at all ancient artifacts, let alone the "Minoan snake goddesses" so lauded by Sir Arthur Evans and his ilk. Required reading for anyone interested in the art of ancient Knossos, Crete or Greece; it's only a pity it isn't more widely known. It deserves to be.

REVIEW:

REVIEW: This is now my go-to book for the story of Minoan Snake Goddess. It also has a good bit of commentary about other forgeries, as well as museum practices and the limitations and abuses of science.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:Bronze Age Minoan Civilization: The Minoan civilization flourished in the Middle Bronze Age on the island of Crete located in the eastern Mediterranean from about 2000 BC until about 1500 BC. The Minoans made a significant contribution to the development of Western European civilization as it is known today. This was achieved through their unique art and architecture and the spread of their ideas through contact with other cultures across the Aegean. Labyrinth-like palace complexes, vivid frescoes depicting scenes such as bull-leaping and processions, fine gold jewelry, elegant stone vases, and pottery with vibrant decorations of marine life are all particular characteristics of Minoan Crete.

The archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans was first alerted to the possible presence of an ancient civilization on Crete by the fact that ancient carved seal stones were being worn as charms by native Cretans in the early 20th century. Excavating at Knossos from 1900 to 1905 Evans discovered extensive ruins which confirmed both literary and mythological the ancient accounts. Those ancient accounts recorded the prior existence of a sophisticated Cretan culture and possible site of the legendary labyrinth and palace of King Minos. It was Evans who coined the term Minoan in reference to this legendary Bronze Age king.

Evans seeing what he believed to be the growth and decline of a unified culture on Crete divided the island’s Bronze Age into three distinct phases largely based on different pottery styles. First stretching from about 3000 through 2100 BC was the Early Minoan Bronze Age. This was followed by the Minoan Middle Bronze Age which extended from about 2100 through 1600 BC. Last was the Late Minoan Bronze age of about 1600 through 1100 BC. These phases were subsequently refined by adding numbered sub-phases to each group, such as “MM II” (Middle Minoan Bronze Age II).

Radio-carbon dating and tree-ring calibration techniques have helped to further refine the dates. These refinements show that the Early Bronze Age began as early as about 3500 BC rather than 3000 BC. The refinements also indicate that the Late Bronze Age began around 1700 BC rather than 1600 BC. An alternative to this series of divisions instead focuses on the events occurring in and around the major Minoan “palaces”. This division has four periods. First is the Prepalatial Period which extended from about 3000 BC through somewhere between 2000 and 1900 BC. The Protopalatial Period then picks up around 2000 or 1900 BC and runs through 1700 BC. The Neopalatial Period runs from about 1700 BC through somewhere between 1470 and 1450 BC. Last the Postpalatial picks up where the Neopalatial Period left off, around 1470 or 1450 BC through 1100 BC.

Both of these schemes have since been challenged by more modern archaeology and approaches to history and anthropology in general. These all prefer a more multilinear development of culture on Crete. This entails a more complex developmental scenario involving conflicts and inequalities between settlements. It also takes into account their cultural differences as well as their obvious similarities. Minoan settlements, tombs, and cemeteries have been found all over Crete but the four principal palace sites in order of size were Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Zakros. Minoan palaces exerted some kind of localized control. This was particularly true in the gathering and storage of surplus commodities.

At each of these sites, large, complex palace structures seem to have acted as local administrative, trade, religious, and possibly political centers. The relationship between the palaces and the power structure within them or over the island as a whole is not clear. This is due to a lack of archaeological and literary evidence. However it is clear that at a minimum the palaces exerted some kind of localized control. This was particularly so with respect to the gathering and storage of surplus commodities. These included wine, oil, and grain, as well as precious metals and ceramics. Small towns, villages, and farms were spread around the territory and were seemingly controlled by a single palace. Roads connected these isolated settlements to each other, the main center, and the palace.

