Even in the Bronze Age (ca. 3500 to 1200 BC), extensive trade was actively pursued. Island or coastal locations in the Mediterranean Sea developed as trading posts and as rest stops for travelers. In the Aegean Sea (part of the eastern Mediterranean), three cultures flourished due to these circumstances.

The people of the Cycladic Islands, the Minoans on Crete, and the Mycenaeans on the Greek mainland developed productive cultures and distinctive art forms. Artists utilized both naturalistic patterns—notably sea motifs—and geometric forms on sculpted figures and on pottery.

Cyprus was a larger island closer to the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. It, too, was a kind of crossroads and incorporated the influences of many cultures into its own artistic identity.