Ancient Greece Art – Cycladic Sculptures in the Greek Islands

Cycladic sculptures are thousands of years old and yet look eerily modern. A face with no facial features, except the nose, is not exactly how we think of ancient Greek art. Cycladic art came to prominence during the twentieth century. Unfortunately that started a period of looting, which destroyed the possibility of putting the sculptures in any kind of location or archeological context. To this day we know very little about Cycladic art. A measure of its growing importance is the existence of the Cycladic Museum located in the heart of Athens, Greece.

The Greek islands of the Cyclades are located to the South East of Greece and to the North of Crete in the Aegean Sea. There are more than two hundred islands approximating a circle around the most significant island Delos, the birthplace of Apollo, Greek God of music and light from Greek mythology and of Artemis, the huntress. The Greek name for the Cyclades is Kyklades, an obvious reference to a circle.

During the period between 3200 and 2000 B.C. the small Cycladic islands in the Aegean became home to a flourishing culture. The most prominent craft in Cycladic culture was stone-cutting, especially marble sculpture. The abundance of high quality white marble on the islands encouraged its use for the creation of a wide range of artifacts. Among these, Cycladic Figurines are the most distinctive Cycladic creation because of the style, the great numbers in which they are found, and the significance they held for their owners. The majority of Cycladic Figurines show women, nude with the arms folded over the belly and the long feet, soles sloping downwards. We do not know whether they were meant to show mortals or deities, but probably symbolized the worship of the 'Mother Goddess'. In this case, the figurines may have been conceived as representations of the Goddess, or companions to her. Many figurines have been discovered in relation to burials as the Cycladic civilization flourished and burials became more elaborate to reflect status.

There have been recent discoveries (in the last five years) of piles of buried and broken statues and pottery, as if the breaking of the statues was a feature of some unknown ancient ceremony. This ritualistic behavior appears to be centered on the island of Keros in the Cyclades.
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Also, hidden deposits of broken pottery and figurines have been found on islands around Keros, many fragments brought there from other locations. Why would the Cycladians do that? To what end? The mystery surrounding Keros, the Cycladians and their art deepens as archeologists sift through clues of human history and behavior. To this day Keros and surrounding islands are home mainly to archeologists attempting to explain one of those mysteries of human behavior and human art that drive us with a 'need to know'. Art, in all forms, leaves behind a legacy of a civilizations history, behavior, values and intrigue. Fortunately for us it also provides beauty that only human civilizations can produce.

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