Friday, 14 September 2012

The Wall paintings of Santorini

Two great ancient civilisations have left their mark on Santorini. One belongs to prehistoric times and is coming to light in the excavations at Akrotiri. The other one is the Greek civilisation and it flourished long after the eruption.

The society that flourished in Santorini, the only well preserved Bronze Age settlement of about 1500 BC, seems to be a scion, a uniting of the old cultural tradition of the Cyclades with the innovations of Minoan Crete. Akrotiri was a thriving township and it seems that the Minoan Cretans came and settled quite early on and joined their fortunes with those of the inhabitants of Thera (the ancient name for Santorini). The Minoan element exercised a significant influence over the cultural, social economic and political development of Theran society

Excavations at Akrotiri found a township that was beautifully preserved, buried under lava in the same way that Pompeii was preserved. The only difference being that no human remains were found in Akrotiri, nor any valuables, which indicates that the inhabitants were pre-warned by smaller tremors and had fled the area.

The walls of the houses of the richer inhabitants were decorated with wall paintings and it is copies of these that are displayed at the Santozeum in Phera.


The copies of the wall paintings (the originals are in the Archaeological Museum in Athens and I still haven't visited to look at them) have been moved from the original museum which is where we last saw them. This new location and its curation are a real disappointment. In the old museum the wall paintings were exhibited beautifully and they certainly did not have these ugly anglepoise lamps covering part of the paintings.


The fish are an offering to the gods, the man being a servant of the deity: we know this because of his  nudity and the fact that his head is partially shaved.


The Boxing Children

The children are servants of the deity as is shown by their partially shaved heads. They are playfully boxing. This is a depiction of a religious festival as all athletic contests were connected with religion in antiquity - the Olympic games were performed in the honour of Zeus.



The Ladies

Only two fragments from a much larger composition are left, depicting a series of women dressed in elaborate dresses and wearing lots of jewellery. They were probably carrying gifts to a seated goddess or to a shrine.



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