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Islanders: The Making of the Mediterranean

Islanders: The Making of the Mediterranean


Accompanying an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, this 

book explores island identities in the ancient Mediterranean, questioning how  ‘insularity’– being of an island – affected and shaped art production and creativity, architectural evolution, migrations and movement of people. It extends beyond the ancient, incorporating current discourses on island versus mainland cultural identities, in contemporary Art and other disciplines.

Throughout history, islands have been treated as distinct places, unlike mainland and continental masses. In geographic terms, islands are merely pieces of land surrounded by water, but the perception of island life has never been neutral. Rather, the term ‘insularity’ – belonging to/being of an island – has been romanticized 

and associated with otherness. Islands have often been deemed to have different histories from the mainland and with more readily isolated socio-political, cultural and economic characteristics. Yet connectivity has also been an important feature of island life as the sea can be a linking rather than just a dividing body, motivating and maintaining informal and formal connections. 

Fifty unique archaeological objects – most never displayed before outside Cyprus, Crete and Sardinia – tell exceptional stories of insular identity, over a period of 4000 years. The movement of people and episodes of migration between islands and their surrounding mainlands is also explored, through architecture, material culture, crafts and technologies present in the Mediterranean islands.

Islanders has a broad diachronic scope and applies integrative analytical approach, bringing together research findings from scientific fields within archaeology, as well as a multi-scalar approach to past human interaction within continental and island environments.

  • Edited by Anastasia Christophilopolou

    Paperback, 260 x 216 mm 

    104 pages, 60 colour illus. 

    ISBN: 978-1-913645-49-6



    Anastasia Christophilopolou is the Senior Curator of the Ancient Mediterranean of the Fitzwilliam Museum. She is responsible for research and exhibition projects and permanent displays in the fields of Greek, Cypriot and Roman Collections.

    Luke Syson joined the Fitzwilliam as Director and Marlay Curator in February 2019 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Susanna Pancaldo is an Objects Conservator specialising in the care of archaeological materials.

    Marianna Vecellio is a Curator and art historian working at the Castello di Rivoli.

  • Exhibition Details

    The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambrdige 

    24 February - 4 June 2023

  • In the press

    ★★★★★ "This is an art of extraordinary intimacy, of family, friendship and humanity, shaped by the sea-swept life of the islands and the never-ending rhythm of the waves" — The Guardian 


    "attractive catalogue ... brings us face to face with objects that remain from some of the earliest stirrings of Western civilization, from bone necklaces to marble figurines, and much more besides."—The New Criterion


    "As this new exhibition at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum shows, [the Mediterranean islands] were remarkably open to outside influence – to foreign materials, skills, fashions and legends."
     —The Week

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