Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 12 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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The previous post was of Knossos, the ancient capital of Minoan Crete. This one is on the Heraklion Archaeological Museum includes many of the original items discovered at Knossos, as well as others from other parts of Crete.

Neolithic settlements started at Knossos from 7000BC and the peak of Minoan civilisation, with large cities and “palaces” was from 2000BC to 1450BC. Art included large wall paintings, miniatures, seal-carving, jewellery making, goldsmithing, metalwork, stone carving and vase painting.  Minoan seafarers at this time dominated the Eastern Mediterranean. After 1450BC, Mycenaeans arrived from Greece and became the dominant culture.

Item descriptions taken from museum labels.

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Clay figurine of squatting woman.  5300-3000BC.

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“Teapot” with elongated spout used for “liquids”.  2300-1900BC.

(Note the small snake on top of the spout).

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Pithos, flask, fruit-stand, bird-shaped vessel and other elaborate Kamares Ware vessels from Knossos.  1800-1700BC.

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Fragment of libation vessel with representation of an octopus.  Knossos, 1600-1450BC.

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The “Draughtboard”.

A board game inlaid with ivory, blue glass paste and rock crystal, plated with gold and silver.  Knossos, 1700-1450BC.

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Large jars.

Elaborately decorated large jars from Minoan palaces, urban houses and peripheral centres, used to store liquids such as wine and olive oil.  Their decoration with religious symbols, such as double axes and bucrania, and other characteristic themes such as the octopus, inspired by the Marine Style, made these vessels valuable display objects.

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Archetypal depiction of an octopus on a vase.

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Linear A script, used c.19001450BC.  Undeciphered.  Used for keeping records of agricultural products (figs, wheat, olives, wine and olive oil), textiles and vessels, humans and animals (sheep, goats, oxen, pigs).

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The earlier hieroglyphic script use up to c. 1900BC.  Though undeciphered, ninety of its signs represented syllables and others represented objects, products or living creatures.

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Large jar with patterns that may represent the suckers of an octopus.

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The original of the famous bull-leaping fresco.

Trained athletes of both sexes took part, represented with dark skin for men and white for women.  Minoan games were a precursor of the later Greek Olympic Games.

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Votive double axe of gold, Arkalochori Cave, 1700-1450BC.

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The Harvester Vase.

Black steatite rhyton with relief depiction of twenty-seven men carrying harvesting and winnowing implements.  A group of men sings to the accompaniment of the sustrum, a musical instrument with rattles sounded by rhythmical hand movements.  The procession may form part of a religious festival for the new harvest.  Hagia Triada, 1450BC.

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The Harvester Vase (different view).

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Offering by worshipper at mountain shrine.

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The “Dancer” Fresco.

A goddess is descending from the heavens, as indicated by the locks of hair streaming in the wind, a familiar convention in Minoan inconography for the goddess hovering in mid-air.  Her right arm, extended in a gesture of authority and command, indicates she formed part of a larger epiphany scene.  Knossos, 1600-1450BC.

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The Ring of Minos.

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The impression the signet ring would make on a wax seal.

The so-called Ring of Minos is a masterpiece of Minoan jewellery-making and an artwork of paramount importance for understanding religious iconography.  The composite image on its bezel summarises the three levels of epiphany. (Epiphany?  Say, metaphysical realisation.)  The goddess is depicted hovering in the air in miniature form, seated on a stepped platform topped with horns of consecration, and rowing and steering a boat with a seahorse-head prow.  Two scenes of tree-cult by a male and a female enrich the composition.

The passage of the goddess through the three natural elements of air, land and sea serves as a symbolic unification of the mortal world and vividly imposes the message of Minoan power over land and sea. Knossos, 1450-1400BC.

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Surprisingly, it’s actually a great elaborate jug.

Stone bull’s-head rhyton, left side of head and horns restored.  It is a masterpiece of Minoan art, worked with great precision to render the natural features of the real animal.  The snout is outlined with an inlay of white seashell, while the preserved right eye is inlaid with rock crystal, with rim and iris of red jasper.

This vessel would have been used for libations, as indicated by the hole in the neck for filling and the corresponding hole for pouring out the liquid.  Knossos – Little Palace 1600-1450BC.

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Also a jug.

Lioness-head rhyton of translucent limestone with a hole in the muzzle for pouring out the liquid offering.  An exquisitely modelled work, a typical example of the specialised stone-carvers’ skill in faithfully rendering the original.  The nose and eyes were originally inlaid with materials that have not survived.  Knossos 1600-1500BC.

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The “Snake Goddess”.

The most important cult objects from the Knossos Temple repositories are the figurines of the “Snake Goddess” named after the two snakes in her upraised hands.