There is a general agreement among historians that the palaces were independent from each other up to around 1700 BC. Thereafter they all came under the sway of Knossos. This is evidenced in the records by a greater uniformity in architecture and the use of Linear A writing across various palace sites. The absence of fortifications in the settlements suggests a relatively peaceful co-existence between the different communities. However there was also a prominent presence of weapons such as swords, daggers, and arrowheads. As well equally prominent were defensive equipment such as armor and helmets. Together these suggest that peace may not have always been enjoyed. Minoan roads as well have evidence of regular guardhouses and watchtowers. These suggest that at a minimum banditry troubled the unprotected traveler.

The palaces themselves covered two periods. The first palaces were constructed around 2000 BC. Then following destructive earthquakes and fires they were rebuilt again around 1700 BC. These second palaces survived until their final destruction between 1500 BC and 1450 BC. It’s likely that they were destroyed once again by either earthquake and/or fire. However there is a possibility they may have been destroyed by a hostile invading military force. The palaces were well-appointed. They were monumental structures with large courts, colonnades, ceilings supported by tapered wooden columns. They possessed staircases, religious crypts, light-wells, extensive drainage systems, and large storage magazines. They even had ‘theater’ areas for public spectacles or religious processions.

The palaces reached up to four stories high. They spread over several thousand square meters (tens of thousands of square feet). The palaces were very complex in layout. There were frescoes depicting the sport of bull-leaping. The worship of bulls was prominently evidenced by the presence throughout the palace complexes of sacred bulls’ horns. These were accompanied by depictions of double axes, also known as “labrys” in stone and fresco. The combined effect of all of these elements may have given birth to the legend of Theseus and the labyrinth-dwelling Minotaur. This was one of the most popular tales in later classical Greek mythology.

The religion of the Minoans remains sketchy. However some details are revealed through art, architecture, and artifacts. These include depictions of religious ceremonies and rituals such as the pouring of libations, making food offerings, processions, feasts, and sporting events like bull-leaping. Natural forces and nature in general manifested in such artworks as a voluptuous female mother-earth goddess figure and male figure holding several animals. These figures seem to have been revered. Palaces contain open courtyards for mass gatherings and rooms often have wells and channels for the pouring of libations. Bulls are prominent in Minoan art and their horns are an architectural feature of palace walls. Bull horns were also a general decorative element in jewelry, frescoes, and pottery decoration. Dramatic rural sites such as hilltops and caves often show evidence of cult rituals being performed there.

The sophistication of the Minoan culture and its trading capacity is evidenced by the presence of writing. First from about roughly 2000 BC through 1700 BC was Cretan Hieroglyphic. This was followed by Linear A script, predominantly found on various types of administrative clay tablets. Both scripts are as yet undeciphered). Seal impressions on clay were another important form of record keeping. A further example of the culture’s high degree of development is the variety and quality of The art forms practiCed by the Minoans. Pottery finds reveal a wide range of vessels from wafer-thin cups to large storage jars known as “pithoi”. Ceramics were initially hand-turned but then increasingly made on the potter’s wheel.

In decoration there was a progression from flowing geometric designs in Kamares ware to vibrant naturalistic depictions of flowers, plants, and sea life in the later Floral and Marine styles. Common pottery shapes include three-handled amphorae, tall beaked-jugs, squat round vessels with a false spout, beakers, small lidded boxes, and ritual vessels with figure-of-eight-shaped handles. Stone was also used to produce similar vessel types and rhyta. Rhyta were ritual vessels for pouring libations often in the shape of animal heads. Large-scale figure sculpture has not survived but there are many figurines in bronze and other materials. Early types in clay show the dress of the time with men who were colored red and depicted wearing belted loincloths. Women were colored white and depicted in long flowing dresses and open-fronted jackets. A leaping acrobat in ivory and the faience snake goddess are notable works which reveal the Minoan love of capturing figures in active striking poses.

