Issue 08, March 2008
homepage > From the Land of the Labyrinth to Manhattan.
From the Land of the Labyrinth to Manhattan
The civilization of Minoan Crete is presented
at the Onassis Cultural Centre in New York.
Golden Votive Ax (ca. 1650–1600 B.C.) from the Arkalochori cave (1934), Herakleion Archaeological Museum

The Minoan Civilization, the first great palatial civilization to establish itself on European soil, is brought to life in an exhibition of unique artefacts from the Land of the Labyrinth, organized by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA) in the atrium of New York’s Olympic Tower.  It is the first time that many of these items have been exhibited outside Greece.

 
 

Entitled “From the Land of the Labyrinth: Minoan Crete, 3000-1100 B.C.", the exhibition aims to brings to light, through the presentation of ancient artefacts, aspects of Minoan daily life during the second and third millennia B.C., including social structure, communications, bureaucratic organization, religion, and technology.  

Bull's-Head Rhyton made of chlorite (ca. 1450 B.C.) from the Zakros Palace, Herakleion Archaeological Museum
Bull's-Head Rhyton made of chlorite (ca. 1450 B.C.) from the Zakros Palace, Herakleion Archaeological Museum

The Onassis Cultural Foundation collaborated with the Greek Ministry of Culture in order to borrow the items from the archaeological museums of Herakleion, Khania, Rethymnon, Aghios Nikolaos, Hierapetra, Siteia, and Kissamos in Crete.  The American public will have the opportunity to admire the treasures of Minoan Crete, from the 13th of September 2008, whilst the Onassis Foundation will organize a series of related lectures, guided tours plus a scientific one day event in New York, with the same title.

The exhibition was officially opened on March 12th 2008 by the Chairman of the Onassis Foundation Mr. Antonis Papadimitriou and the Greek Minister of Culture Mr. Michalis Liapis.  Other attendees include former prime-minister Mr C. Mitsotakis, archbishop Demetrios, Greek ambassador to the U.S. Mr Mallias, Greek ambassador to the U.N. Mr Mourikis, representatives of American museums, representatives of New York’s  diplomatic, business, academic and artistic circles, as well as American and Greek Journalists.

The exhibition that was organized by the archaeologists Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, Vili Apostolakou, Christos Boulotis, Nota Dimopoulou-Rethemiotaki, Lefteris Platon, and Giorgos, Rethemiotakis, includes two hundred and eighty permanent exhibits from Cretan museums,  most of which travelled outside of Crete for the first time.  The amazing Minoan world and its astounding art is demonstrated through the exhibition of signet rings and seals, stone and copper vessels, idols and ceremonial vessels, weapons and tools, inscribed tablets, sarcophagi and murals.  

Speaking of the exhibition, the chairman of the Foundation, Antonis Papadimitriou said that “it constitutes a return to distant historical roots. “It is an exhibition that consciously seeks and finds limits; mostly geographical ones.   Crete is one of Europe’s southern borders, located at the meeting point of three continents.  Secondly, chronological limits: The Minoan Civilization chronologically constitutes the incipience of civilizations that can be considered to be European.  There is no older civilization in Europe.  It is a superior civilization, demonstrating exquisite art, trade that spans the Mediterranean and an advanced political system.   The study of Minoan Civilization helps us determine our identity.  In an era where all civilizations, religions, and races are becoming more and more integrated, it is worth remembering what it is that joins us”, noted Antonis Papadimitriou.

Left: The Partridge Mural (ca. 1700-1525/1500 B.C.) from Knossos, Herakleion Archaeological Museum<br>
Centre: Clay Figure (ca. 1200–1100 B.C.) from Gazi, Herakleion Archaeological Museum<br>
Right: Carved tablet with Sphinx made of Hippopotamus tooth (ca. 1375-1250 B.C.) from a dome-shaped grave of the Apokoronios Prison (1980), Herakleion Archaeological Museum
Left: The Partridge Mural (ca. 1700-1525/1500 B.C.) from Knossos, Herakleion Archaeological Museum
Centre: Clay Figure (ca. 1200–1100 B.C.) from Gazi, Herakleion Archaeological Museum
Right: Carved tablet with Sphinx made of Hippopotamus tooth (ca. 1375-1250 B.C.) from a dome-shaped grave of the Apokoronios Prison (1980), Herakleion Archaeological Museum

The exhibition is structured in eleven thematic and chronological sections, which map the creation of a unique, original culture and demonstrate the establishment and the great achievements of the Minoan civilization.   Taking into consideration that the Minoan is the first great palatial civilization to flourish on European territory, the exhibition examines the historical and cultural context of this unique society, shedding light onto aspects of science and daily life.  The information regarding the different phases of Minoan Culture – Early, Mid, and Later Minoan – has accrued from excavations in cemeteries and settlements. 

