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The Wall Paintings of Thera by Christos…
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The Wall Paintings of Thera

by Christos Doumas

Other authors: Alex Doumas (Translator)

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In 1967, on the Greek island of Thera (also known as Santorini), archaeological excavations uncovered the Bronze Age city of Akrotiri, a large and fairly complex urban settlement that was buried, Pompeii-like, by the eruption of Thera's volcano in the mid second millennium B.C. The extraordinary number of beautiful wall-paintings uncovered, and their unusual state of preservation, made this an important discovery, for the study of ancient Aegean art and history.

This publication, written by the scholar currently in charge of the Theran excavations, gives a concise overview of the wall-paintings, together with numerous gorgeous photographic reproductions. Printed in Greece, The Wall Paintings of Thera has never been widely available in the United States, and I count myself fortunate indeed to have been given access to the copy in a friend's library.

As someone with a keen interest in the ancient Minoan civilization on Crete, I was eager to learn a little more about an Aegean city that flourished during the same period, and that seems to have had close ties with Crete. Many scholars have speculated that the settlement on Thera was a "Minoan" satellite, but Doumas is quick to demonstrate that Akrotiri had many distinguishing characteristics - qualities that he believes come as much from the indigenous Cycladic tradition as from the more "eastern" Minoan one.

This is more of a coffee-table art book than an in-depth history, but I found Doumas' text enlightening, for all that. I haven't looked at information taken from an archaeological dig in a few years - probably since my college days, when I recall poring over the reports from Herculaneum - and it was an enjoyable experience. I came away with pages and pages of notes, and a list of vocabulary that needed further investigation!

As for the wall-paintings themselves, they are simply beautiful! I particularly enjoyed the depiction of the "saffron-gatherers" in Xeste 3, one of whom is pictured on the front cover of the book. The "Mistress of Animals," in that same sequence, is a fascinating glimpse of the goddess figure in the ancient eastern Mediterranean tradition. Although the human figures were most impressive, many of the naturalistic elements and decorative motifs were also appealing, particularly the panel of sea daffodils in the "House of the Ladies."

All in all, I enjoyed this book, both intellectually and aesthetically, and have come away with a desire to read more about Akrotiri. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 11, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christos Doumasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Doumas, AlexTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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