This exhibition, organized by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades in collaboration with the French School at Athens and the Byzantine and Christian Museum, brings together a selection of “snapshots” starring those who worked to uncover, protect, and enhance the unique archaeological and cultural wealth of the Cyclades from the late 19th century to the present. It includes one-of-a-kind archaeological exhibits from the islands, most of which are being exhibited for the first time.
Emblematic finds coming from the museums of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades, foundations of the Church of Greece and original archival and photographic material from the Ministry of Culture and Sports and the French School at Athens present fascinating stories about those who worked tirelessly at the difficult and complex work of preserving the Cyclades’ monuments, as well as all those who actively participated in its reception.
The narrative is roughly chronological, starting from the first excavations in the 19th century on Delos and Rheneia, and the contribution of the French School at Athens and the Archaeological Service of the newly-founded Greek state to the discovery of a splendid ancient sanctuary and bustling harbor which experienced distinctive moments of multicultural wealth. An outstanding exhibit in this section is the exceptional mural emblema from the House of Dionysus being exhibited in Athens for the first time.
The exhibition’s second axis focuses on an iconic figure of Cycladic archaeology, Nikolaos Zaphiropoulos, who labored conscientiously until the end of his life, during periods critical for Cycladic antiquities and identity, having as his sole object the protection and enhancement of the islands’ archaeological wealth. His multi-faceted work includes the excavation of the cemetery of ancient Thera in Sellada, from which a selection of finds are presented here for the first time, including the impressive model of an oikiskos from a female burial that contained 103 objects – a Theran household of the age in miniature and perhaps the exhibition’s premier display.
The final section throws light on coordinated efforts to identify, protect, and conserve important Byzantine and Post-Byzantine monuments as well as unique artifacts of outstanding historical and artistic value. Stories concerning assemblages of monumental painting, portable icons and the challenges they present to conservation efforts form the narrative in this exhibition unit, whose exceptionally fine exhibits include two previously-unknown Byzantine icons, a number of detached Byzantine wall paintings, and an icon in the Byzantine style by El Greco unexpectedly discovered on Syros in 1983.