Humanities West Crete release 4_29_11
Humanities West Crete release 4_29_11

Minoan Crete: The Dawn of European Civilization

A prosperous maritime society flourished on Bronze Age Crete from ~2700 to ~1400 BCE, a thousand years before classical Greek civilization. Egyptian records, paintings of Cretans bearing gifts to the Pharaoh, and Minoan paintings found in Egypt testify to this brilliant culture. The magnificence of its art and architecture and the sophistication of the urban culture of Knossos on Crete were not rediscovered until British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans undertook the excavation and controversial reconstruction of Knossos from 1901-1930. The resulting images of a peaceful, matriarchal society have been increasingly challenged, with archaeological finds in Crete and Santorini that showcase Minoan Crete as a flourishing sea empire. A devastating volcanic eruption at nearby Thera (Santorini), followed by a tsunami, destroyed its navy and economy, triggering its gradual collapse. In the 14th century BCE came influential interaction with the Mycenaean culture developing on the Greek mainland and a shift in power that transmitted and transformed Minoan culture onto the European continent and into a palatial empire that marks the end of one fascinating story and the beginning of yet another.

Sponsored by the Consul General of Greece; the Center for Modern Greek Studies and Classics Department at San Francisco State University; Stanford University; UC Berkeley

Moderator: Kim Shelton (Classics; Director, Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology, UC Berkeley)

Friday, April 29, 2011, 8:00 to10:15 pm

Opening Remarks
Ioannis Andreades
 (Consul General of Greece in San Francisco)

Excavating in Santorini
Xenia Stefanidou (Ambassador of Greece to the Philippines)
Ambassador Stefanidou reflects on her experience excavating ancient archeological sites on Santorini.

Knossos and the Making of Minoan Civilization: a Century of Bronze Age Archaeology
Eleni Hatzaki (Classics, University of Cincinnati)
On March 23, 1900, British archaeologist Arthur Evans began excavating the largest prehistoric building in Crete and the Aegean, which he named Palace of Minos at Knossos. The unparalleled craftsmanship of local and imported material culture, combined with Evans’s definitive scholarship, has much shaped our understanding of Europe’s first civilization. Professor Hatzaki explores, critiques, and evaluates 100 years of Knossian and Minoan archaeology in the context of Bronze Age Crete, the Aegean, and the East Mediterranean.

Mezzo soprano Lauren Groff performs Monteverdi’s “Lamento d’Arianna,” the aria from the lost opera Arianna, and Haydn’s solo cantata “Arianna a Naxos,” with piano accompaniment. Introduced by Clifford (Kip) Cranna (SF Opera).

Enomenoi Dancers of the Church of the Holy Cross, Belmont, California.

Saturday, April 30, 2011, 10:00 am to noon and 1:30 to 4:00 pm

Explaining the Minoan Miracle
Ian Morris (Classics and History, Stanford University)
Minoan Crete was an amazing place: between 1800 and 1600 BCE its people ate better, lived longer, and inhabited bigger, more comfortable houses than Cretans ever had before or would have again for centuries. Why? By looking at Minoan Crete against the background of other moments when ancient Greeks lived unusually well (particularly 600-300 BCE and 400-600 CE), we see the answer—geography. The Aegean world began each of these eras as a backwater on the fringes of a more dynamic core in the east Mediterranean. As the core expanded, the Aegean world was drawn in, setting off economic and cultural explosions from its advantageous position on the periphery. Similar growth has happened throughout history, not least to northwest Europe and then North America after about 1600 CE. Only by looking at the Minoan Miracle in a global framework can we make sense of what happened there–and gain a whole new way to see our own times.

The World of Minoan Art: Sacred Landscapes and Nature; Gods and Man; Daily Life and Epic
Vance Watrous 
(Art History, SUNY Buffalo)
During the Late Bronze Age (1700-1400 BCE), the civilization of Minoan Crete was part of an international era that included the entire Eastern Mediterranean – the Aegean, Levant and Egypt. Famous as craftsmen, Cretan artists created wall paintings, jewelry, vases and seals. Of exquisite quality, this art still has the power to affect us today. In the Bronze Age, Minoan seafarers travelled widely and absorbed the artworks they saw in their journeys. Details in their art were clearly derived from the Near East, especially from Egypt. Nevertheless, when we turn from the art of Egypt and the Levant to Crete, nothing prepares us for what we see. We pass into a land of enchantment, into a world that is sensuous, alive, full of wonder and spirituality. Minoan art depicts landscapes and nature as well as gods and man, and epic themes of war and peace in which we can detect the very beginnings of Western art.

