Minoan and Mycenaean Sculpture

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Minoan snake goddess from Knossos

Minoan snake goddess from Knossos

In the Bronze Age there was not a lot of sculpture in Greece. In Crete, between about 1700 and 1450 BC, the Minoans produced a lot of medium-sized figurines, mainly made of bronze and ivory.

Some of these show women holding snakes: this may be the goddess herself, or a priestess. Other figurines show the Minoan interest in nature and graceful movement, like a young man jumping on a bull’s back. A number of figures are of cows or bulls, which also may have a religious meaning.
On the mainland, the Myceneans made only tiny clay figurines, three or four inches high, which were probably gifts for the gods.

Psi and Phi figurines

Psi and Phi figurines

Can you see that there are two kinds – one with the arms up (called a PHI figurine because it looks like the Greek letter PHI) and another kind with the arms folded (called a PSI figurine because it looks like the Greek letter PSI)?

Learn by doing: make your own phi and chi figurines from clay
More about Dark Age Greek sculpture

Bibliography and further reading about Bronze Age Greek sculpture:

Minoan and Mycenaean Art, by Reynold Higgins (2nd revised edition 1997) The standard book for college students

The Archaeology of Greece: An Introduction, by William R. Biers (1996). Biers writes very clearly and has a lot of good pictures.

Greek Art and Archaeology (3rd Edition), by John G. Pedley (2002) This has a lot of good information and is pretty readable. Plus, the author is really an expert in this field.

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By |2018-04-15T15:52:21+00:00July 5th, 2017|Art, Greeks|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Minoan and Mycenaean Sculpture. Quatr.us Study Guides, July 5, 2017. Web. December 15, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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