Mystery of History: Lesson Twelve – Minoans


I really enjoyed this lesson on the ancient Minoans. Gary and I had visited the British Museum, and so I had made a point to get some photos of the Minoan section, which made it all the more exciting for the girls!

Minoans: Reading

Firstly, I read the Mystery of History lesson and then the girls read some of Usbourne’s excellent history book:


The girls also read the following book during their quiet-time:

Minoan Food: Squid

The Minoans had a primarily sea food diet, being surrounded by oceans on all sides. Whilst I was researching possible Minoan food I came accross squid. Well, I love me a bit of fried squid! So I kept my eyes out for some at the supermarket. Unfortunately, they only had the battered kind. I bought three packets at almost £4 each. They were gone in two minutes flat! The children were immediate fans. Darn it, I was hoping for all their discarded left overs but there were none! I served them with a chunk of lemon and also made some really scrummy lemon mayonnaise. Mmmmm mmmm!


Minoan Art: Octopus Pot

We used one of my photos from the British Museum:


Traditionally, Minoan pots, called Kamares ware, had black backgrounds with vividly coloured designs painted on them. However, by the late Bronze Age (around 1500 BC), the black was replaced by a cream background with ocean scenes and sea life, such as the octopus shown above.

We discussed why the Minoans might choose to do ocean scenes, being surrounded by the sea. The girls shared with me what they liked and didn’t like about the octopus vase, after which Becs fashioned one made from clay:


Next, she marked out the octopus shape on one side only and left the other side blank:

Lastly, she painted the pot, thereby giving it a dark cream back ground and a black octopus:

And here is the final pot in all its octopussy glory:

Minoan Art Study: A Sacred Bull

The bull crops up a lot in Cretan art, and I was pleased when I found one at the British museum:

The Minoans, along with many other cultures, worshipped the bull as an idol. For the Minoans the bull represents the sun, whilst the cow represents the moon. Given how important the sun was to ancient cultures, this maybe explains the importance of the bull to the Minoans. It can be seen throughout Minoan art from the pots to the frescos. And although the bull leaping fresco is perhaps the most well known piece of Minoan art, it is actually the statue we focused on in the study.

Abigail chose to do the bull, whilst Becca was crafting her vase (you can see her in the photo above):

And painted:

Simple but effective!

Minoan Art Study: Dolphin Frescos

Frescos are actually the art of pigment painting onto wet lime, which we did not do! We used plaster and begged some polystyrene trays off our local friendly butcher. We made up enough plaster to flood three of the trays. These would, therefore, stand in as our lime plastered walls:

Here is Abigail mixing:

And Becca pouring

Once dried, we used pencils to outline our design, copying as much as possible from a photocopy of the original Minoan fresco:

The girls started with the lightest colours moving through until they reached the darkest colours:

The girls particularly enjoyed this activity and were intent to get it as close to the original as possible:

This is Abigail’s fresco:

This is Becca’s Fresco:

And this is mine:

With the original:

Minoan dolls costume

The Minoans, particularly the Minoan women, wore peculiar fashion, which even in our not-very-modest modern society would be shocking. I made a simple wrap for the man from white cotton, as well as fashioning the traditional Minoan ruffle, layered skirt from the same cotton. The rather peculiar revealing top is made from an old black out blind I kept for costume making.

The Minoan dresses were very colourful and flouncy, so dyeing the white material was the first job. Abigail used some of Lil’s old dye for her batik work and dyed the skirt part of the dress blue, whilst Becca painted the top (or what there was of a top) red:

Next, the girls created some arm bands:

And some jewellery:

Here are the finished Minoan dolls (and I even made a quick hat from a loo roll for the female Minoan):

Well, my goal of reining myself in clearly is not working! Ah well, we all enjoyed this lesson, and I guess that is what’s important.

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