Depictions of women in the art of the Aegean during the Bronze Age
Scherpf, Jean Eleanor
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Women, as depicted in the art of the Bronze Age Aegean, are the focus of this thesis. The visual evidence from the Palace of Knossos in Crete and the site of Akrotiri on the island of Thera provide a variety of examples that are used in this investigation in the hope of discovering women’s status in the Minoan society. These two areas have given the most productive visual information for the study of women in the Aegean Bronze Age. They appear more frequently than the men and when they are shown together they are rendered with greater detail. The women appear in paintings, statues, and metal works beautifully dressed with elegant coiffures. The paintings from Knossos demonstrate the hallmarks of Minoan art and the majority of them highlight women’s beauty, vivacity, and fashions; in these paintings women come alive with radiant colors and exquisite detail. The excellent state of preservation of the wall paintings from the site of Akrotiri has enhanced our knowledge of the period, and the subject matter of these paintings provide an important tool to the Minoan scholarship of both archaeologists and art historians. In addition to the description of women in paintings, there is a variety of examples in other media such as faience figurines and signet rings; these provide further evidence of the prominence of women. Characteristic examples of these artifacts are included. As a result of the investigation conducted on these art works, it becomes evident that women played an important role in rituals and in public ceremonies. They were not afraid to show themselves outside their private living quarters. Often positioned in places of honor, the women also appeared to mingle freely with the men in crowd scenes and to take part in a wide variety of functions and activities. While at times they were part of a large audience, at others they were actually leading the events. From the art record it appears that women in the Aegean World enjoyed respect and freedom not often seen in other contemporary societies.