Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilization

Where: National Museum of Natural History

When: through May 1, 2011

Cyprus is a product of geologic uplift; it literally rose from the sea. For centuries, it has been the meeting place for Eastern and Western influences. The earliest civilizations on Cyprus are extraordinarily old. Archeologists have found a tomb containing a cat which dates from more than 3,000 years before cats were domesticated in Egypt.

The early Cypriots venerated a Mother Goddess and many figurines in the shape of a woman giving birth have been found on the island. This goddess eventually morphed into and was replaced by Aphrodite. The exhibit features some lovely pottery; it's hard to believe that it is as old as it is; I saw a piece composed of three conjoined bowls that I could make use of today!

The show also features an example of Cypro-Minoan script. This language was used for approximately 500 years, beginning in 1550 BCE. Scholars have not been able to decipher it, so it's exact purpose is at present unknown.

As time passed, and farming relied more heavily on cattle, representations of cows and bulls made their way into jewelry, pottery and metalwork. I hadn't really thought about how human adornments take on the shape of things we commonly use, but I'll keep my eyes open for this from now on.

Another piece on display is a fragment of a tax record - quite appropriate for April!

Verdict: I was a bit disappointed in this exhibit. It might be because I've seen such terrific shows at Natural History, and my standards have gotten too high, or it might be that there was something lacking in the display. Whatever the reason, this show didn't speak to me; it was informative, but lacked something that would allow me to connect with the people of ancient Cyprus.

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