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TagsAncient Egypt Mycenaean Greece Mycenae Icon Bronze Age
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This paper turns to the cultural interaction between the Aegean, Egypt and the Near
East and surveys the advances in iconographic studies from the publication of Helene Kantor’s
1947 monograph to the present.1

Icons and Iconography

Now, “Iconography” may not be a word that is constantly on your lips but I am sure you
are all familiar with “icon.” Taken from the Greek “eikQn” meaning “likeness” or “image,”
albeit in its Latin spelling i-c-o-n, “icon” has become one of the “in” words of the 90s. Think
of some of today’s familiar Icons and Logos. One, known for the first time by our generation,
is the picture of our world seen from space, “our beautiful blue planet,” the memorable image
which has captured all our imaginations. Icons from the corporate and business world, like
the symbols for credit card operators and the logos for airline companies, are designed to
achieve high “Brand Name Recognition.” When the image is memorable, so much can be
called upon in the mind of the viewer that many layers of meaning are transmitted instantly,
effectively. Remember too, the brilliant insight that made Apple Macintosh so user friendly
(and forced competitors to follow likewise) — it uses icons for instructions and information.
So, in the late 20th century, with the help of technological advances in the visual and
electronic media, the world has become again a visual society, working in images, similar to
the ancient world. The impact of the icon is recognized by modern media moguls every bit
as avidly as any ancient artist praising the gods or celebrating a king’s victory.

Perhaps the most readily recognizable icon of kingly power in the ancient world is that
of the image of Pharaoh. To state the authority of this god-king, Egyptian artists developed a
strict set of rules for the representation of his seated and standing figures and created a
repertoire of activities for declaring Pharaoh’s special relationship with the great gods. With
this example of ancient art, let us proceed from “icon” to “iconography,” joining the Greek
“gráfv,” meaning “I draw or paint or write,” and “eikQn.” “Iconography” is literally “writing
in images” and refers to that study of art which concerns itself with the image and its meaning.

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