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'Princesses' of the Mediterranean in the Dawn of History

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The Museum of Cycladic Art (Athens, Greece) is proud to present the major archaeological exhibition 'Princesses' of the Mediterranean in the dawn of History*, curated by the MCA's Director Prof. Nicholas Stampolidis in collaboration with Dr Mimika Giannopoulou. The exhibition presents 24 examples of 'princesses' from Greece, Cyprus, Southern Italy, and Etruria from 1,000 to 500 BC, and over 500 artefacts, revealing an entire world of art and wealth, of ideas and beliefs, belonging to actual women who lived at the dawn of history.

'Princesses' showcases the stories of real women as opposed to mythical ones or goddesses. Women who were born, who lived; women of flesh and bone. Their bones survive and 'speak' after thousands of years, and along with the grave offerings, jewelry, and other personal items, they comprise the tools that help archaeologists lift the veil of time and resurrect these women as much as possible.

The visitors will discover the stories of royal ladies and princesses; priestesses and healers; women of authority and knowledge; of local women, who stood apart from the rest, and of other women, who accepted and adopted the cultural traits of different societies, and even of those who for reasons of intermarriage, traveled from one place to another. Through their stories, one can distinctly perceive how these women played a contributing role in broadening the cultural horizons of their time, including their involvement in the development of the archaic Mediterranean culture.

The Lady of Lefkadi in Euboea, the Wealthy Athenian Lady from the Areopagus, the famous Picenean queen from Sirolo-Numana near modern Ancone, burials from Verucchio and Basilicata in Italy, from Eleutherna in Crete, from Sindos in Thessaloniki are only a few examples of the exhibition which dazzles with its wealth of objects.

The displayed assemblages range from utilitarian vases and utensils, alphabet panels, pens and sharpeners, jewels, decorative items and impressive gold funeral masks, loans from 15 museums of Greece, Cyprus and Italy. Among them, the famous wooden throne of a dead princess from a tomb at Verruchio (Italy), one of the many highlights of the exhibit.

Seen all together, these archeological finds from sites throughout the Mediterranean, their common criteria, the level of their wealth and the amount of votive offerings as well as the affinity between burial customs, denote the existence of a common ideological current and social dimension, tangible proof that women not only occupied prestigious positions in their societies at the time but were also carriers of new cultural and ideological elements.

See more shots of the installation here.

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Curated by: Professor Nicholas Stampolidis in collaboration with Dr Mimika Giannopoulou

The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Cycladic Art in collaboration with the University of Crete and the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports.

The exhibition is held under the auspices of the H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic Dr. Karolos Papoulias and H.E. the President of the Italian Republic Hon. Giorgio Napolitano.

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* The term 'princesses' in the exhibition title does not necessarily refer to real princesses of a royal or princely lineage - although these are also present. Because the regimes, roles, and properties of the persons of power and prestige differed from one another in the eastern and central Mediterranean during the long time span covered by this exhibition (1,000-500 BC), the terms 'king/queen' and 'prince/princess' cannot be univocally defined. Therefore, the terms 'prince/princess' (from the Latin princeps) is used here in a broader sense to designate a person who by lineage (family), prestige, wealth, or other reasons was distinguished among the other members of the society in which he/she lived and participated.