Minoan Jug in Floral Style

Minoan Jug in Floral Style

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The Volcanic Destruction of Minoan Crete

In the long history of Minoan civilization two great catastrophes are discernible, of which the famous Cretan palaces themselves provide the chief source of our knowledge. Everywhere the catastrophes are seen to be contemporaneous. We can distinguish a period of the first palaces (MM) and a subsequent period of the second palaces (LM). There is no perceptible break in the development of the civilization as a result of these catastrophes. For this reason, the theories that the palaces were overthrown by invaders from abroad aroused opposition from the first. Usually the Achaeans—and even the Hyksos—were suggested as the destroyers. By this theory, however, it was not possible to explain two facts : the decorative arts continue on their way undisturbed, and the second palaces are built at once on the ruins of the first and are still unfortified. The Cretans would not have been so foolish as gratuitously to provide easy loot for fresh invaders.

A Brief History of Time

One thing, however, that unites all the innovations and developments that ikebana has seen over the centuries is a search for balance between opposites. Ikebana is, fundamentally, an exploration of the frictions between the visible and the invisible, life and death, permanence and ephemerality, luxury and simplicity. This duality is embodied in the two original Japanese floral styles, of which all the rest can be seen as iterations: tatehana (which translates as “standing flowers,” because the flowers seem to be standing upright in their container) and nageire (which means “thrown in,” because the flowers appear to be leaning against the container as if they were just tossed there). Tatehana, which, while formalized in the 15th century, evolved from those sacred offerings left at Buddhist shrines, has a grand formality: It might feature a tall central evergreen, like a pine, chosen for its sense of unchanging permanence, along with other elements, like flowers or grasses, placed subordinate to it. Nageire, born in the 16th century as a response to this style, was more individualistic and free-spirited: It made use of delicate ephemerals like wildflowers that would have gone unnoticed in tatehana. These dual styles are not in opposition, but rather complementary, and to the Japanese eye, the other is always present even if not visible.

The story that best illustrates the tension and interconnectedness of the two approaches is one that involves Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ruler of Japan, and the Zen tea master Sen no Rikyu in the 16th century. Hideyoshi was known for his lavish, gaudy excess, and under his rule, tatehana, which he adored for its grandeur, had become increasingly more relaxed — libertine really — in its expressions of extravagance. (Hideyoshi once commissioned 40-foot-tall arrangements in 7-foot vases — for him, size definitely counted.) In response, Rikyu developed the wabi form of the tea ceremony, one that prioritized simplicity and slowness over polish, and along with it, advanced the humble nageire style of arrangements for the teahouse interior. Rikyu tried to refine nageire to its essence, evolving the style from an arrangement of several flowers to just one, housed in the most humble and common of containers, like a rice bowl or an earthenware jar. One day, upon hearing that morning glories were in glorious bloom in the garden of Rikyu’s teahouse, Hideyoshi made an appointment to see them. But when he arrived, they had all been cut down. He entered the teahouse and found there a composition of a single morning glory of such exquisiteness that he saw within it the beauty of the entire natural world. Hideyoshi was awed and affronted that his rival had achieved such transcendence, and later, he ordered Rikyu to commit ritual suicide.

FOR TOSHIRO KAWASE, the creative tension inherent in this duality is what creates the artistry in ikebana. Hayato Nishiyama might say the same. The florist lives and works from a small townhouse, which houses his shop, Mitate, in a quiet corner of Kyoto with his wife, Mika. When Nishiyama, bespectacled and monklike in his movements, grew interested in flower arranging while an art school student, he joined an ikebana club. He soon realized, however, that he wanted to study the plants themselves, and so became a gardener. While he has never studied formally, he has read many books on ikebana, including Kawase’s. His work follows in the nageire tradition: He uses exclusively seasonal plants that change form and color throughout the year — bulbs and wildflowers, ferns and grasses, camellias and cherry blossoms that grow in the surrounding hills — and eschews traditional porcelain or bronze vases for everyday objects that he transforms into vessels, like woven bamboo baskets, old wooden well buckets or bits of roofing tile. Traditional ikebana, like the traditional tea ceremony, has many tools — saws and wire and kenzans (spiky flower frogs that hold a plant upright) — but Nishiyama uses only a pair of scissors and works on the floor he is inspired not just by the seasons, but by the constant change and movement within them. When we visited, it was early fall and he was making an arrangement with red-leaved rowan branches sent from a friend farther north, where autumn was already in full swing, and the last purple asters of Kyoto’s summer — a conversation between what was passing and what was to come. A work Nishiyama has posted on his Instagram feed shows three tiny flowers planted in moss, one in bud, one flowering and one beginning to fade — a tribute to how we are always living in three tenses at once, whether we recognize it or not, and a nod to both the fleetingness and constancy of nature’s cycles.