There are also magnificent frescoes from the walls, ceilings, and floors of the palaces. These reveal the Minoans’ love of the sea and nature. They also give insights into religious, communal, and funeral practices. Fresco subjects range in scale from miniature to larger-than-life size. The Minoans were one of the earliest cultures to paint natural landscapes without any humans present in the scene. Perhaps this is the strongest indication of their admiration for the natural world. Animals too were often depicted in their natural habitat. For example depictions of monkeys, birds, dolphins, and fish are abundant. Minoan frescoes were often framed with decorative borders of geometric designs. However on occasion the principal fresco would go beyond conventional boundaries such as corners and covered several walls of a single room. Oftentimes the fresco would completely surround the viewer. Minoan artists took their skills to the royal palaces of Egypt and the Levant. This was especially so with respect to fresco painters.

As a seafaring culture the Minoans were also in contact with foreign peoples throughout the Aegean. This is evidenced by the Near Eastern and Egyptian influences in their early art. It is also evidenced in their later export trade. This was most notably true with respect to the exchange of pottery and foodstuffs such as oil and wine. The Minoans traded in return for precious objects and materials such as copper from Cyprus and Attica, also ivory from Egypt. Especially in the Cyclades several Aegean islands also display the characteristics of a palace-centedd economy and political structure. Perhaps they were patterning their palace culture, economy, and politics on that of Crete.

The reasons for the demise of the Minoan civilization continue to be debated. Most palaces and settlements show evidence of fire and destruction dated to around 1450 BC. However Knossos was not destroyed until perhaps a century later. The rise of the Mycenaean civilization in the mid-second millennium BC on the Greek mainland and the subsequent evidence of their cultural influence on later Minoan art and trade make them the most likely cause. However other suggestions include earthquakes and volcanic activity with a consequent tsunami.

The eruption of nearby Thera, the present-day island of Santorini, may have been a particularly significant detrimental event. However the exact date of this cataclysmic eruption is disputed, and therefore its connection with the end of the Minoan period remains unclear. The most likely scenario was probably a fatal mix of natural environmental damage and competition for wealth weakening the structure of society. Ultimately this was then exploited by invading Mycenaeans. Whatever the cause, most of the Minoan sites were abandoned by 1200 BC. Crete would not return to the Mediterranean stage of history until the 8th century BC when it was colonized by Archaic Greeks [Ancient History Encyclopedia].Minoan Art: Greek art and architecture had remarkably influenced the societal, cultural and artistic flowerings during the Renaissance period in Europe. And now one can see the clear inspiration behind those late medieval masterpieces, courtesy of statues that were discovered in Crete by archaeologists from the Greek Ministry of Culture. Found inside a Roman-era villa, the 21-inch high sculptures depict the Greek gods (and brother-sister twins) Artemis and Apollo, and date to the 1st or 2nd century A.D.

The villa was located inside the city of Aptera, a formerly powerful ‘city-state’ from western Crete that was unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake in 7th century A.D. Now interestingly, the figurine of clothed Artemis (wearing a chiton or Greek tunic) was made from copper, while the antithetically nude Apollo was carved from marble. Additionally, the posture of Artemis – which seems to be ready to shoot a bow, was also constructed with an ornately designed heavy copper base. On the other hand, red traces of paint are still decipherable along the pedestal of Apollo’s figure.

Judging from their visual impact, suffice it to say that the sculptures are still in an excellent state of preservation. Historians are specially impressed with the white material – that defines their respective eyes, still being sustained after 1,900 years or so. And even more fascinating is the conjecture put forth by the archaeologists that pertains to how these statues were probably not of local made. They might have been imported specifically to decorate the luxury Roman-era villa, thus mirroring our present-day ritzy scenarios. [Realm of History.Com].

A Roman Crete Egyptian Crocodile: Discovery of a crocodile-shaped limestone waterspout that once adorned a Roman temple at Gortyn in central Crete provides evidence of close links between the island and Egypt. Excavations conducted by Antonino Di Vitta, director of the Italian School at Athens, revealed that the temple was built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180), remodeled in the fourth century, and finally quarried for limestone at an unknown date.

Brightly painted and fashioned with eye sockets that once held shining glass paste, the crocodile waterspout was found covered by rubble in a sewer, where it had eluded ancient quarrymen. Di Vitta says the crocodile is one of four that once adorned the temple's entablature and represents an early example of the use of Egyptian motifs on Roman temples in Crete.

