New York.- Vicki James Yiannias
Triple-screen aerial film footage of the Aegean Sea and its islands, shot by Giannis Giannelos,
A 12-meter long, 20-million year old petrified tree trunk from the island of Lesvos, a floor display of the Aegean Sea in a spectacular interactive setting of exhibits emerging from their respective locations in the sea, are just three of a multitude of features in the exhibition, “AEGEAN – Creation of an Archipelago” at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago through August 2016.
“AEGEAN – Creation of an Archipelago” magnifies the sense of the primal nature of the Aegean islands–which Greeks sought to interpret in myths and in art beginning in prehistory, and the cataclysmic forces that created the islands and their extinct civilizations–and can only greatly enhance your experience of this enchanted archipelago. The beauty and power of Homer’s “wine dark sea” and its dazzling islands create a paradise for contemporary vacationers, but, AEGEAN brings to light, they are a paradise for geological, historical, and archaeological research, as well.
“It’s stunning,” said Elizabeth Martin, Executive Director of the National Hellenic Museum, “The exhibition places you in the center of Homer’s perilous ‘wine-dark sea’ and the beauty and mystery of the archipelago.” Martin explains that “AEGEAN – Creation of an Archipelago”, the first such exhibition in the United States, is a companion exhibit to “The Greeks—Agamemnon to Alexander the Great” co-presented by the National Hellenic Museum at the Field Museum in Chicago through April 10.
For Martin, one of the highlights of “AEGEAN – Creation of an Archipelago” is the interactive setting of exhibits that emerge from their respective locations in the Aegean. “This makes it possible to make the connections between artifacts which come from those locations and are exhibited in “The Greeks—Agamemnon to Alexander the Great”. Also captivating for Martin is the idea that the finding of fossils on the islands influenced Greek myths, such as the fossilized heads of elephants and the Cyclops.
The museum celebrated the opening of the exhibit on Nov. 23 with a reception featuring docent-led tours and presentations by Dr. William A. Parkinson, curator of Eurasian Anthropology at The Field Museum and associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Dr. Nickolas Zouros, professor at the University of the Aegean and Director of the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest. (Zouros is one of the four founding members of the European Geoparks Network, established in 2000.)
Full of vivid audiovisual productions “AEGEAN – Creation of an Archipelago” brings to life the geological processes (volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis!) that shaped the Aegean islands and their mountains and lakes (including clusters of underground lakes and petrified forests), the land life (fossilized elephants!), sea, and plant life and other phenomena, historical architecture (castles, bridges, shrines, birthplaces of Homer, Pythagoras, etc.!) are shown in three sections.
The first section, “GAIA Memories: From Tethys to Aegean”, unravels the history of the Aegean, presenting the entire geological history of the region, from the original ocean of Tethys to the shaping of the contemporary Greek archipelago. The moment you enter, you’re confronted with a wealth of geological treasures: monuments, rock formations, and fossils and specimens, then move to an audiovisual production showing tectonic changes, the eternal fight between fire and water and the geological processes that shaped the beauty of the Aegean Archipelago.
The second, “GAIA: From Myth to Science” brings you face to face with the impressive evolution of life in the Aegean basin with a plethora of plant and animal fossils, as well as early hominids. Exhibits from the Lesvos Petrified Forest Museum create an amazing setting, frozen in time: fossilized trunks, roots and branches and images of contemporary trees along with their corresponding petrified ancestral forms.
And the third, “To the islands of Hephaestus and Poseidon” reveals that most of the Aegean owes its existence to volcanoes (some are still active, such as in Santorini, Nisyros, Melos and Methana). Models of active volcanoes, impressive film footage and real volcanic rocks give you the backstage view of a volcanic eruption. You can see, hear and touch what the earth “is capable of when it gets angry”, and then witness the beauty that emerges “when everything calms down again”, says the description.
Exhibited in Rome, Athens and Thessaloniki, “Aegean: Creation of an Archipelago”, was organized in association with the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest, the Universities of the Aegean, Crete and Thessaloniki, and the Eugenides Foundation. The objective of the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest is to study, research, promote, preserve and conserve the unique Petrified Forest of Lesvos, a designated Protected Natural Monument of particular environmental, geological and paleontological value.
Designed and produced by Tetragon, and critically acclaimed by the National Geographic in Germany, “Aegean: Creation of an Archipelago” is staged under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Shipping and the Aegean, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Ministry of Tourism and the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO and it is supported by the Greek National Tourism Organization.
Admission is free and all exhibition areas are accessible and friendly to the disabled and impaired.