Map of the Aegean.  
California State University IMAGE Project
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In this lesson we will examine the flourishing of the Goddess cultures and what happens when the invading heroes meet the goddess.

Here is a map of the Aegean, the area that we will study in this lesson. We will start, however, with art from two sides of the Aegean: from Çatal Huyuk in Anatolia on the far right and the Island of Malta which is located on the left side of the map below Sicily. The Neolithic cultures of Anatolia and Malta devoted to the worship of the goddess seem to be related to the later goddess worshipping cultures of the Aegean.

The Aegean area name derives from the AEGEAN SEA which is located between Greece and Asia Minor, or what is now Turkey. Three different centers developed in this region during the same period as the cultures we have studied were thriving in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The first, the Cycladic civilization, was centered in a group of islands called the Cyclades, which you can locate in the center of the map. The second, known as the Minoan civilization, was on the island of Crete, which is located on the lower part of the map, and the last, or Mycenaean civilization, was situated in the lower section of Greece itself.

We will see that the Minoans were essentially a peaceful civilization which grew rich on the trade they fostered. The Mycenaeans, who followed them, were much more interested in conquest than trade, and used their arms to procure the treasures that they coveted.

While we are not yet able to fully read the Minoan language, we know that it did not belong to the family of Indo-European languages. Greek, however, does belong to the Indo-European language group, and we now know that the Mycenaeans spoke an early version of Greek. Thus, the Mycenaeans were related to the Aryans that invaded the Indus Valley in India who we will study a little later. They too, were warriors and conquerors.

The art from Crete is known as Minoan, named for the legendary King Minos who supposedly built the labyrinth on Crete. The art from the mainland of Greece is known as Helladic, a word which derives from Hellas, an early name for Greece.

Early Minoan/ Helladic: 3000-2000 BCE
Middle Minoan/ Helladic: 2000-1700 BCE
Late Minoan/Helladic: 1700-1200 BCE

While the most important period for Cycladic art was the early period, Minoan art was most significant during the middle period and art on the mainland was most important during the late period. We give the special name Mycenaean to this period.