From fragmentary inscriptions found on the temple, it appears a certain Titus Pactumeius Magnus, a Cretan by birth and prefect of Egypt, built and dedicated the temple to the Roman emperors. Di Vitta says it is likely Pactumeius built the temple to advertise the high offices he held or once held to his family and friends on Crete.

The waterspout will be on display at the "Crete-Egypt" exhibition at the Heraklion Museum in Crete this fall, then possibly on permanent view at a new museum in Messara in south-central Crete. [Archaeological Institute of America].

Ancient Hellenic Greece: "The Hellenic World" is a term which refers to that period of ancient Greek history between 507 B.C. (the date of the first democracy in Athens) and 323 B.C. (the death of Alexander the Great). This period is also referred to as the age of Classical Greece and should not be confused with The Hellenistic World which designates the period between the death of Alexander and Rome's conquest of Greece (323 - 146 - 31 B.C.). The Hellenic World of ancient Greece consisted of the Greek mainland, Crete, the islands of the Greek archipelago, and the coast of Asia Minor primarily (though mention is made of cities within the interior of Asia Minor and, of course, the colonies in southern Italy). This is the time of the great Golden Age of Greece and, in the popular imagination, resonates as "ancient Greece".

The great law-giver, Solon, having served wisely as Archon of Athens for 22 years, retired from public life and saw the city, almost immediately, fall under the dictatorship of Peisistratus. Though a dictator, Peisistratus understood the wisdom of Solon, carried on his policies and, after his death, his son Hippias continued in this tradition (though still maintaining a dictatorship which favored the aristocracy). After the assassination of his younger brother (inspired, according to Thucydides, by a love affair gone wrong and not, as later thought, politically motivated), however, Hippias became wary of the people of Athens, instituted a rule of terror, and was finally overthrown by the army under Kleomenes I of Sparta and Cleisthenes of Athens.

Cleisthenes reformed the constitution of Athens and established democracy in the city in 507 B.C. He also followed Solon's lead but instituted new laws which decreased the power of the aristocracy, increased the prestige of the common people, and attempted to join the separate tribes of the mountain, the plain, and the shore into one unified people under a new form of government. According to the historian Durant, "The Athenians themselves were exhilarated by this adventure into sovereignty. From that moment they knew the zest of freedom in action, speech, and thought; and from that moment they began to lead all Greece in literature and art, even in statesmanship and war". This foundation of democracy, of a free state comprised of men who "owned the soil that they tilled and who ruled the state that governed them", stabilized Athens and provided the groundwork for the Golden Age.

The Golden Age of Greece, according to the poet Shelley, "is undoubtedly...the most memorable in the history of the world". The list of thinkers, writers, doctors, artists, scientists, statesmen, and warriors of the Hellenic World comprises those who made some of the most important contributions to western civilization: The statesman Solon, the poets Pindar and Sappho, the playwrights Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus and Aristophanes, the orator Lysias, the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the philosophers Zeno of Elea, Protagoras of Abdera, Empedocles of Acragas, Heraclitus, Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the writer and general Xenophon, the physician Hippocrates, the sculptor Phidias, the statesman Pericles, the generals Alcibiades and Themistocles, among many other notable names, all lived during this period.

Interestingly, Herodotus considered his own age as lacking in many ways and looked back to a more ancient past for a paradigm of a true greatness. The writer Hesiod, an 8th century B.C. contemporary of Homer, claimed precisely the same thing about the age Herodotus looked back toward and called his own age "wicked, depraved and dissolute" and hoped the future would produce a better breed of man for Greece. Herodotus aside, however, it is generally understood that the Hellenic World was a time of incredible human achievement. Major city-states (and sacred places of pilgrimage) in the Hellenic World were Argos, Athens, Eleusis, Corinth, Delphi, Ithaca, Olympia, Sparta, Thebes, Thrace, and, of course, Mount Olympus, the home of the gods.

