skip to content

Project team

Principal investigator:

Dr Anastasia Christophilopoulou (Assistant Keeper, Fitzwilliam Museum)

Other Participants:

Dr Jana Mokrisova (Lecturer in Ancient Greek History and Archaeology, Birkbeck College)

Professor Marcos Martinon-Torres (McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge)

Dr Despo Pilides (Curator of Antiquities, Department of Antiquities, Nicosia, Cyprus)

Dr Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou (Director, Department of Antiquities, Nicosia, Cyprus)

Dr Evi Margaritis (Assistant Professor, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia)

Dr Giorgos Artopoulos (Assistant Professor, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia)

Dr Achilleas Hadjikyriacou (King’s College, London)

Dr David Evans (Exhibitions Manager, Fitzwilliam Museum) 

Yorgos Petrou, (Contemporary artist, London) 

Susanna Pancaldo (Conservator in Metals, Fitzwilliam Museum)

Daniel Pett (Head of Digital, Fitzwilliam Museum)

Georgina Doji, (Computer Associate, Fitzwilliam Museum)

Rafael Laoutari (PhD candidate, Department of Archaeology & The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)

Collaborating Institutions:

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge & Department of Archaeology Cambridge

The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia 

C.I.R.C.E. – Centro Internazionale per la Ricerca sulle Civiltà Egee “Pierre Carlier”, Sardinia

 

Our international exhibition lenders:

The Ministry of Culture, Greece

The Department of Antiquities, Nicosia, Cyprus

The Polo Museale della Sardegna, Cagliari, Sardinia

 

Funding Bodies

A. G. Leventis Foundation (2016-2019) Cyprus in Context project. 

A. G. Leventis Foundation (2019-2022) Being and Islander research and exhibition project.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under grant number AH/S012478/1, Linking Islands of Data project.

The Cyprus High Commission, London.

 

Project overview

The project ‘Being an Islander’ Art and Identity of the large Mediterranean Islands, runs as a research project between 2019- 2023 with a major exhibition opening February 14, 2023- May 14, 2023. Both the exhibition and research project aim to elucidate what defines island identity in the Mediterranean. They explore how insularity affects and shapes cultural identity using the examples of Crete, Cyprus and Sardinia and they will provide a platform to debate cultural evolution in the islands as opposed to the surrounding mainland. The exhibition’s thematic will be explored in an interactive and public-engaging way, extending beyond the topic of the Ancient Mediterranean, for example, including the current discourses of island versus mainland cultural identities (e.g. including Britain’s own, debated island identity).

Research objectives:

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’ – being of an island – has been romanticised and associated with otherness. Yet, connectivity has also been an important feature of island life, as the sea can be a linking rather than dividing body, motivating and maintaining informal and formal connections. This has been evident in the study of the archaeology, art, and history of the Mediterranean islands, but islands have nevertheless been deemed to have different developmental trajectories from the mainland and with more readily isolated socio-political, cultural and economic trends.  

The originality of the project lies in its diachronic scope, analytical approach (exhibits will integrate research findings from scientific fields within archaeology such as ceramics studies, archaeobotany, and archaeometallurgy) as well as its multi-scalar approach to human interaction within continental and island environments. The exhibition and research mostly confront the perception that ‘Being an islander’ is a distinctive attribute or a set of well-defined characteristics; but a highly fluid state of being, whether consciously or not.  Both further address several important current debates in Mediterranean Archaeology; for example, the perceived disciplinary division between Aegean prehistory and classical archaeology or the descriptive, rather than interpretive, approaches to interaction. The exhibition, through key artefacts and interactive installations, makes a case for thinking of the Mediterranean regions surrounding this dynamic body of water based on connectivity and mobility rather than disciplinary and modern political boundaries. 

Redefining Insular Identity

Studies of islands have traditionally applied environmental rather than social perspectives, emphasising the geographic and technological isolation from the mainland, the availability of natural resources, including metals, and the degree of adaptation of the local population to insular conditions. However, these studies have carried a rather deterministic view of island life often impeding us from a deeper understanding and engagement with the concept of island identity. Crucially, large Mediterranean islands were often given a special status due to their size, biodiversity, and cultural elaboration, but at no point in antiquity were they coherent social or cultural entities with fixed borders. Even though symbolic boundaries can be maintained more easily when coinciding with firm physical boundaries of sea and land, there is much diversity within them, with social, cultural, economic, and political networks stretching beyond their limits. Likewise, the social and cultural identities of their inhabitants were multiple, ever-changing, and continually negotiated.

