Visiting the gallery
Encounter the fascinating cultures that developed in the Aegean during the Bronze Age – Crete, the Cyclades, Greece and the Troad – the first urban societies in Europe.
These cultures are named after people or places recorded in later Greek myth, but archaeology reveals an even more fascinating picture.
Minoan Crete (Room 12a)
Minoan Crete, named after the legendary King Minos, was ruled from great palaces, most of which were founded around 2000 BC. Material from the palace of Knossos is displayed in this gallery, along with pottery, bronzes and stone vases from elsewhere in Crete, including from tombs and shrines. There is also evidence for writing in the form of the undeciphered Linear A script.
An impressive group of jewellery and treasure on display in Room 12a, believed to have been found on the island of Aigina, shows the craftsmanship of the period.
A bronze sculpture from about 1600 BC represents an acrobat 'bull-jumping'. This sport may have had links with the legend of the Minotaur – the bull-headed monster slain by the hero Theseus.
Mycenaean Greece (Room 12b)
The later Greek Bronze Age is named after Mycenae, the capital city of Agamemnon who according to myth led the Greeks at the siege of Troy. Mycenaean culture extended throughout mainland Greece, the Aegean islands and Crete. The Greek language is first recorded in this period in the Linear B script derived from Minoan Crete.
Room 12b shows items reflecting the daily lives, economic activities, burial customs and religious beliefs of Mycenaean Greece. Apart from items from Mycenae itself, particularly important are groups of objects from the islands of Rhodes and from Cyprus, a major trading hub and market for Mycenaean pottery.
Following the collapse of this civilisation in the 12th century BC, Greece entered a period of relative poverty and isolation when writing was forgotten. During this time, stories about the grand lifestyles of Mycenaean rulers continued to be told, influencing later poets such as Homer, whose Iliad and Odyssey were set in what we call the Bronze Age.
- Some objects in this collection feature on the British Sign Language multimedia guide. This resource is temporarily unavailable. You can access a selection of BSL films on your own device.
- Some objects in this collection feature on the audio description guide, available on Soundcloud.
- Step-free access.
- View sensory map.
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