The gods played an important part in the lives of the people of the Hellenic World; so much so that one could face the death penalty for questioning - or even allegedly questioning - their existence, as in the case of Protagoras, Socrates, and Alcibiades (the Athenian statesman Critias, sometimes referred to as `the first atheist', only escaped being condemned because he was so powerful at the time). Great works of art and beautiful temples were created for the worship and praise of the various gods and goddesses of the Greeks, such as the Parthenon of Athens, dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin) and the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (both works which Phidias contributed to and one, the Temple of Zeus, listed as an Ancient Wonder).

The temple of Demeter at Eleusis was the site of the famous Eleusinian Mysteries, considered the most important rite in ancient Greece. In his works The Iliad and The Odyssey, immensely popular and influential in the Hellenic World, Homer depicted the gods and goddesses as being intimately involved in the lives of the people, and the deities were regularly consulted in domestic matters as well as affairs of state. The famous Oracle at Delphi was considered so important at the time that people from all over the known world would come to Greece to ask advice or favors from the god, and it was considered vital to consult with the supernatural forces before embarking on any military campaign.

Among the famous battles of the Hellenic World that the gods were consulted on were the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis (480 B.C.), Plataea (479 B.C.,) and The Battle of Chaeronea (338 B.C.) where the forces of the Macedonian King Philip II commanded, in part, by his son Alexander, defeated the Greek forces and unified the Greek city-states. After Philip's death, Alexander would go on to conquer the world of his day, becoming Alexander the Great. Through his campaigns he would bring Greek culture, language, and civilization to the world and, after his death, would leave the legacy which came to be known as the Hellenistic World. [Ancient History Encyclopedia].

Greek Colonization: Ancient Greek Colonization. In the first half of the first millennium B.C., Greek city-states, most of which were maritime powers, began to look beyond Greece for land and resources, and so they founded colonies across the Mediterranean. Trade contacts were usually the first steps in the colonization process and then, later, once local populations were subdued or included within the colony, cities were established. These could have varying degrees of contact with the homeland, but most became fully independent city-states, sometimes very Greek in character, in other cases culturally closer to the indigenous peoples they neighbored and included within their citizenry.

One of the most important consequences of this process, in broad terms, was that the movement of goods, people, art, and ideas in this period spread the Greek way of life far and wide to Spain, France, Italy, the Adriatic, the Black Sea, and North Africa. In total then, the Greeks established some 500 colonies which involved up to 60,000 Greek citizen colonists, so that by 500 B.C. these new territories would eventually account for 40% of all Greeks in the Hellenic World. The Greeks were great sea-farers, and traveling across the Mediterranean, they were eager to discover new lands and new opportunities.

Even Greek mythology included such tales of exploration as Jason and his search for the Golden Fleece and that greatest of hero travelers Odysseus. First the islands around Greece were colonized, for example the first colony in the Adriatic was Corcyra (Corfu), founded by Corinth in 733 B.C. (traditional date), and then prospectors looked further afield. The first colonists in a general sense were traders and those small groups of individuals who sought to tap into new resources and start a new life away from the increasingly competitive and over-crowded homeland.

Trade centers and free markets (emporia) were the forerunners of colonies proper. Then, from the mid-8th to mid-6th centuries B.C., the Greek city-states (poleis) and individual groups started to expand beyond Greece with more deliberate and longer-term intentions. However, the process of colonization was likely more gradual and organic than ancient sources would suggest. It is also difficult to determine the exact degree of colonization and integration with local populations. Some areas of the Mediterranean saw fully-Greek poleis established, while in other areas there were only trading posts composed of more temporary residents such as merchants and sailors.

The very term 'colonization' infers the domination of indigenous peoples, a feeling of cultural superiority by the colonizers, and a specific cultural homeland which controls and drives the whole process. This was not necessarily the case in the ancient Greek world and, therefore, in this sense, Greek colonization was a very different process from, for example, the policies of certain European powers in the 19th and 20th centuries A.D. It is perhaps here then, a process better described as 'culture contact'. The establishment of colonies across the Mediterranean permitted the export of luxury goods such as fine Greek pottery, wine, oil, metalwork, and textiles, and the extraction of wealth from the land - timber, metals, and agriculture (notably grain, dried fish, and leather), for example - and they often became lucrative trading hubs and a source of slaves.