This emphasis on the brevity of life is one of the fundamental differences between ikebana and Western arrangements, but another is the particular recessiveness of the flower itself. Western arrangements prioritize full-frontal blooms, ripe and bold and staring straight at the viewer. In ikebana, there might not even be a flower in the composition, and if there is, it rarely looks you in the eye: It is more likely bent or turned to the side. Stems or leaves or branches are often emphasized over flowers, and those might very well be crooked or yellowing or covered with moss.

Highlighting overlooked forms of beauty, or revealing something ordinary in a new way, is central to Nishiyama’s vision. This is also true of Emily Thompson, who works out of a corner storefront in Manhattan’s old downtown seaport district. Well-known in the fashion world for her wild, wind-tossed bouquets, she too studied art and is a self-taught florist. Like Nishiyama, she has no formal training in ikebana, and yet her work, like his, can’t be understood without it. Thompson also forages and buys her plants from local farms, but where Nishiyama’s approach is purist, and his work gentle, Thompson’s can be voracious and bold, even aggressive. She culls anything from the natural world that can serve her: exotics, weeds, hairy seed pods, flower leis, dangling clumps of moss, even animal and vegetable matter. (Recent compositions have included a tiered topiary of asparagus spears and a bouquet of purple artichoke with phormium and geranium leaves.)

Whether she is creating a simple arrangement of just a few iris buds in a low bowl or a massive installation of dangling roots, twisted branches and an explosion of milkweed fuzz for a client like the Pool, the new restaurant in New York City, Thompson is always attempting “to build worlds made of the infinite wealth of nature.” As she explains, “I don’t follow any master except for my own powerful sense of responsibility that the flowers should be afforded their own identities.” Her compositions do reflect the seasons — there is a delicacy to her work in spring, a lushness in summer, a decay in fall and a barrenness in winter — and yet they also challenge us to re-see what an arrangement can look like. Thompson’s pieces might at first glance appear chaotic, but eventually, one begins to see the logic that informs them: A grouping of wild greenbrier with branches of white oak seems to blow to one side, as if buffeted by the wind. “My insistence on incorporating flawed materials,” she says, “showing a diseased branch, a rose in all stages or a chrysalis hanging off it, shows that this is not just a product but a living organism.”

This, too, is ikebana, practiced many centuries and miles away from when and where it began. “How can [a floral artist] not have a relationship to ikebana?” Thompson says. “Much as asymmetry is defined by symmetry ikebana is always in the room when one works with flowers.”

Her work, like Nishiyama’s, is a reminder that like all living arts, ikebana changes and is informed by the culture and the times what makes ikebana especially poignant and potent in this moment is its direct and personal connection to nature, its awareness of and emphasis on decay in an era in which our own ecological and environmental ruin feels more vivid than ever. A cherry blossom in bloom will soon be gone. But for this instant, it’s ours — and while it is, who among us can turn away from it?


The most significant development in men’s fashion occurred in two unique kinds of trousers: the Oxford bags and the plus-fours. Oxford bags grew in popularity around 1924-25 when undergraduates at Oxford adopted these wide-legged trousers. Though the origin of the style is contentious, it is generally agreed that it derived from the trousers that rowers on Oxford’s crew teams pulled on over their shorts, and you can see how The Bystander satirized this in 1924 (Fig. 2). The original style was about 22 inches wide at the bottom, several inches wider than the average men’s trouser leg. Oxford undergraduates began wearing these around the university and soon the style spread. As the style spread, so too did the width of the trouser legs until at one point they reached up to 44 inches wide. The trousers were made out of flannel and came in a variety of colors. They were mostly worn by youths – perhaps the male counterparts of the flapper – and became a favorite of Britain’s “Bright Young People,” a group of wealthy, aristocrats known for their antics in London’s nightlife.

The other development in menswear in the twenties was the plus-fours. Plus-fours developed out of ordinary knickers – short-legged trousers that gather around the knee – and like Oxford bags were a bit baggier version of their precursor. They had four extra inches of material (hence the name) but instead of extending the trouser leg, they still fastened around the knee and the extra material hung over the band, creating the baggy look as seen at a racecourse in 1920 (Fig. 3). Often worn with a sweater, plus-fours were popular golf attire, but much like how tennis-wear crept into casual womenswear, this style was also popular daywear for men, as was tennis-wear for men, too. You can see the casual way men dressed to play tennis, though some still wore ties in 1920 (Fig. 4).

