A fascinating tale of archaeological detective work reveals that some of the most prized relics of Bronze Age Crete are in fact modern forgeries. Not only is one of the most famous pieces of ancient Greek art-the celebrated gold and ivory statuette of the Snake Goddess-almost certainly modern, but Minoan civilization as it has been popularly imagined is largely an invention of the early twentieth century. This is Kenneth Lapatin's startling conclusion in Mysteries of the Snake Goddess-a brilliant investigation into the true origins of the celebrated Bronze Age artifact, and into the fascinating world of archaeologists, adventurers, and artisans that converged in Crete at the turn of the twentieth century. Including characters from Sir Arthur Evans, legendary excavator of the Palace of Minos at Knossos, who was driven to discover a sophisticated early European civilization to rival that of the Orient, to his principal restorer Swiss painter Emil Gillieron, who out of handfuls of fragments fashioned a picture of Minoan life that conformed to contemporary taste, this is a riveting tale of archeological discovery.
"An archaeological detective story and, on a far deeper level, an inquiry into the uses of the past. "Mysteries of the Snake Goddess is, indeed a mystery.... Suffice to say, as [Lapatin] does at the end, that 'she has provided a canvas on which archaeologists and curators, looters and smugglers, dealers and forgers, art patrons and museum goers, feminists and spiritualists, have painted their preconceptions, desires and preoccupations for an idealized past.'"