Lunch Break

Plato’s Myth of Lost Atlantis
Andrew Jameson (Emeritus, History, Harvard University and UC Berkeley)
Lost Atlantis, one of the most exasperating mysteries of human history, was born in the mind of Greek philosopher Plato. In two dialogues, Timaeus and Critias,Plato originated the idea, the legend, and the mystery of an advanced civilization “destroyed by a huge natural catastrophe.” Since antiquity many have tried to find Atlantis and date its destruction. The search has involved many disciplines: geology and archeology, ethnology and linguistics, mysticism and occultism, and the natural and psychological sciences. Ever since Greek archeologist Spyridon Marinatos proposed in 1939 that the Bronze Age eruption of Santorini (ancient Thera) was responsible for the demise of the Minoan Crete civilization, geologists and archeologists have studied the volcanic eruptions of the island, leading some to conclude that Santorini is the antecedent of Plato’s Atlantis. Thousands of works have been written about Atlantis in the scientific literature and in bestsellers of popular science, much of it characterized by myth, legend, and fantasy. Lost Atlantis has become a legendary symbol of the human search for a lost “cradle of human culture.”

The End of the Minoan Story and the Beginning of the Mycenaean
Kim Shelton 
(Classics; Director, Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology, UC Berkeley).
The Mycenaean Greeks rose to power on the mainland and in the Aegean during and after the collapse of the Minoan civilization. The interaction between these two cultures helped define not only the nature of the Late Bronze Age in the Aegean but also the legacy of prehistoric and pre-Hellenic civilization to the later Greeks of the historical period. The Mycenaeans lived at Knossos before its destruction in the middle of the 14th century BCE. Mycenaean art and society were strongly influenced by Minoan culture at several essential phases, while the concept of “Mycenaean” Crete and what that means for our understanding of the Minoans themselves and the implications for the first Greeks on the mainland as they develop into a palatial empire is the end of one fascinating story and the beginning of yet another.

Panel Discussion with All Presenters


Mezzo-soprano Lauren Groff completed her master’s degree in Vocal Performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2008, studying under Catherine Cook. Ms. Groff completed her undergraduate studies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she performed the role of Dido, (Dido and Aeneas) and was part of the chorus for Pacific Repertory Opera. Her roles in the Bay Area have included Hänsel (Hänsel and Gretel), Hippolyta (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Claudio (Silla-US Premiere), Meg (Little Women), and Lidio (L’Egisto-Cavalli). A frequent soloist, her concert credits include Respighi’s Laud to the Nativity, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, and Mozart’s Grand Mass in C-minor. Ms. Groff made her Bay Area opera debut with Festival Opera as Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her future engagements include a concert version of Carmen with the San Jose Youth Symphony (title role), Bay Area appearances in Handel’s Messiah, soloist appearances with the Valley Concert Chorale, and a soloist with the SF Concert Chorale in Saint-Saens Christmas Oratorio.

Mary Louise Hart, Associate Curator of Antiquities, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Eleni Hatzaki (Assistant Professor, Classics, University of Cincinnati) is an Aegean Pre-historian working on Crete with research interests in the archaeology of Prehistoric Knossos, ceramic production and consumption, burial customs and society, the archaeology of urban complexity, and household archaeology. She came to University of Cincinnati from the British School at Athens where she held the academic positions of Assistant Director and Knossos Curator. In Greece she has directed two excavation projects (Little Palace North Project and Villa Dionysos Viridarium Project) at the quintessential Bronze Age site of Knossos, Crete. Her long-standing academic association with Knossos (urban development, labyrinthine stratigraphy, pottery, and architecture) started while a graduate student of Mervyn Popham, who suggested the Little Palace (excavated in the 1900s by Arthur Evans) as a suitable Oxford D.Phil. thesis. Apart from Knossos she has participated in numerous fieldwork projects in Greece: Palaikastro, Myrtos Pyrgos, Malia on Crete, Lefkandi and Phylla on Euboea, Kythera and Dokos (islands off the Peloponnese). Publications include the Late Bronze Age (MM IIIB to LM IIIC) chapters of the Knossos Pottery Handbook ( Momigliano ed. 2007); Knossos: the Little Palace (Hatzaki 2005); Knossos: Palace, City, State (Cadogan, Hatzaki and Vasilakis, eds. 2004). Current projects include the Little Palace North Project (now at post-excavation study season phase); publication of the Late Bronze Age ceramic assemblages from the ‘Minoan’ settlement and House Tomb of Myrtos Pyrgos (excavated in the 1970s by Gerald Cadogan); and publication of the Temple Tomb at Knossos (excavated in the 1930s by Evans and John Pendlebury).