A founding city (metropolis) might also set up a colony in order to establish a military presence in a particular region and so protect lucrative sea routes. Also, colonies could provide a vital bridge to inland trade opportunities. Some colonies even managed to rival the greatest founding cities; Syracuse, for example, eventually became the largest polis in the entire Greek world. Finally, it is important to note that the Greeks did not have the field to themselves, and rival civilizations also established colonies, especially the Etruscans and Phoenicians, and sometimes, inevitably, warfare broke out between these great powers.

Greek cities were soon attracted by the fertile land, natural resources, and good harbors of a 'New World' - southern Italy and Sicily. The Greek colonists eventually subdued the local population and stamped their identity on the region to such an extent that they called it 'Greater Greece' or Megalē Hellas, and it would become the most 'Greek' of all the colonized territories, both in terms of culture and the urban landscape with Doric temples being the most striking symbol of Hellenization.

Some of the most important poleis in Italy were Cumae (the first Italian colony, founded circa 740 B.C. by Chalcis), Naxos (734 B.C., Chalcis), Sybaris (circa 720 B.C., Achaean/Troezen), Croton (circa 710 B.C., Achaean), Tarentum (706 B.C., Sparta), Rhegium (circa 720 B.C., Chalcis), Elea (circa 540 B.C., Phocaea), Thurri (circa 443 B.C., Athens), and Heraclea (433 B.C., Tarentum). On Sicily the main colonies included Syracuse (733 B.C., founded by Corinth), Gela (688 B.C., Rhodes and Crete), Selinous (circa 630 B.C.), Himera (circa 630 B.C., Messana), and Akragas (circa 580 B.C., Gela).

The geographical location of these new colonies in the centre of the Mediterranean meant they could prosper as trade centers between the major cultures of the time: the Greek, Etruscan, and Phoenician civilizations. And prosper they did, so much so that writers told of the vast riches and extravagant lifestyles to be seen. Empedokles, for example, described the pampered citizens and fine temples of Akragas (Agrigento) in Sicily as follows; "the Akragantinians revel as if they must die tomorrow, and build as if they would live forever". Colonies even established off-shoot colonies and trading posts themselves and, in this way, spread Greek influence further afield, including higher up the Adriatic coast of Italy. Even North Africa saw colonies established, notably Cyrene by Thera in circa 630 B.C., and so it became clear that Greek colonists would not restrict themselves to Magna Graecia.

Greeks created settlements along the Aegean coast of Ionia (or Asia Minor) from the 8th century B.C. Important colonies included Miletos, Ephesos, Smyrna, and Halicarnassus. Athens traditionally claimed to be the first colonizer in the region which was also of great interest to the Lydians and Persians. The area became a hotbed of cultural Endeavour, especially in science, mathematics, and philosophy, and produced some of the greatest of Greek minds. Art and architectural styles too, assimilated from the east, began to influence the homeland; such features as palmed column capitals, sphinxes, and expressive 'orientalising' pottery designs would inspire Greek architects and artists to explore entirely new artistic avenues.

The main colonizing polis of southern France was Phocaea which established the important colonies of Alalia and Massalia (circa 600 B.C.). The city also established colonies, or at least established an extensive trade network, in southern Spain. Notable poleis established here were Emporion (by Massalia and with a traditional founding date of 575 B.C. but more likely several decades later) and Rhode. Colonies in Spain were less typically Greek in culture than those in other areas of the Mediterranean, competition with the Phoenicians was fierce, and the region seems always to have been considered, at least according to the Greek literary sources, a distant and remote land by mainland Greeks.