This project will reconsider assumptions about island identity and isolation and how islanders interacted with inhabitants of other islands and the mainland (Greece, the Levant, Anatolia, and Italy); produced material culture and integrated material culture from the mainland, and most importantly the way they fashioned and shaped their social and cultural identities as islanders. We explore these parameters through specific case-studies (Crete, Sardinia, Cyprus) by accepting that the degree of the islanders’ ‘openness’ as well as the intensity of their connections fluctuated over time depending on historical circumstances.  

 

Understanding Mobility 

Our secondary aim is to reframe mobility as one of the defining characteristics of the ancient Mediterranean insular societies. While the intensity of this phenomenon may have varied through time and space, and not all members of any particular community or island may have shared equally in it; mobility - and the connectivity it engendered - endowed the region with its particular characteristics. Contributors to the project, volume, conference and other outputs debate and expand on the notions of mobility and connectivity, with specific temporal and geographical case studies from the three islands, arguing that both mobility and connectivity are important features of island life, motivating and maintaining informal and formal connections, as well as elucidating the effect of these two notions in making some communities more resilient than others at specific times within their history.

Public engagement actions, events and training programmes: 

Since 2018, the project has implemented over 15 public engagement actions, workshops, talks and seminars and object- handling sessions within the Fitzwilliam Museum and our collaborating institutions in Cyprus and Greece.  Major public engagement outputs are expected as we approach the year of the exhibition. A selection of our recent actions includes:

  • Handling sessions for general and research audiences in the Fitzwilliam Museum with material from the Cypriot and Aegean Collections.
  • Touch tours of the Cypriot and Aegean World Antiquities of the Fitzwilliam Museum for blind and partially sighted audiences, as well as groups of people with other physical or mental disabilities and their carers.
  • Nora at The Fitz: A literary evening with award-winning Cypriot author Nora Nadjarian, introduced by Ingrid Jendrzejewski and narrated by the curators, researchers and staff of the Fitzwilliam Museum, under the auspices of HE the High Commissioner of Cyprus in the UK, Mr Andreas S. Kakouris. Τhe A. G. Leventis Gallery of Ancient Cyprus, Fitzwilliam Museum, January 30, 2020 (60 participants). URL: https://cypriotfederation.org.uk/event/nora-at-the-fitz/
  • A series of workshops (‘Make your own boat’), narrations and activities on the theme of ancient migration around the Mediterranean, organised by the Learning Team and researchers of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge Festival of Ideas, October 22, 2019 (40 participants).
  • Alumni Festival Being an Islander project object pottery and metalware handling session by the project’s curator and conservators, September 27, 2019 (40 participants). 
  • Professor Cartledge and Dr Christophilopoulou narrate the history of the city of Salamis, Cyprus and of the antiquities housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum from the region, in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOEqLlBaVPY 

 

Major outputs

Books:

A. Christophilopoulou Ed, (2021) Being an Islander: Art and Identity of the large Mediterranean Islands 2500BC- 31 BC, (forthcoming) The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.  

This edited volume is one of three major outputs of the research and exhibition project implemented by the Fitzwilliam Museum. The proposed edited volume will disseminate the research results of the project; include chapters from prominent scholars responding to the three main themes of the exhibition (insularity, mobility, diachronicity); as well as incorporate a complete catalogue of the exhibition’s 160 objects on display. The edited volume will work in two ways: it will include 13 innovative essays (part 1), bringing together recently developed narratives of insularity within the Mediterranean context and the three large islands - Cyprus, Crete and Sardinia in specific - as well as a concise catalogue of the exhibition’s objects (part 2, roughly 160 short object descriptions). Part 1 will include bold statements of interpreting island cultures diachronically, including those coming from the field of scientific archaeology and contributing to the way we understand islands today (e.g. osteoarchaeology, archaeometallurgy), the field of Ancient History, as well as notions of insularity in modern Art (a subject also illustrated in the exhibition, with a series or Art interventions amongst the archaeological displays). As the scope of the volume is broad, the individual chapters will be of interest to scholars working in a range of fields and specialisms (e.g. Mediterranean Archaeology, Ancient History, Museum, and Material Culture studies, or scientific approaches to material culture).

