Middle to Late Cycladic Period of Greece

The significant Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Cycladic culture is best known for its schematic flat female idols carved out of the islands' pure white marble centuries before the great Middle Bronze Age ("Minoan") culture arose in Crete, to the south. These figures have been stolen from burials to satisfy the Cycladic antiquities market since the early 20th century. Only about 40% of the 1,400 figurines found are of known origin, since looters destroyed evidence of the rest.

A distinctive Neolithic culture amalgamating Anatolian and mainland Greek elements arose in the western Aegean before 4000 BC, based on emmer wheat and wild-type barley, sheep and goats, pigs, and tuna that were apparently speared from small boats (Rutter). Excavated sites include Saliagos and Kephala (on Keos), which showed signs of copper-working. Each of the small Cycladic islands could support no more than a few thousand people, though Late Cycladic boat models show that fifty oarsmen could be assembled from the scattered communities (Rutter). When the highly organized palace-culture of Crete arose, the islands faded into insignificance, with the exception of Delos, which retained its archaic reputation as a sanctuary through the period of Classical Greek civilization (see Delian League).

Early in this period (Late Cycladic I-II 1600-1400 B.C.) and under Cretan influence, the Middle Cycladic centres reach an acme with improved organization, developed architecture, strong fortifications, large central public buildings and temples , and with a recording system and archives as well.

The unique wall paintings of Akrotiri in Thera and the fragmentary paintings from Phylacopi with their monumental rendition of nature and of official community events , are distinctive creations , as also the richly decorated pottery. There is a thriving business in the working of stone and metals. Later on, under Mycenaean hegemony (Late Cycladic III 1400-1100 B.C.), the Cycladic centres are ports of call in the Mycenaean network of communication and trade in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. Now strongly Mycenaean in character, they continue to play an important role down to the end of the period.