The snakes suggest the chthonic character of the cult of the goddess (ie relating to the underworld), while the feline creature on her head suggests her dominion over wildlife.  The goddess wears luxurious garments, consisting of a long flounced skirt, an embroidered apron and a close-fitting bodice that exposes the large breasts, symbolic of the fertility of women, the goddess and by implication, nature itself.  Knossos, 1650-1550BC.

. Archaeology, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, History, Knossos, Photography, Street photography, Travel Large conical rhytons, some with elaborate relief surfaces, made of various types of stone such as veined marble, limestone and porphyry.  Zakros 1500-1450BC.

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Large jars with impressive decorations.

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This is one of the 3,400 Linear B tablets recovered from Knossos, accidentally preserved by the fire that destroyed the city.  c.1425-1300BC.  Written in Greek and able to be read, they are lists of accounts, goods, military equipment, palace officials and dependants, and ritual offerings. They also record the complex taxation system, the land register and the administration of labour.  The script includes 89 symbols corresponding to syllables, other symbols corresponding to words, and numbers in decimal format.  Names recorded of members of the Knossian hierarchy are usually Greek whereas names of shepherds and other professionals are Minoan.  Names for official positions are also Greek, indicating the form of political administration may have changed with the takeover of the Mycenaeans.

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Burial in a wide-mouthed Pithos.  Wooden coffins were also used.  Neopalatial period 1700-1450BC.

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Boar’s tusk helmet with cheek-guards, as described in Homer’s Iliad for the helmet of the Cretan hero Meriones.  Knossos 1450-1300BC.

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The “Poppy Goddess”.

She is crowned with opium poppies, indicating that the goddess relieves pain and heals her worshippers.  Gazi, 1300-1200BC.

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Chest larnax with gabled lid, decorated with a net pattern.  It contains a skeleton in foetal position, with legs bent, indicative of the way the dead were buried.  Tylissos-Panikklisia 1370-1300BC.

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Panel of the “lily Frescoes” from an upper story room of the “Villa of the Lilies” at Amnisos.  It is thought to depict a fenced garden, a place of leisure and pleasure as well as a marker of high social status.  Amnissos, Villa, 1600-1500BC.

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Archaeology, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, History, Knossos, Photography, Street photography, Travel A female figure with Mediterranean features and vivid make-up, part of the “Camp-Stool Fresco”, which probably mirrored actual banquets held in the upper hall of the West Wing of Knossos.  Her size and the “sacral knot” bunched up behind indicate that she was probably a leading priestess.  Knossos, 1450-1300BC.

. Archaeology, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, History, Knossos, Photography, Street photography, Travel The “Cup-Bearer”, a figure from the “Procession Fresco”, shows a youth with long black hair, naked torso and a richly decorated kilt carrying a large silver rhyton, a ceremonial vessel.  This is the only life-size figure in a Minoan fresco whose head and torso are preserved. 1600-1450BC.

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Lekythos (vessel for storing olive oil) depicting Theseus slaying the Minotaur.  5th century BC.

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Archaic pithoi from 7th and 6th centuries BC, mostly from central Crete, and with humans for size comparison.  Their relief decorations were made individually with a mould-stamp and include imaginary creatures, animals, geometric patterns and occasionally mythological and ritual scenes.

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Bronze “drum” from the Idaean Cave.

This is a votive offering that shows strong iconographic and stylistic influences from Assyrian art.  Its shape however, and the winged daemons flanking the central figure and beating drums are a direct allusion to the Kouretes, the daemons who beat drums to drown out the infant Zeus’ cries and prevent his father, the child-eating Kronos, from finding him. Similarly, the central figure, treading on a bull and taming a lion, is identified as the Cretan-born Zeus. Geometric period, late 8th century BC.

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Bronze shield of the Idaean Cave.

These shield served as lavish votive offerings.  Their ornamentation is mostly of Assyrian influence and includes frontal animal heads in high relief in the centre, animals and imaginary oriental creatures in concentric zones or in pairs, and human figures such as archers attacking animals and, kn one case, a female fugure flanked by lions and sphinxes.

They are thought to be the products of a local workshop or of foreign craftsmen versed in eastern iconography, itinerant in or established in Crete.  They date from the late 9th or early 9th to the mid 7th century BC.

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Bronze helmet of the “Corintian” type with hammered image of two winged horses.  Axos-Sanctuary, Archaic period, 7th century BC.

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Bronze belly-guards, pieces of armour with winged horses. Axos-Sanctuary, Archaic period, 6th century BC.

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Detail of a vase decoration showing a couple of conversing lovers.  Arkades-Afrati, Archaic period, 7th century BC.

Frieze made of poros stone from Temple A of Prinias.  It is a series of relief plaques depicting a procession of horsemen, shown parading with their shields and spears.  The rendering echoes the austere Doric spirit of the Cretan towns of the period.  Prinias (possibly ancient Rizenia), Archaic period, 7th century BC.

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