Articles and chapters in edited volumes and journals:

A. Christophilopoulou (2016) Re-examining the history of Cypriot antiquities in the Fitzwilliam Museum: a closer look at the collection’s past and future, in G. Bourogiannis and C. Muhlenbock eds., Ancient Cyprus Today: Museum Collections and New Research (SIMA pocket-book 184), Uppsala, 13–19.

A. Christophilopoulou (2013) Does the Cretan house stand alone? Households in geometric Crete viewed in the context of domestic architecture in the Cyclades and the eastern Aegean, in W.D. Niemeier, O.Pilz und I. Kaiser eds., Kreta in der geometrischen und archaischen Zeit. Akten des internationalen Kolloquiums am Deutschen Archä​ologischen Institut, Athenaia 2, München, 437–453.

A. Christophilopoulou (2010) Domestic Space and Community identity in the Aegean islands and Crete, MOSAIK Journal, Raumdimensionen im Altertum, Berlin. URL: https://www.gorgiaspress.com/mosaikjournal-raumdimensionen-im-altertum

A. Christophilopoulou (2007) Domestic space in the Geometric Cyclades: A study of spatial arrangements, function and household activities in Zagora on Andros, and Kastro on Siphnos in E. Hallager and J. Jensen eds., The Proceedings of the Danish Institute at Athens V, Athens.

A. Christophilopoulou (2005) Reconstructing the House in Late Bronze Age and Dark Age Crete, in I. Galanakis and G. Deligiannakis, The Aegean and its Cultures. Proceedings of the First Oxford-Athens Graduate Workshop, Oxford, 22–23 April 2005, BAR-IS 1975, Oxford.

A. Christophilopoulou (2004) Dark Age Settlements in Crete: a critical approach to the models of spatial organization, Academic Journal of the University of Crete, Rethymno.

Conferences organised: 

Clearchus’s Journey from Soloi to Ai Khanum: A Peripatetic Tale of Old Cyprus”, St John’s College, 5 June 2019.  

Re-approaching Cyprus: A day devoted to recent research in Cypriot archaeology and Cypriot collections”, International conference, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 23 October 2015.

Reviews:

A. Christophilopoulou (2019) Review of ‘On the physical and discursive articulation of the heritage space of the city of Rhodes (1912–1967)’, Mediterranean Journal of Archaeology.

A. Christophilopoulou (2010) Review of Karageorghis V. and Giannikouri A. eds., Conservation and Presentation of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of the Large Islands of the Mediterranean, Proceedings of the International Symposium, Rhodes 2006. The Classical Review 60: 266–268.

Invited talks, conference papers, articles in the Press:

A. Christophilopoulou & G. Artopoulos, Immersing in Virtual Island-scapes: A Case Study in Museum Virtual Environments, Reconstruction: Methods and Practices in Research, Exhibitions, and Conservation, Centre for Visual Culture Inaugural Conference, Trinity Hall, Cambridge, February 24-25 2020.

A. Christophilopoulou, The Project: “Being an Islander: Art and Identity of the large Mediterranean Islands”, Le Grandi Isole Del Meditterraneo: Rotte E Legami Tra Bronzo e Ferro, Tourisma 2020, Firenze, Palazzo dei Congressi February 22-23, 2020.

A. Christophilopoulou, "Being an Islander:  Art and Identity of the large Mediterranean Islands" Or, Can Museums really contribute to research in social sciences?  Wolfson College Humanities Society Lecture, January 28 2020.

A. Christophilopoulou, Investigating ancient Cypriot food practices and diets as part of the narratives developed for the ‘Being an Islander’: Art and Identity of the large Mediterranean Islands’ exhibition, in Cypriot archaeology, pre-modern material culture, and cultural heritage in the UK international conference, Institute of Archaeology University College London, April 2019.

A. Christophilopoulou, Cyprus in Context: Researching and re-assessing the Cambridge Cypriot Collections, Annual Lawrence Room Lecture, Girton College, Cambridge, Sep 23 2017.

A. Christophilopoulou, Cyprus in Context: The Bronze Age material in the Cyprus collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Science & Technology in Archaeology Research Center Symposium, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, April 6 2017.

A. Christophilopoulou, “The Cyprus in Context project” in Objects, Collections, Curation, A Symposium in honour of Dr. Lucilla Burn, King’s College, Cambridge, Nov 29 2016.

A. Christophilopoulou, A ‘quest’ for Salamis within the Collection of Cypriot Antiquities of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, paper presented at the Salamis 2015 international conference, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, May 21–23 2015.