The Black Sea (Euxine Sea to the Greeks) was the last area of Greek colonial expansion, and it was where Ionian poleis, in particular, sought to exploit the rich fishing grounds and fertile land around the Hellespont and Pontos. The most important founding city was Miletos which was credited in antiquity with having a perhaps exaggerated 70 colonies. The most important of these were Kyzikos (founded 675 B.C.), Sinope (circa 631 B.C.), Pantikapaion (circa 600 B.C.), and Olbia (circa 550 B.C.). Megara was another important mother city and founded Chalcedon (circa 685 B.C.), Byzantium (668 B.C.), and Herakleia Pontike (560 B.C.). Eventually, almost the entire Black Sea was enclosed by Greek colonies even if, as elsewhere, warfare, compromises, inter-marriages, and diplomacy had to be used with indigenous peoples in order to ensure the colonies' survival.

In the late 6th century B.C. particularly, the colonies provided tribute and arms to the Persian Empire and received protection in return. After Xerxes' failed invasion of Greece in 480 and 479 B.C., the Persians withdrew their interest in the area which allowed the larger poleis like Herakleia Pontike and Sinope to increase their own power through the conquest of local populations and smaller neighboring poleis. The resulting prosperity also allowed Herakleia to found colonies of her own in the 420s B.C. at such sites as Chersonesos in the Crimea.

From the beginning of the Peloponnesian War in 431 B.C., Athens took an interest in the region, sending colonists and establishing garrisons. An Athenian physical presence was short-lived, but longer-lasting was an Athenian influence on culture (especially sculpture) and trade (especially of Black Sea grain). With the eventual withdrawal of Athens, the Greek colonies were left to fend for themselves and meet alone the threat from neighboring powers such as the Royal Scythians and, ultimately, Macedon and Philip II.

Most colonies were built on the political model of the Greek polis, but types of government included those seen across Greece itself - oligarchy, tyranny, and even democracy - and they could be quite different from the system in the founder, parent city. A strong Greek cultural identity was also maintained via the adoption of founding myths and such wide-spread and quintessentially Greek features of daily life as language, food, education, religion, sport and the gymnasium, theatre with its distinctive Greek tragedy and comedy plays, art, architecture, philosophy, and science. So much so that a Greek city in Italy or Ionia could, at least on the surface, look and behave very much like any other city in Greece. Trade greatly facilitated the establishment of a common 'Greek' way of life. Such goods as wine, olives, wood, and pottery were exported and imported between poleis.

Even artists and architects themselves relocated and set up workshops away from their home polis, so that temples, sculpture, and ceramics became recognizably Greek across the Mediterranean. Colonies did establish their own regional identities, of course, especially as they very often included indigenous people with their own particular customs, so that each region of colonies had their own idiosyncrasies and variations. In addition, frequent changes in the qualifications to become a citizen and forced resettlement of populations meant colonies were often more culturally diverse and politically unstable than in Greece itself and civil wars thus had a higher frequency. Nevertheless, some colonies did extraordinarily well, and many eventually outdid the founding Greek superpowers.

Colonies often formed alliances with like-minded neighboring poleis. There were, conversely, also conflicts between colonies as they established themselves as powerful and fully independent poleis, in no way controlled by their founding city-state. Syracuse in Sicily was a typical example of a larger polis which constantly sought to expand its territory and create an empire of its own. Colonies which went on to subsequently establish colonies of their own and who minted their own coinage only reinforced their cultural and political independence.

Although colonies could be fiercely independent, they were at the same time expected to be active members of the wider Greek world. This could be manifested in the supply of soldiers, ships, and money for Pan-Hellenic conflicts such as those against Persia and the Peloponnesian War, the sending of athletes to the great sporting games at places like Olympia and Nemea, the setting up of military victory monuments at Delphi, the guarantee of safe passage to foreign travelers through their territory, or the export and import of intellectual and artistic ideas such as the works of Pythagoras or centers of study like Plato's academy which attracted scholars from across the Greek world.

Then, in times of trouble, colonies could also be helped out by their founding polis and allies, even if this might only be a pretext for the imperial ambitions of the larger Greek states. A classic example of this would be Athens' Sicilian Expedition in 415 B.C., officially at least, launched to aid the colony of Segesta. There was also the physical movement of travelers within the Greek world which is attested by evidence such as literature and drama, dedications left by pilgrims at sacred sites like Epidaurus, and participation in important annual religious festivals such as the Dionysia of Athens.

