Cycladic culture

Cycladic culture (also known as Cycladic civilisation or, chronologically, as Cycladic chronology) was a Bronze Age culture (c. 3200–c. 1050 BC) found throughout the islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. In chronological terms, it is a relative dating system for artefacts which broadly complements Helladic chronology (mainland Greece) and Minoan chronology (Crete) during the same period of time.[1]

Cycladic culture
Cyclades map-fr
PeriodBronze Age
Datesc. 3200–c. 1050 BC
Major sitesGrotta (Naxos), Phylakopi, Keros, Syros
Preceded byNeolithic Greece
Followed byMinoan civilization
Cycladic "frying pan" with ship
Frying-pan with incised decoration of a ship. Early Cycladic II, Chalandriani, Syros 2800–2300 BC
Cycladic idol large retouched
Cycladic idol, Parian marble; 1.5 m high (largest known example of Cycladic sculpture. 2800–2300 BC


Map of Greece showing major sites that were occupied in the Cycladic culture (clickable map)

The significant Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Cycladic culture is best known for its schematic flat female idols carved out of the islands' pure white marble centuries before the great Middle Bronze Age ("Minoan") culture arose in Crete, to the south. These figures have been stolen from burials to satisfy the Cycladic antiquities market since the early 20th century. Only about 40% of the 1,400 figurines found are of known origin, since looters destroyed evidence of the rest.

A distinctive Neolithic culture amalgamating Anatolian and mainland Greek elements arose in the western Aegean before 4000 BC, based on emmer and wild-type barley, sheep and goats, pigs, and tuna that were apparently speared from small boats (Rutter). Excavated sites include Saliagos, Naxos and Kephala (on Keos), which showed signs of copper-working. Kea is the location of a Bronze Age settlement at the site now called Ayia Irini, which reached its height in the Late Minoan and Early Mycenaean eras (1600–1400 BC). The Mycenaean town of Naxos[2] (around 1300 BC) covered the area from today's city to the islet of "Palatia", and part of it was discovered under the square, in front of the Orthodox Cathedral, in Chora, where the archaeological site of Grotta is located today.

Naxos has been inhabited since the fourth millennium BC until now unceasingly. The study of the toponyms asserts that Naxos has never been deserted by residents. Each of the small Cycladic islands could support no more than a few thousand people, though Late Cycladic boat models show that fifty oarsmen could be assembled from the scattered communities (Rutter). When the highly organized palace-culture of Crete arose, the islands faded into insignificance, with the exception of Kea, Naxos and Delos, the latter of which retained its archaic reputation as a sanctuary through the period of Classical Greek civilization (see Delian League).

The chronology of Cycladic civilization is divided into three major sequences: Early, Middle and Late Cycladic. The early period, beginning c. 3000 BC, segued into the archaeologically murkier Middle Cycladic c. 2500 BC. By the end of the Late Cycladic sequence (c. 2000 BC), there was essential convergence between Cycladic and Minoan civilization.

There is some tension between the dating systems used for Cycladic civilization, one "cultural" and one "chronological". Attempts to link them lead to varying combinations; the most common are outlined below:

Cycladic chronology [3]
Phase Date Culture Contemporary
Early Cycladic I (ECI) Grotta-Pelos
Early Cycladic II (ECII) Keros-Syros culture
Early Cycladic III (ECIII) Kastri
Middle Cycladic I (MCI) Phylakopi
Middle Cycladic II (MCII)
Middle Cycladic III (MCIII)
Late Cycladic I
Late Cycladic II
Late Cycladic II


The first archaeological excavations of the 1880s were followed by systematic work by the British School at Athens and by Christos Tsountas, who investigated burial sites on several islands in 1898–99 and coined the term "Cycladic civilization". Interest then lagged, but picked up in the mid-20th century, as collectors competed for the modern-looking figures that seemed so similar to sculpture by Jean Arp or Constantin Brâncuși. Sites were looted and a brisk trade in forgeries arose. The context for many of these Cycladic Figurines has thus been mostly destroyed; their meaning may never be completely understood. Another intriguing and mysterious object is that of the Cycladic frying pans.

