by Natasha Pavlopoulou
ATHENS, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Like every summer, Athens is an ideal starting point for tourists before exploring the white-washed houses and the sunset of Cyclades islands.
A group of about 220 islands in the Aegean Sea, southeast of mainland Greece, it is also the birthplace of the unique Cycladic civilization, best known for the idols carved out of the islands' pure white marble.
The name Cyclades was coined in the Archaic period as the islands form an approximate circle (kyklos) around Delos, the central and most sacred island of the time.
As the locals abandon Athens for their own vacations, visitors who want to explore Greece, could first stop by the Museum of Cycladic Art -- among others -- and take a look at the civilization which left its mark in the world's cultural heritage.
The museum is dedicated to the study and promotion of ancient cultures of the Aegean, and Cyprus, with special emphasis on Cycladic Art of the third millennium BC.
It was founded in 1986 and since then it has grown in size to accommodate new acquisitions. Over 3,000 artefacts are now on display, in the galleries of the Museum, while the collection of Cycladic Art is one of the largest in the world today.
The three major permanent collections (Cycladic Culture, Ancient Greek Art, and Cypriot Culture) have been formed through generous donations by important collectors, public and private institutions, as well as anonymous donators and are a pole of attraction for thousands of visitors every year.
"Among the great civilizations of the world, ...... the Greek culture has a particularity: the development of the human form at its center, whether they are gods or people," said Nikolaos Stampolidis, director of the Museum of Cycladic Art and professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Crete.
"They are depicted on the white marble of the Cyclades and gave masterpieces of this civilization, that dates from 3200 BC to 2000 BC.
"They are mostly female figures because women are the beginning of life, the dominant being who transfers not only language but also culture at least to most of peaceful activities," Stampolidis told Xinhua.
In the mile of civilization that starts from the Acropolis and the area of the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Museum of Cycladic Art next to the Greek Parliament has another specificity, according to Stambolides.
"On the 4th floor, we can find scenes from everyday life in classical antiquity in a unique way, starting from home, the birth of a child up to his death in the war.