Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


3 January 2014

The Missing ‘Barbarians’: Some Thoughts on Ethnicity and Identity in Aegean Bronze Age Iconography

Fritz Blakolmer in Papadopoulos, A. (ed), Recent research and perspectives on the Late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean, Talanta XLIV (2012) [2013]: 53-77.


With regard to ethnic personification, phenotypical physiognomy and individual portraiture, the iconography of the Aegean Bronze Age confronts us with some fundamental problems. In Minoan and Mycenaean arts, representations of foreign people occur extremely rarely, so that we even gain the impression that the iconographic vocabulary for depicting people from foreign regions was never developed in the Aegean arts which, in this respect, stood in sharp contrast to the artistic intentions of Egypt and the Near East. Although there flourished a widespread iconography of war in Minoan Crete as well as on the Mycenaean mainland, these images present rather exclusively combats against people coming from within the Aegean basin. Moreover, our attempts to differentiate by iconographical means between Creto-Minoans, Mycenaean Greeks, and the inhabitants of other regions of the Aegean, until now turn out to be highly unsuccessful. It appears conclusive that the absence of any inner-Aegean differentiation in iconography allowed a common, interchangeable usage and comprehension of images throughout the entire Aegean. Thus, the assumption of a comprehensive and coherent ‘Aegean’ ethnic identity, among other parameters of identity, is suggested by the Bronze Age iconography.


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