From the land of the Labyrinth to New York City

A full depiction of the glory of Minoan Crete is set to travel outside Greece for the first time. In collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and archaeological museums on the island, the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation is preparing to launch the «From the Land of the Labyrinth: Minoan Crete, 3000-1100 BC» exhibition at its New York-based affiliate, the Onassis Cultural Center. The exhibition, which will run March 13 to September 13, will reveal different aspects of the daily life of the so-called Minoan civilization, which derives its name from the legendary Cretan King Minos. Onassis Foundation President Antonis Papadimitriou pointed out the importance of Minoan civilization, as Europe’s first fully developed culture, at yesterday’s press conference. «We decided to do something more edgy,» he explained, because lately the foundation’s New York exhibitions have dealt with more «mainstream» themes, such as the Athens-Sparta conflict and Alexander the Great. «We should not forget that Crete had unfortified cities, something which we only encounter later in Europe after the 19th century,» said Papadimitriou. «At a time like today, when civilizations, religions and races get all the more intertwined, it is important to remember what it is that connects us.» Minoan civilization is the name given to the culture that developed in Crete between 3000 and 1100 BC and which is divided into different periods (Prepalatial, Protopalatial, Neopalatial and Postpalatial). Favored by its privileged geographical position, Crete developed an extensive network of trade routes. The blossoming of trade in the first period and the ensuing wealth resulted in a well-structured palatial society, with the palaces becoming the centers of economic, religious and social life. Two types of scripts, a hieroglyphic script and Linear A, were used to facilitate economic activities. Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, head of the 25th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and director of the Hania and Rethymnon archaeological museums as well as one of the exhibition curators, said the display covers all Minoan periods. It is divided into 11 thematic and chronological sections. Highlights include the «Religion and Ritual» section, which features sacred Minoan symbols (such as the Bull’s Head Rhyton), the murals section but also «Scripts and Weights,» which includes Linear B tablets, clear proof of a Mycenaean presence in Crete in the final period. «Pots and Potters» features some skillfully made vases, while «Masterpieces in Stone» demonstrates a variety of stone artifacts. There are sections devoted to tools used in workshops, weaponry and cooking. Elaborate seals, jewelry and sarcophagi will also be on display. An international day conference as well as lectures have been scheduled to take place in the context of the exhibition, which will be accompanied by a catalog and a DVD. The foundation has also launched a series of dramatized readings of ancient Greek texts. The first rhapsody of Homer’s «Iliad» was successfully performed at the steps of the Altar at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum recently. The next reading will re-enact ancient historian Thucydides’ famous «Melian Dialogue,» the debate between the Athenians and the residents of Melos which failed to deter the former from their hard stance. It will be held in Washington in the near future before traveling on to other US cities. Onassis Cultural Center, Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Avenue, NY,

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