Throughout history, islands have been romanticised as remote places quite unlike the mainland. Islanders: The Making of the Mediterranean examines the unique identity of islanders, transporting visitors back 4,000 years to the islands and sea of the ancient Mediterranean.
This major free exhibition brings together extraordinary loans of antiquities and cultural treasures from the islands of Sardinia, Cyprus and Crete, with many on display in the UK for the first time.
More than 200 objects reveal lost island civilisations of trading powers across the Mediterranean, demystifying the identity of island life and exploring how the evolution of the Mediterranean world was defined by how connected the islands were across three millennia.
Highlights include Sardinia’s famous Bronzetti figurines from the lost 3,000-year-old Nuragic civilisation. No written records of this civilisation have been discovered, it is only through its ancient burial grounds that have yielded countless bronze figurines that their mythological and religious identity can start to be understood.
Figurines commonly referred to as the ‘terracotta army of Cyprus’, found at the remarkable sanctuary of Agia Irini are also on display in the UK for the first time. The uncovered open-air shrine revealed an astounding 2,000 clay votive figurines, varying from larger than life-size to small human figures, alongside sphinxes, minotaurs, priests with bull-masks, and horse drawn chariots.
The exhibition also reunites for the first time the finds from the unique Early Bronze Age cemetery of Bellapais-Vounous (ca. 2200-1950 BCE), Cyprus. These emblematic objects of early Cypriot art and religion have shaped our understanding of this formative stage of the island’s Bronze Age.
The exhibition, curated by Dr Anastasia Christophilopoulou in partnership with the Ambassador of Greece to the United Kingdom and the High Commissioner of Cyprus in the United Kingdom, is part of the Being an Islander: Art and Identity of the Large Mediterranean Islands project, 2019 – 2023.
The exhibition is organised in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Sports, Greece; the Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, Cyprus; and the National Archaeological Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia.