M3D1 ART 101


Module 3 presents two cultures of the Aegean: the Minoans of Crete, and the Mycenaean people on the Greek mainland. The rarity of written evidence from this period forces historians to rely on architectural remains and artifacts to interpret the cultures. We will do the same.
Two vibrant Aegean civilizations existed that were concurrent with Middle and New Kingdom Egypt. These were the cultures of the Minoans, based on the large island of Crete (c.1900-c.1450), and the Mycenaean people, based on today’s mainland Greece (c.1600-c.1100 BCE). These were not Greeks, but pre-Greek peoples. Very few written records survive, and so we do not have the same full picture of history here that we do for the Egyptians. Archaeological evidence, however, shows these cultures to be prosperous groups whose wealth was based on seafaring trade.
Late 19th and early 20th century digs have uncovered important citadel or palace complexes related to these groups. For the Minoans, the text concentrates on the Palace of Knossos on Crete. This labyrinthine structure included living quarters, mercantile areas, courtyards, a processional corridor, theaters and religious spaces. Surviving wall paintings have an informal, even playful quality. Pottery, an important art and export item, show painted motifs whose curling, free-floating forms derive from sea life and other nature subjects.

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For the Mycenaean culture, the text concentrates on the hilltop site of Mycenae, for which this culture is named. Here, you will find massive defensive walls, evidence of palace architecture, and shaft graves which held gold funerary masks and decorative items of wealth, incorporating the same playful Minoan imagery.
In this module, you will also be introduced to the Greeks. These people migrated onto the Greek peninsula between 1200 and 1100 BCE, ending Mycenaean dominance there. History is sparce for several hundred years, but a strong Greek culture emerged around 800 BCE. We saw how important tradition and persistent conventions were to the Egyptians. The Greek culture contrasts with this traditionalism by embracing experimentation and exploration in everything from political systems, to philosophical ideas, to empirical science. Competition between the separate Greek city states helped spur on their seemingly modern notion of progress. In art, we also see experimentation and evolution of style. In this module, we can focus on pottery alone to see rapid style changes that form a traceable, linear progression. The four Greek pottery phases are Geometric, Orientalizing, Black Figure and Red Figure. Each style presents beautiful representation of Greek myths and legends, along with athletic events and secular Greek life.
Now that you have completed the module readings, please move to the next learning activity, Dissecting a Palace in Search of Minoan Culture. 

M3D1: Greek Pots: Mythology in Black and Red
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One of the most admired forms of art for the ancient Greeks was painted pottery.  So popular was this form of artistry that artists became known by name and painted pots were collected as decorative art.  Imagery included secular scenes of everyday Greek life or pictures of athletes (the latter were found on pots used as sports trophies).  Others depicted Greek myth in sharp imagery.  Pottery went through a traceable style progression during the Archaic period that included four phases.  Those phases were:  Geometric, Orientalizing, Black Figure, and Red Figure.  The activity will outline the changes in Greek pottery through the four style phases, as well as provide you with the stories of Greek mythology as they appear in pottery paintings. 
First, begin by locating a piece of Greek pottery online (one NOT illustrated in your text) that illustrates a Greek myth.  Carefully examine the pottery to determine its style and the pottery phase it represents.  Next, research its subject or the story illustrated on the pot.
Use the questions below to help guide your thoughts. 

What characterizes the style phase of your example?
Are there repeated figure conventions to the style? 
Is there evidence of greater naturalism in drapery? in anatomy?
How does the progression of style help us date archaeological finds?
What is the story represented?

When you have completed your research, address the following in a post consisting of 250 words: Introduce your work, including the date and its present location.  Include either an image or link to your selection.  Using your text as a guide, discuss which pottery phase your selection best exemplifies and why.  What characteristics of the pottery are representative of the phase?  Lastly, after describing the style, analyze the subject.  What is the myth illustrated on the pot?  Briefly tell the story.  With combined contributions, we will see examples of style, as well as examples of the popular Greek stories. 

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