Different colonies had obviously different characteristics, but the collective effect of these habits just mentioned effectively ensured that a vast area of the Mediterranean acquired enough common characteristics to be aptly described as the Greek World. Further, the effect was long-lasting for, even today, one can still see common aspects of culture shared by the citizens of southern France, Italy, and Greece. [Ancient History Encyclopedia].

SHIPPING & RETURNS/REFUNDS: We always ship books domestically (within the USA) via USPS INSURED media mail (“book rate”). Most international orders cost an additional $19.99 to $53.99 for an insured shipment in a heavily padded mailer. There is also a discount program which can cut postage costs by 50% to 75% if you’re buying about half-a-dozen books or more (5 kilos+). Our postage charges are as reasonable as USPS rates allow. ADDITIONAL PURCHASES do receive a VERY LARGE discount, typically about $5 per book (for each additional book after the first) so as to reward you for the economies of combined shipping/insurance costs.

Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and containers. All of our shipments are fully insured against loss, and our shipping rates include the cost of this coverage (through stamps.com, Shipsaver.com, the USPS, UPS, or Fed-Ex). International tracking is provided free by the USPS for certain countries, other countries are at additional cost.

We do offer U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, Registered Mail, and Express Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fed-Ex). Please ask for a rate quotation. Please note for international purchasers we will do everything we can to minimize your liability for VAT and/or duties. But we cannot assume any responsibility or liability for whatever taxes or duties may be levied on your purchase by the country of your residence. If you don’t like the tax and duty schemes your government imposes, please complain to them. We have no ability to influence or moderate your country’s tax/duty schemes.

If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I offer a no questions asked 30-day return policy. Send it back, I will give you a complete refund of the purchase price; 1) less our original shipping/insurance costs, 2) less any non-refundable fees imposed by Please note that though they generally do, may not always refund payment processing fees on returns beyond a 30-day purchase window. So except for shipping costs and any payment processing fees not refunded by , we will refund all proceeds from the sale of a return item. Obviously we have no ability to influence, modify or waive policies.

ABOUT US: Prior to our retirement we used to travel to Eastern Europe and Central Asia several times a year seeking antique gemstones and jewelry from the globe’s most prolific gemstone producing and cutting centers. Most of the items we offer came from acquisitions we made in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near East) during these years from various institutions and dealers. Much of what we generate on Etsy, Amazon and goes to support worthy institutions in Europe and Asia connected with Anthropology and Archaeology. Though we have a collection of ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, our primary interests are ancient/antique jewelry and gemstones, a reflection of our academic backgrounds.

Though perhaps difficult to find in the USA, in Eastern Europe and Central Asia antique gemstones are commonly dismounted from old, broken settings – the gold reused – the gemstones recut and reset. Before these gorgeous antique gemstones are recut, we try to acquire the best of them in their original, antique, hand-finished state – most of them originally crafted a century or more ago. We believe that the work created by these long-gone master artisans is worth protecting and preserving rather than destroying this heritage of antique gemstones by recutting the original work out of existence. That by preserving their work, in a sense, we are preserving their lives and the legacy they left for modern times. Far better to appreciate their craft than to destroy it with modern cutting.

Not everyone agrees – fully 95% or more of the antique gemstones which come into these marketplaces are recut, and the heritage of the past lost. But if you agree with us that the past is worth protecting, and that past lives and the produce of those lives still matters today, consider buying an antique, hand cut, natural gemstone rather than one of the mass-produced machine cut (often synthetic or “lab produced”) gemstones which dominate the market today. We can set most any antique gemstone you purchase from us in your choice of styles and metals ranging from rings to pendants to earrings and bracelets; in sterling silver, 14kt solid gold, and 14kt gold fill. When you purchase from us, you can count on quick shipping and careful, secure packaging. We would be happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item you purchase from us. There is a $3 fee for mailing under separate cover. I will always respond to every inquiry whether via email or message, so please feel free to write.



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