Nimatallah/Art Resource, New York, NY

A civilization preserved in pictures. The glory of ancient Akrotiri can still be seen in the numerous wall paintings recovered in several buildings. They are the earliest examples of large-scale painting from the ancient Greek world. The artists of Akrotiri favored red, black, yellow, blue and, for backgrounds, cream.

The naval scene is a portion of a painting a mere 16 inches high but running 20 feet along three walls of the West House. The entire scene shows a large flotilla being sent off by the inhabitants of one city and making its way to a celebratory welcome in another. The two ships shown here ply the waters as frolicking dolphins (top) add a festive air to the occasion. It has been suggested that the fleet is sailing along the Libyan coast of Africa. This painting provides a storehouse of information on ancient nautical technology and, in the portions not shown here, on weaponry, flora, fauna, attire and architecture.