Fig. 1 - Artist unknown. Fashion Plate, 1920-1939. New York: Costume Institute Fashion Plates. Source: The Met Digital Collections


Map of major Minoan sites

Crete is a mountainous island with natural harbors. There are signs of earthquake damage at many Minoan sites, and clear signs of land uplifting and submersion of coastal sites due to tectonic processes along its coast. [30]

According to Homer, Crete had 90 cities. [31] Judging by the palace sites, the island was probably divided into at least eight political units at the height of the Minoan period. The vast majority of Minoan sites are found in central and eastern Crete, with few in the western part of the island. There are appear to be four major palaces on the island: Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Kato Zakros. The north is thought to have been governed from Knossos, the south from Phaistos, the central-eastern region from Malia, the eastern tip from Kato Zakros. Smaller palaces have been found elsewhere on the island.

Major settlements

    – the largest [32] Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. Knossos had an estimated population of 1,300 to 2,000 in 2500 BC, 18,000 in 2000 BC, 20,000 to 100,000 in 1600 BC and 30,000 in 1360 BC. [33][34] – the second-largest [32] palatial building on the island, excavated by the Italian school shortly after Knossos – the subject of French excavations, a palatial center which provides a look into the proto-palatial period – sea-side palatial site excavated by Greek archaeologists in the far east of the island, also known as « Zakro » in archaeological literature – confirmed as a palatial site during the early 1990s – administrative center near Phaistos which has yielded the largest number of Linear A tablets. – town site excavated in the first quarter of the 20th century – early Minoan site in southern Crete – early eastern Minoan site which gives its name to distinctive ceramic ware – southern site – island town with ritual sites – the greatest Minoan peak sanctuary, associated with the palace of Knossos [35] – site of the Arkalochori Axe – refuge site, one of the last Minoan sites – settlement on the island of Santorini (Thera), near the site of the Thera Eruption – mountainous city in the northern foothills of Mount Ida

Giacobbe Giusti, Minoan civilization

Minoan fresco, showing a fleet and settlement

Beyond Crete

The Minoans were traders, and their cultural contacts reached the Old Kingdom of Egypt, copper-containing Cyprus, Canaan and the Levantine coast and Anatolia. In late 2009 Minoan-style frescoes and other artifacts were discovered during excavations of the Canaanite palace at Tel Kabri, Israel, leading archaeologists to conclude that the Minoan influence was the strongest on the Canaanite city-state. These are the only Minoan artifacts which have been found in Israel. [36]

Minoan techniques and ceramic styles had varying degrees of influence on Helladic Greece. Along with Santorini, Minoan settlements are found [37] at Kastri, Kythera, an island near the Greek mainland influenced by the Minoans from the mid-third millennium BC (EMII) to its Mycenaean occupation in the 13th century. [38] [39] [40] Minoan strata replaced a mainland-derived early Bronze Age culture, the earliest Minoan settlement outside Crete. [41]

The Cyclades were in the Minoan cultural orbit and, closer to Crete, the islands of Karpathos, Saria and Kasos also contained middle-Bronze Age (MMI-II) Minoan colonies or settlements of Minoan traders. Most were abandoned in LMI, but Karpathos recovered and continued its Minoan culture until the end of the Bronze Age. [42] Other supposed Minoan colonies, such as that hypothesized by Adolf Furtwängler on Aegina, were later dismissed by scholars. [43] However, there was a Minoan colony at Ialysos on Rhodes. [44]

Minoan cultural influence indicates an orbit extending through the Cyclades to Egypt and Cyprus. Fifteenth-century BC paintings in Thebes, Egypt depict Minoan-appearing individuals bearing gifts. Inscriptions describing them as coming from keftiu (« islands in the middle of the sea ») may refer to gift-bringing merchants or officials from Crete. [45]

Some locations on Crete indicate that the Minoans were an « outward-looking » society. [46] The neo-palatial site of Kato Zakros is located within 100 meters of the modern shoreline in a bay. Its large number of workshops and wealth of site materials indicate a possible entrepôt for trade. Such activities are seen in artistic representations of the sea, including the « Flotilla » fresco in room five of the West House at Akrotiri. [ citation needed ]

Fashion Icons: Bianca and Mick Jagger

Though their marriage only lasted until 1978, both Mick and Bianca continued to be stalwarts of rock and glamour throughout the decade. Mick’s long hair and rock-star lifestyle became the stuff of legend, while Bianca became friends with stars of the fashion and pop worlds such as Halston and Andy Warhol (Fig. 17). Further cementing her status as a glamour icon, her name became synonymous with Studio 54, the famous New York nightclub. Here, she wore sequins and skin-tight silk dresses, and created some of the most iconic fashion moments of the 1970s.

In 1974, she wore a white satin trouser suit by Halston, not dissimilar to the white suit in figure 15 (probably Yves Saint Laurent) and on her thirtieth birthday in 1977, she was pictured in a red off-the-shoulder dress on top of a white horse in the nightclub. Her impact on fashion has endured with her name being synonymous with 1970s glamour and she is often cited as a fashion muse by designers today.