Early Cycladic culture evolved in three phases, between c. 3300 and 2000 BC, when it was increasingly submerged in the rising influence of Minoan Crete. Excavations at Knossos on Crete reveal an influence of Cycladic civilization upon Knossos in the period 3400 to 2000 BC as evidenced from pottery finds at Knossos.[4]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Kontoleontos, Nickolaou (1961). Mycenaean Naxos, Cycladic Stydies, Book A.
  3. ^ Chronology and Terminology of The Prehistoric Archaeology of the Aegean accessed May 23, 2006
  4. ^ C.Michael Hogan, Knossos Fieldnotes, The Modern Antiquarian, (2007)
3rd millennium BC

The 3rd millennium BC spanned the years 3000 through 2001 BC. This period of time corresponds to the Early to Middle Bronze Age, characterized by the early empires in the Ancient Near East. In Ancient Egypt, the Early Dynastic Period is followed by the Old Kingdom. In Mesopotamia, the Early Dynastic Period is followed by the Akkadian Empire.

World population growth relaxes after the burst due to the Neolithic Revolution.

World population is largely stable, at roughly 60 million, with a slow overall growth rate at roughly 0.03% p.a.

Catacomb culture

The Catacomb culture (c. 2800–2200 BC) is a group of related cultures in the early Bronze Age occupying essentially what is present-day eastern Ukraine and southern Russia.

The culture applied cord-imprinted decorations to its pottery and shows a profuse use of the polished battle axe, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East. It was preceded by the Yamnaya culture. The Catacomb culture in the Pontic steppe was succeeded in the west by the Multi-cordoned ware culture from c. 22nd century BC, and the Srubna culture from c. the 17th century BC.

Chalcolithic Europe

Chalcolithic Europe, the Chalcolithic (also Aeneolithic, Copper Age) period of Prehistoric Europe, lasted roughly from 3500 to 1700 BC.

It was a period of Megalithic culture, the appearance of the first significant economic stratification, and probably the earliest presence of Indo-European speakers.

The economy of the Chalcolithic, even in the regions where copper was not yet used, was no longer that of peasant communities and tribes: some materials began to be produced in specific locations and distributed to wide regions. Mining of metal and stone was particularly developed in some areas, along with the processing of those materials into valuable goods.

Colchian culture

Colchian culture (Georgian: კოლხური კულტურა; 3000 BC to 600 BC) is Neolithic - an early Bronze Age and Iron Age culture of the western Caucasus, mostly in western Georgia. It was partially succeeded by the Koban culture in northern and central Caucasus.

It is named after the ancient geographic region of Colchis, which covered a large area along the Black Sea coast. Today Colchs are known as Laz and Megrel.


The Cyclades (; Greek: Κυκλάδες [kikˈlaðes]) are an island group in the Aegean Sea, southeast of mainland Greece and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago. The name refers to the islands around (κυκλάς) the sacred island of Delos. The largest island of the Cyclades is Naxos.

Cycladic art

The ancient Cycladic culture flourished in the islands of the Aegean Sea from c. 3300 to 1100 BCE. Along with the Minoan civilization and Mycenaean Greece, the Cycladic people are counted among the three major Aegean cultures. Cycladic art therefore comprises one of the three main branches of Aegean art.

The best known type of artwork that has survived is the marble figurine, most commonly a single full-length female figure with arms folded across the front. The type is known to archaeologists as a "FAF" for "folded-arm figure(ine)". Apart from a sharply-defined nose, the faces are a smooth blank, although there is evidence on some that they were originally painted. Considerable numbers of these are known, though unfortunately most were removed illicitly from their unrecorded archaeological context, which seems usually to be a burial.

