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

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  55 ratings  ·  9 reviews
One of the most famous pieces of ancient Greek art, a gold and ivory statuette of the Snake Goddess, has been described as the most refined and precious relic of Minoan civilization. Alas, as Kenneth Lapatin reveals, not only is the Goddess almost certainly modern, but Minoan civilization as it has been reconstructed is largely an invention of the early twentieth century. ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 3rd 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2002)
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Barnaby Thieme
This outstanding, informative, and entertaining book uses the controversy surrounding the world-famous "Minoan Snake Goddess" currently housed at the Boston Museum. Legal and ethical questions of the piece residing the United States aside, the fascinating and evocative ivory statuette of an apparent goddess in Minoan garb bearing a snake in either hand is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Bronze Age Aegean art and has had a decisive role in supporting the interpretation of Minoan religion as g ...more
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was, for the most part, a very interesting book about a very famous Minoan "Snake Goddess" figurine (just google "snake goddess" images) that is not quite the genuine artifact we'd all been led to believe. The author has major credentials and his research was extensive, so some parts of the book are overly detailed and technical, but in between is fascinating information about the Minoan culture in Crete, the excavations carried out in Knossos in the early 1900's, and good explanations for ...more
Mary Magoulick
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent analysis of early 20th century enthusiasm for ancient art and how we map our own expectations, desires, and visions onto the past. He obviously researched this very deeply, provided solid information on every possible topic related to the Minoan "Snake Goddess," including actual Minoan art (and a good history of the excavation and recreation at Knossos), other likely forgeries, analysis of the art (both ancient and modern), lives of people involved, and even the relevant science.
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Lapatin looks at the history and provenance of Minoan sculpture including a snake goddess that was discovered in Crete at the turn of the last century. It is an interesting introduction for anyone interested in the history of forgeries, archaeology or the history of the Minoan art and culture ancient Crete.
Elizabeth Kenneday
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For those interested in Crete, archaeology, art and history, this is a fascinating study.
Calypso Kenney
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was remarkable but made me quite sad. It details the forgeries and reconstructions involved in the archaeological excavations of Minoan sites, and how a lot of what we believe about the Minoans is based on lies (to be generous). It is both severely disappointing to learn that something you have admired for years is probably not genuine, but it’s also exciting to realize the work needed to reconstruct the culture and remove the misconceptions of the past. Because the truth is always the ...more
Apr 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: art, history, non-fiction
A real life art history mystery! The "Snake Goddess" has been called the pinnacle of Minoan art, but nobody really knows where she is from. As Lapatin digs down, we see how the "history" of the Minoan civilization is, in some ways, a product of Arthur Evans' fervent wishes. Lapatin does not respect Evans very much. After reading some more about him, I wish Lapatin had given us some more of Evans' emotional context. His retreat into fantasy is understandable, considering his wife had died unexpec ...more
Jul 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
3.5 stars. This is some follow-up reading to The King Must Die.

I can tell what Lapatin was trying to do here, building up the mystery of the Boston Snake Goddess...but he is a nonfiction author, and definitely not a mystery writer. It needed a good introduction (instead of the strange prologue he gave it) and it needed more flow.

He does know just the sort of geeky details to include to keep readers like me interested. He built his case well. Though he apparently thought his reader wouldn't know
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A pretty riveting book about sketchy acquisition and curatorial practices by museums in the early 20th century--

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