Fig. 15 - Photographer unknown. Bianca Jagger, 1972. Laura Loveday. Source: Flickr

Fig. 16 - Photographer unknown. Mick Jagger and Bianca Perez Morena de Marcias just after their wedding in St Tropez, France, May 1971. Kristine. Source: Flickr

Fig. 17 - Alberto Botella. Bianca Jagger Andy Warhol, 1970s. Alberto Botella. Source: Flickr

Modern Minoan Paganism: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, the Minotaur, the Great Mothers, Dionysus, and the rest of the Minoan pantheon. Modern Minoan Paganism is an independent polytheist spiritual tradition that brings the gods and goddesses of the ancient Minoans alive in the modern world. We're a revivalist tradition, not a reconstructionist one we rely heavily on shared gnosis and the practical realities of Paganism in the modern world. Ariadne's thread reaches across the millennia to connect us with the divine. Will you follow where it leads?

Find out all about Modern Minoan Paganism on our website: We're a welcoming tradition, open to all who share our love for the Minoan deities and respect for our fellow human beings.

What Were Some Differences Between the Minoans and the Mycenaeans?

A significant difference between the Minoans and Mycenaeans lies in their societies' respective dispositions towards warfare. Whereas the Mycenaeans seem to have been rather aggressive and war-like, the Minoans, alternatively, were relatively peaceful.

One of the more important clues regarding this disposition to violence or otherwise lies in the architecture of the two civilizations. Minoan palaces, for example, had open designs and lavish courtyards. Mycenaean palaces, on the other hand, were constructed with high stone walls and other clearly defensive attributes, signifying the perennial presence of danger. Additionally, while the Mycenaeans were discovered to have had a wide variety of weaponry suitable to battle, Minoan weapons were ceremonial and incapable of inflicting any real harm on a prospective opponent.

The differences between Minoan and Mycenaean artwork generally elaborate this theme even further. Minoan art frequently shows peaceful scenes of floral or marine subject matter, while the art of the Mycenaeans celebrates things such as chariots and combat. Due to additional evidence from Minoan artwork, researchers also conclude that women functioned in high-level roles in that society, perhaps even as priestesses, but there are no correlating artistic representations in Mycenaean material culture indicating a similarly elevated role for women.

Finally, the two cultures also differed in their written language: Mycenaeans wrote in the deciphered form known as Linear B, and the Minoans wrote in the still unbroken script, Linear A.


The traditional chronology for dating Minoan civilization was developed by Sir Arthur Evans in the early years of the 20th century AD. His terminology and the one proposed by Nikolaos Platon are still generally in use and appear in this article. For more details, see the Minoan chronology.

Evans classified fine pottery by the changes in its forms and styles of decoration. Platon concentrated on the episodic history of the Palace of Knossos. Currently a new method is in its infancy, fabric analysis, which features geologic analysis of coarse and mainly undecorated sherds as though they were rocks. The resulting classifications are based on composition of the sherds.

Genetic studies

Various genetic studies have been conducted on the ancient Minoans to deduce their ethnic origins, with differing results. Multiple 2008 studies found that the ancient Minoans exhibited Middle Eastern maternal genetic lineages, from populations in contemporary Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, and that « the female [Minoan genetic] component is influenced by Asia and the Middle East as well as Europe. » [133] [134] A 2014 study corroborated these findings by concluding that the Bronze Age Cretan culture had Near Eastern origins. [135]

However, a genetic study published in the journal Nature in August 2017 concluded that the Minoans were genetically closely related with the Mycenaean Greeks. Their genomes were similar though not identical. Though the same study also stated that at least three-quarters of DNA of both the Minoans and the Myceneans came from the first Neolithic-era farmers that lived in Western Anatolia and the Aegean Sea. [136]

Additionally, a 2013 mtDNA genetic study was conducted by a research team that analyzed some DNA from ancient Minoan skeletons that were sealed in a cave in Crete&rsquos Lassithi Plateau between 3,700 and 4,400 years ago, as well as other Greek, Anatolian, western and northern European samples, North African and Egyptian samples. [137] [138] They then compared the skeletal mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on through the maternal line, with that found in a sample of 135 modern and ancient populations from around Europe and Africa. The researchers found that the Minoan skeletons were genetically very similar to modern-day Europeans — and especially close to modern-day Cretans, particularly those from the Lassithi Plateau. They were also genetically similar to Neolithic Europeans, but distinct from Egyptian or Libyan populations. [139] « We now know that the founders of the first advanced European civilization were European, » said study co-author George Stamatoyannopoulos, a human geneticist at the University of Washington. « They were very similar to Neolithic Europeans and very similar to present day-Cretans. » [138]

Nonetheless, Stamatoyannopoulos&rsquos team did not analyze paternal DNA, and acknowledged that previous research found Middle Eastern genetic influences for both the ancient Minoans paternal and maternal lineages. [137]

Watch the video: Minoan Pottery (August 2022).