Andrew G. Jameson (PhD, His­tory, Harvard; doctorate, History, The Sorbonne, Paris; MS, Library Science, Simmons; Archival Management, Radcliffe) taught Byzantine, Near Eastern, and African history at Harvard and UC Berkeley. He is Director Emeritus of Books for Asia of The Asia Foundation and President Emeritus of The Academy of Art SF. He was advisor to the National Libraries of Nigeria and China, visiting professor at Bosphorus University and advisor to the library of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul-Constantinople. He lectures and writes on African and Asian cultures, on libraries, and on the Orthodox Church and mon­asteries; he is researching a book on the Nicene Creed and on the history and lore of the camel. He serves on Harvard’s Graduate Council, as a trustee of the William Saroyan Foundation, and as historian of the Bohemian Club of SF. He was recently elected to the Explorers Club of New York, having climbed Mounts Kilimanjaro and Cameroon and trekked the Sahara with the Tuareg. AWorld War II infantry veteran, he earned a Bronze Star with Cluster and a Purple Heart with Cluster in the Battle of the Bulge.

Ian Morris (Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and Professor of History, Stanford University) is an archaeologist and historian who has dug in Britain, Greece, and Italy. He has published eleven books. The latest of these, Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future, examines eastern and western history from the Ice Age into the twenty-first century (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 2010. At Stanford he has served as Chair of the Classics Department, Senior Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, Director of the Archaeology Center, and Director of the Social Science History Institute, and in 2009 he won the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. From 2000 through 2006 he directed Stanford’s excavations at Monte Polizzo, an indigenous town in Sicily, uncovering new evidence about the transformation of Mediterranean societies in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE. His books have been translated into Spanish, Greek German, and Dutch, and he has appeared on numerous television specials.

Kim Shelton (Assistant Professor, Classics, and Director, Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology, UC Berkeley) is an active field archaeologist and Pre-historian with excavations at Petsas House in the settlement of Mycenae and in and around the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea. She is a specialist in ceramics, domestic architecture and Mycenaean religion. She came to UC Berkeley from the University of Texas at Austin following twelve years of field research in Greece, primarily at the Late Bronze Age palatial center of Mycenae where she remains the assistant to the director of the Archaeological Society of Athens’ research, Dr. Spyros Iakovidis. She has also participated in fieldwork and specialist study in Greece at the Mycenaean stronghold of Gla, at Pylos, Tegea, the shipwreck site of Iria and now in the sanctuary area and the settlement on Tsoungiza at Nemea. Publications include The Late Helladic Pottery from Prosymna (1996), the chapter on Late Bronze Age Mainland Greece for the Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (E. Cline, ed. Forthcoming) and numerous articles on the Petsas House excavations and the major finds (pottery, frescoes, Linear B tablets). Currently she is researching ceramic deposits from the UCB Nemea Excavations (1972-2002) for publication and finishing two books: one on the figurines of Petsas House (Archaeological Society) and the other the final publication of the Tsountas House excavations (Oxbow Books) conducted by the British School of Archaeology in 1950, 1959-1960. In 2009 she was elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Xenia Stefanidou (Greek Ambassador to Philippines), a native Athenian, is a BA graduate of the School of Archeology and History of the University of Athens. In 2005, she completed her Masters in Public Administration at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. A nine-year stint in archeology led to an interest in diplomacy. After completing her studies in the Diplomatic Academy in 1984, she served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens whereupon she was assigned to Bonn, Germany to serve as Secretary of Embassy, then to Plovidiv, Bulgaria where she served as Consul General at the Consulate General of Greece. Returning to Athens, she served in several political departments at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2004, Mrs. Stefanidou was detached to the Consulate General of Greece in Boston, and in September of 2005, she assumed her duties as the Consul General of Greece in San Francisco. In 2009 she was named Ambassador of the Republic of Greece to the Philippines. In 1995, she was decorated with the “Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany” by the German Ambassador in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is fluent in six languages—Greek, English, German, French, Spanish and Italian.

Livingston Vance Watrous (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is Professor of Art History; Adjunct Professor of Classics; Adjunct Professor of Visual Studies at SUNY Buffalo. Professor Watrous’ interests include Aegean and Greek art and archaeology. He is particularly interested in iconography (mainly as it relates to Greek poetry) and the relationship between society, social institutions and art. He has recently published articles on the archaeology of Crete, and on the earliest architectural sculpture known in Greece. Recent publications include Plain of Phaistos: Cycles of Social Complexity in the Messara Region of Crete, 2006; The Cave Sanctuary of Zeus at Psychro: A Study of Extra-Urban Sanctuaries in Minoan and Early Iron Age Crete. University of Texas at Austin, Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory, 1996; Kommos III, The Late Bronze Age Pottery, Princeton University Press, 1992. He is Director of the Gournia Survey Project, important for its new information about one of the most significant excavations of a town in the Late Bronze Age Aegean. He has received grants from the Archaeological Institute of America, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Geographic Society, Fulbright commission, and Institute for Aegean Studies to support his archaeological fieldwork and studies on Minoan Crete. In 1993/94 he was Elizabeth A. Whitehead Professor at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.