Deverel–Rimbury culture

The Deverel–Rimbury culture was a name given to an archaeological culture of the British Middle Bronze Age. It is named after two barrow sites in Dorset and dates to between 1600 and 1100 BC.

It is characterised by the incorrectly-named Celtic fields, palisaded cattle enclosures and cremation burials either in urnfield cemeteries or under low, round barrows. Some cremations from this period were also inserted into pre-existing barrows. The people were livestock farmers.

The Deverel–Rimbury ware pottery they produced included distinctive globular vessels with fluted or channelled decoration and scratched lines along with squat, thick-walled bucket urns with cordoned decoration and fingerprint marks on the rims. The fabric is tempered with coarse flint.

The term is now normally only used to refer to the pottery types as modern archaeologists now believe that Deverel–Rimbury does not represent a single culture but numerous disparate societies who shared only certain technologies.

Frying pan (Paros 2136)

The Cycladic Frying pan (Archaeological Museum of Paros, Inventory number 2136; National Archaeological Museum of Athens number 6291) is a ceramic object from the Bronze age Cycladic culture of the Kampos type. The frying pan of the Early Cycladic period derives from grave 3 of the small cemetery of Kampos on the Cycladic island of Paros. It was discovered alone in autumn 1924 in the excavations led by Irini Varoucha and was first published in 1926. It is displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Paros with the inventory number 2136. The purpose of Cycladic frying pans is not known.

Grotta-Pelos culture

The Grotta-Pelos culture (Greek: Γρόττα-Πηλός) refers to a "cultural" dating system used for part of the early Bronze Age in Greece. Specifically, it is the period that marks the beginning of the so-called Cycladic culture and spans the Neolithic period in the late 4th millennium BC (ca. 3300 BC), continuing in the Bronze Age to about 2700 BC.

The term was coined by Colin Renfrew, who named it after the sites of Grotta and Pelos on the Cycladic islands of Naxos and Milos, respectively. Other archaeologists prefer a "chronological" dating system and refer to this period as the Early Cycladic I (ECI).

Kastri culture

The Kastri culture (Greek: Καστρί) refers to a "cultural" dating system used for the Cycladic culture that flourished during the early Bronze Age in Greece. It spans the period ca. 2500–2200 BC and was named by Colin Renfrew, after the fortified settlement of Kastri near Chalandriani on the Cycladic island of Syros. In Renfrew's system, Kastri culture follows the Keros-Syros culture. However, some archaeologists believe that the Keros-Syros and Kastri cultures belong to the same phase. Others describe this period as the Early Cycladic III (ECIII).

Khojaly–Gadabay culture

The Khodzhaly-Kedabek culture (also Khojaly-Gadabay and variants (Azerbaijani: Xocalı-Gədəbəy mədəniyyəti, Russian ходжалы-кедабекская культура), also known as the Gandzha-Karabakh culture (ганджа-карабахская культура) is an archaeological culture of the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age (roughly 13th to 7th centuries BC) in the Karabakh region of Transcaucasia. The eponymous sites are at Khojaly, Gadabay and Ganja in Azerbaijan.

It was excavated by Soviet archaeologists beginning in the 1920s.It was described by Boris Piotrovsky and other archaeologists specializing in the prehistory of Transcaucasia during the 1930s to 1970s.

Findings from Khojaly burial grounds discovered in 1895 by E. Resler. Hermitage Museum

Koban culture

The Koban culture (c. 1100 to 400 BC) is a late Bronze Age and Iron Age culture of the northern and central Caucasus. It is preceded by the Colchian culture of the western Caucasus and the Kharachoi culture further east.

It is named after the village of Koban, Northern Ossetia, where in 1869 battle-axes, daggers, decorative items and other objects were discovered in a kurgan. Later, further sites were uncovered in the central Caucasus.

