The Blue Mountains are a mountainous region in New South Wales, Australia. They border on Sydney’s metropolitan area, its foothills starting about 50 kilometres (31 miles) west of the state capital. The public’s understanding of the extent of the Blue Mountains is varied, as it forms only part of an extensive mountainous area associated with the Great Dividing Range. These are not mountains in the traditional sense so much as a giant plateau one to two thousand feet above sea level, dissected by deep canyons and gorges. It’s an area of breathtaking views and hidden natural wonders. A series of towns (including Leura and Katoomba) bisects the chain of National Parks extending for 240 kilometres from north to south and forming the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area encompassing 1.03 million hectares. These National Parks include the Blue Mountains, Wollemi, Gardens of Stone and Kanangra-Boyd. A theme park, “Scenic World” lies in the center of the parks at Katoomba with two gondolas and a steep railway to get the best vistas of the scenery.
When we visited the Getty Villa, I was particularly drawn to the Cycladic exhibition of figures and pottery, not only for their artistic merit but also for their age and impact on the Mediterranean world. The Cyclades are an island chain between Greece and Turkey and north of Crete. Along with the Minoans and Mycenaeans, the Cycladic people are counted among the three major Aegean cultures. Cycladic Sculpture therefore comprises one of the three main branches of Aegean art. The first archaeological excavations of the 1880s were followed by systematic work by the British School at Athens and by Christos Tsountas, who investigated burial sites on several islands in 1898-99 and coined the term “Cycladic Civilization”. Interest then lagged, but picked up in the mid-20th century, as collectors competed for the modern-looking figures that seemed so similar to sculpture by Jean Arp or Constantin Brâncuși. Sites were looted and a brisk trade in forgeries arose. The context for many of these Cycladic Figurines has thus been mostly destroyed; their meaning may never be completely understood. What is known is that they were often painted, possibly used as idols and were often included in grave goods. They date to the second and third millennia BCE (3300-2000 BCE), end of the Neolithic and beginning of the Bronze Age.