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Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, and the Forging of History

Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, and the Forging of History

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Amazon.comIn Mysteries of the Snake Goddess , Kenneth Lapatin traces the murky origins (and seriously debunks the authenticity of) "the most refined and precious" surviving object of Minoan art. The gold-and-ivory figure, now residing in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, was discovered in the early 20th century by renowned archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. Other, related figures (of equally dubious origin) retain pride of place in several North American and European museums. They are almost certainly forgeries, according to Lapatin, or at best, "neither entirely genuine nor fully fake." This is not a crime story but rather a tale of well-meaning overextrapolation. Evans, and others, took kernels of evidence to bake a large loaf of an idealized, matriarchal Cretan civilization. In short, Evans's desire to believe clouded his scientific caution. As well, Lapatin gently points out that very often our re-creations of the past are influenced by the ideas, mores, and, even, inadequacies of our present. His book is one of calm, inviting erudition that, mercifully, avoids the mean wrangling so common in academia. --H. O'Billovich Book DescriptionA fascinating tale of archaeological detective work reveals that some of the most prized relics of Bronze Age Crete are in fact modern forgeries.

Not only is one of the most famous pieces of ancient Greek art--the celebrated gold and ivory statuette of the Snake Goddess--almost certainly modern, but Minoan civilization as it has been popularly imagined is largely an invention of the early twentieth century. This is Kenneth Lapatin's startling conclusion in Mysteries of the Snake Goddess --a brilliant investigation into the true origins of the celebrated Bronze Age artifact, and into the fascinating world of archaeologists, adventurers, and artisans that converged in Crete at the turn of the twentieth century. Including characters from Sir Arthur Evans, legendary excavator of the Palace of Minos at Knossos, who was driven to discover a sophisticated early European civilization to rival that of the Orient, to his principal restorer Swiss painter Emil Gillieron, who out of handfuls of fragments fashioned a picture of Minoan life that conformed to contemporary taste, this is a riveting tale ofarcheological discovery.