Lesser Cyclades

The Lesser Cyclades or Small Cyclades (Greek: Μικρές Κυκλάδες) is an island complex in Aegean Sea, inside the archipelago of the Cyclades. It is located to the south-east of Naxos and comprises 32 islands and rocks. The main islands are Ano Koufonisi, Kato Koufonisi, Irakleia, Schoinoussa, Donousa and Keros. The largest of them is Irakleia with an area of 18 km2 and the most populated is Ano Koufonisi with a population of 399, according to the 2011 census. Only four of them are inhabited, Ano Koufonisi, Irakleia, Donousa and Schoinoussa. The islet of Kato Antikeri has also two inhabitants. Administratively, the islands belong to the Naxos and Lesser Cyclades municipality apart from the islets of Ano and Kato Antikeri that belong to Amorgos municipality.


Naxos (; Greek: Νάξος, pronounced [ˈnaksos]) is a Greek island and the largest of the Cyclades. It was the centre of archaic Cycladic culture. The island is famous as a source of emery, a rock rich in corundum, which until modern time was one of the best abrasives available.

The largest town and capital of the island is Chora or Naxos City, with 6,533 inhabitants (2001 census). The main villages are Filoti, Apiranthos, Vivlos, Agios Arsenios, Koronos and Glynado.

Naxos (city)

Naxos (Greek: Νάξος; Italian: Nasso, also known as Χώρα - Chora) is a city and a former municipality on the island of Naxos, in the Cyclades, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Naxos and Lesser Cyclades, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. The municipal unit has 12,726 inhabitants, and the community 7,374 inhabitants (2011 census). The Naxos municipal unit covers an area of 126.957 square kilometres (49.018 sq mi). It is located on the west side of Naxos Island in the Cyclades island group in the Aegean. It was the centre of archaic Cycladic culture. It shares the island of Naxos with the municipal unit of Drymalia.

Penard Period

The Penard Period is a metalworking phase of the Bronze Age in Britain spanning the period c. 1275 BC to c. 1140 BC.

It is named after the typesite of Penard in West Glamorgan, where a hoard of bronze tools from the period was found in 1827.

The period is characterised by a flowering in experimentation in bronze working, spurred by increased contact with the Urnfield culture of Continental Europe from where early sword and shield imports came.

Chronologically it follows the Taunton Period metalworking phase, and precedes the Wilburton-Wallington Phase. There are links with Reinecke D and early Hallstatt A1 periods, and the French Rosnoën and the Montelius III phases.

Developments included the invention of the cylinder sickle and leaf-shaped pegged spearheads, mirroring an increase in the use of sheet bronze. Clay moulds and new lead-rich alloys were also employed.

Phylakopi I culture

The Phylakopi I culture (Greek: Φυλακωπή) refers to a "cultural" dating system used for the Cycladic culture that flourished during the early Bronze Age in Greece. It spans the period ca. 2300-2000 BC and was named by Colin Renfrew, after the settlement of Phylakopi on the Cycladic island of Milos. Other archaeologists describe this period as the Early Cycladic III (ECIII).


Saliagos (Greek: Σάλιαγκος) is an islet in the Greek island group of Cyclades. It is the first early farming site and one of the oldest settlements of the Cycladic culture. Saliagos is only 110 to 70 meters in size and is situated between Antiparos (ancient Oliaros) and Paros, along with several other uninhabited islands. In the past and up to the Byzantine times, Saliagos was a promontory connected with Antiparos. However, at later times, this has been flooded due to the rise in the sea level.

The settlement is dated to the middle to late Neolithic period. Radiocarbon dating has indicated a period from 5000 to 4500 BC. The site was excavated during the years 1964-65 by John Davies Evans and Colin Renfrew from the British School at Athens.

Trialeti culture

The Trialeti culture (Georgian: თრიალეთის კულტურა, also known as the Trialeti-Vanadzor [Kirovakan] culture), is named after the Trialeti region of Georgia. It is attributed to the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC. Trialeti culture emerged in the areas of the preceding Kura-Araxes culture.

Bronze Age
Bronze Age
(North Caucasus
and Transcaucasia)

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