Yesterday, the “Islands of the winds. The nautical culture of the Prehistoric Aegean” exhibition opened at Koules Fortress on the harbor of Heraklion. The innovative expo is an experiential journey into the prehistoric seafarers who once ruled the Mediterranean.
Organized by the Region of Crete, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Heraklion, and the Institute of Classical Archaeology Heidelberg University, “Islands” runs daily through December 31st inside Heraklion’s most familiar landmark, Koules Fortress facing the Cretan Sea.
With Koules as the backdrop, the exhibition debuted at the Museum of Mesara last year is amplified by the history of this famous fortress, its magnificent nautical and military artifacts, and the proximity to the sea on which Minoan navigators reached the corners of the known world.
This iteration of the “Islands” exhibition is an expanded one that uses advanced 3D modeling, digital and design elements, combined with the presentation of ancient artifacts from Minoan times. In a time before written history, nautical exploration and trade were dominated by the enigmatic civilization. The exhibit’s creator, Dr. Diamantis Panagiotopoulos, Director of the Institute of Classical Archaeology at the University of Heidelberg, described for a gallery of visitors and press yesterday the lessons these studies can teach us today:
“Our exhibition tells the story of the nautical achievements of the Aegean maritime societies of the Bronze Age. These societies flourished because they were based on principles of sustainability and very thoughtful and effective management of natural resources. This ‘Minoan way’ of doing things, i.e., flourishing and expanding in perfect harmony with their natural environment, can be a lesson for our modern society.”
Islands of the Winds goes beyond the simple presentation of archaeological subjects to engage visitors interactively as if the observer were part of this fascinating history. The multimedia and models, the pristine artifacts, and even the sea breeze from the fortresses portals mix to create a fascinating journey of thought. Kids, in particular, will be enriched by the experience and context of the displays.
For those unfamiliar, the Minoan Civilization is thought to have been the world’s first true Thalassocracy. These mysterious people, the apparent command of shipbuilding, science, and art, still task the world’s most knowledgable experts today. Yet, so little is known of them compared to what still lies hidden under the land and seas of the Aegean. So many answers to today’s problems, likely sit hidden somewhere on Crete, puzzle pieces to a time before humans knew war. Or the Golden Age.
The hard work of archaeologists like Diamantis, and critical enablers like Dr. Vasiliki Sythiakaki, Director of the Heraklion Ephorate of Antiquities, who was also present yesterday, will someday help us to that goal of sustainability that is much talked about these days.
Joining Dr. Panagiotopoulos and Dr. Sythiakaki at the exhibition’s opening were Kostas Phasoulakis from the Region of Crete, and Mrs. Stella Archontaki, Vice-Mayor of the Municipality of Heraklion for Education. With the cooperation of Greece’s Ministries of Culture, the critical archaeologists involved in unearthing new knowledge, and regional authorities, the secrets of Minoan and even Neolithic life strategies will undoubtedly enrich our pursuits toward a better society today. If the Minoans could thrive a thousand years without significant war or strife and in harmony with their environment, there is hope for humanity today.
Readers learn more about the exhibition, the history and exhibits of the Venetian fortress, opening times, and admission via the website kοules.efah.gr