Top: Mr. Antonis Papadimitriou with former prime-minister Mr. C. Mitsotakis, the Greek National Gallery director Mrs. M. Labraki-Plaka, Mrs Katia Ioannidou, Minister of Culture Mr. Michalis Liapis and archaeologist Mrs. N. Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki<br>
Center: The partridge fresco of Knossos 
<br>
Bottom: Mr George Rethemiotakis, member of the curators’ team, presents the exhibits to the guests of honor
Top: Mr. Antonis Papadimitriou with former prime-minister Mr. C. Mitsotakis, the Greek National Gallery director Mrs. M. Labraki-Plaka, Mrs Katia Ioannidou, Minister of Culture Mr. Michalis Liapis and archaeologist Mrs. N. Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki
Center: The partridge fresco of Knossos
Bottom: Mr George Rethemiotakis, member of the curators’ team, presents the exhibits to the guests of honor

The section entitled “Pots and Potters” includes fabulous specimens of the Kamares, Floral and Marine styles as well as examples of the Mycenaean Years.    The “Masterpieces in Stone" section presents specimens of the renowned Minoan stone carving technique, dating from the prepalatial period.      Tools, moulds and materials are exhibited under the “The Craftsman’s Kingdom” section, while the section entitled “Warriors and Weapons” includes items of weaponry and related images.  A taste of daily life is given in the "Diet and perfumes" section, with items related to food preparation, special vessels used in beekeeping, samples of fruits and nuts as well as part of a mural depicting olive tree branches.

The section entitled “Scripts and Weights” includes tablets inscribed in Linear A and Linear B listing goods and products, clay seals for traded commodities, weights and a weighing scale.  A typical series of seals of ivory  and semiprecious stones, as well as impressions in clay of seals and signet rings depicting a variety of complex motifs, are exhibited under the section “Seal Engraving: Great Art in Miniature”.  

Amazing jewellery made of gold, semiprecious stones and coloured glass can be seen in the section “Jewellery for Life and Death”.   In the section devoted to the “Colourful World of Murals” the art of wall painting is represented by the “Mural with partridges", one of the most aesthetically pleasing specimens of this particular Minoan art.  
Another important section is the one devoted to “Religion and Ritual”. It includes images of deities, effigies of humans and animals, religious symbols, golden rings with religious themes as well as exceptional worshiping artefacts including a rare rhyton in the shape of a bulls head from Zakros.  The exhibition's last section is entitled "Beyond life: A glimpse of the other world", and includes three inscribed clay sarcophagi.

Left: Head of helmeted warrior carved on hippopotamus tooth (approx. 1375-1250 B.C.) from Chania<br>
Right: Gold flower-shape pins (approx. 2500-1800 B.C.) from Mohlos
Left: Head of helmeted warrior carved on hippopotamus tooth (approx. 1375-1250 B.C.) from Chania
Right: Gold flower-shape pins (approx. 2500-1800 B.C.) from Mohlos

“We hope that the exhibition of Minoan Civilization at the Onassis Cultural Centre will be an opportunity for the American public to become better acquainted with ancient Cretan history and culture as well as with modern Crete. We also hope it will help strengthen even more, the bond between Greeks living in the US and their homeland” said Dr. Maria Vlazakis on behalf of the exhibitions organizing committee. 

The exhibition is complemented by an aesthetically pleasing and scientifically accurate, multi-paged catalogue plus an additional volume in which esteemed archaeologists present the main chapters of the Minoan world, and a DVD that includes a guided tour to the exhibition and an analytical presentation of the exhibits by scientists specializing on the subject.   More information about the exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Centre can be found at the address www.onassisusa.org.

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Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation | Tel. +30 210 3713000 | Fax. +30 210 3713013 | Email: pubrel@onassis.gr