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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Knossos

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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This is a koulouras, from the West Court of the First “Palace” of Knossos, 2000 to 1700BC.  It was used for storing grain and presumably had a cover, probably wooden, perhaps woven.

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West Court.

Knossos was first excavated by Sir Arthur Evans, in the first two decades of the twentieth century.  He named the Minoan civilisation after the legendary King Minos. If Minos actually existed, he was probably from an earlier period than the “Palace” of Knossos.

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West Porch, Corridor of the Procession.

The West Porch (foreground) had a double door and led to the long Corridor of the Procession.  That was named after a fresco on an adjoining wall showing a procession of people with gifts and also musicians.

There was a settlement at Knossos as early as 7,000BC.  The first “palace” though, dates from around 2000BC.  There were also other equivalent “palaces at various sites in Crete with the main other ones been at Phaestos, Malia and Khania.  In this period the “palaces” had different styles so they were probably independent.  Around 1700BC they were all destroyed by earthquakes and fire and the rebuilt.  Knossos was rebuilt to a higher standard and the others now followed the Knossos style, indicating Knossos had now become dominant.

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South House

This is from the New Palace Period of 1700 to 1450 BC, and reconstructed with three stories.  Evans reconstructions are controversial as they are often based as much on imagination as evidence.  A modern archaeologist would not duplicate his approach.

The Minoan civilisation survived tsunamis from the Thira eruption around 1550BC but that eruption and resulting climatic disturbance probably undermined it.  The Mycenaeans from the mainland took over in 1450BC.  There was widespread devastation at this time and subsequent rebuilding, though in a simpler style with less naturalistic art.  The “palace” and outlying buildings were then destroyed by fire around 1300BC.  There was little reconstruction after that and the site was abandoned by 1100BC, though it was later occupied by Greeks and Romans.  The Cretans were not wiped out by the Mycenaeans because the distinctive pottery pithoi persisted and it is now believed there was a joint culture after 1450BC.

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Same place, different viewpoint.  Some may wonder at the hyper-realistic sculpture in the open doorway  of a young woman in full colour and in modern dress with perhaps a brochure and wearing a wristwatch.  It may be difficult at this distance to establish definitively if this is a creation of Evans or an unrestored original work of Minoan art.

The Minoan civilisation had a maritime culture with extensive trade and also colonies or partner states in Rhodes, Thira and the Cyclades.  Knossos and the other “palaces” were not fortified, indicating a relatively peaceful society that was not threatened by external invasion.  There were weapons and armour though and there was no doubt conflict at times between regional centres.  There were also guard posts on main roads, indicating some existence of banditry.

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Evans called Knossos and other centres palaces but it is by no means clear exactly how they operated.  Functions may have included administration, trade, religion, politics and social activities.

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Cup-Bearer Fresco, South Propylæum.

The South Propylæum was originally part of the Corridor of the Procession as shown in this fresco, related to the fresco of the procession mentioned earlier.

There was hieroglyphic script in the First Palatial Period and this was replaced after 1700BC by Linear A script, mainly on clay tablets.  Neither of these have been deciphered and the language used is unknown.  After 1450BC, there was Linear B script and the language was Greek.

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Large pithoi (storage jars), South Propylæum, Postpalatial Period (1450-1100BC).

More is known of activities in Knossos after 1450BC due to writings in Linear B script which can be read.  The was a leader called the Wanax and the administration was concerned with land tenure, religion and textiles.  There were over 700 shepherds harvesting 50–75 tons of raw wool, woven by nearly 1,000 workers, and producing up to 20,000 textile items.  It is not known whether this may have differed before theMycenaeans took over in 1450BC.

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Piano Nobile.

The piano nobile is largely Evan’s creation.  He thought there would be first floor reception rooms like in a Italian Renaissance palazzo.  In the background it the Central Court, where bull-jumping and other activities would have occurred.  (I did not think to photograph this more directly).

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Bases of columns near the West Magazines, long narrow spaces for storing pithoi.

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Les Parisiennes.

When an early archaeologist saw this fresco, impressed by the sophistication of their attire, he exclaimes “But these are les Parisiennes!”.  (Sorry about the reflections).

We now see a succession of frescoes from the Hall of the Fresco Copies.  So these are not the originals,  held in controlled environments in museums.  I presume that the originals, usually fragmentary, would have been found in various locations in Knossos.

What is known of Minoan art and religion indicate it was a culture with a much more prominent role for women than later cultures.  It is not known whether it was a matriarchal culture but one aspect must have been men going off in ships to trade and leaving women with a large role in running the homeland.

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The Bull-Jumping Fresco.

A feature of Minoan culture was bull-jumping, an initiation ritual for young men. The bull would presumably be charging at them and their task was to grab the horns, somersault over the bull and be caught by attendants.

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The fresco represents an octopus, it’s recreated from fragments (as you can see if you click on it for a larger view and look carefully) and the original is 3,500 years old or more but it could almost be modern art.

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This is nearby the Hall of the Fresco Copies, but I’m not sure exactly where.

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This shows something of the context.

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Prince of the Lillies Fresco.

This is a very fragmentary reconstruction by Evans at the South Entrance.  There are various opinions as to how it should appear.

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A set of stairs, now seemingly into the void.

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This is the North Entrance, seen from the side.

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Moving around, the actual entrance was just to the right.

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… and here is a closer view of what remains of the fresco.

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This is The Throne Room.

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A slightly different viewpoint.

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And the “throne”.

This is a wooden copy of a stone “throne” from an adjoining room.  The purpose of the room is unknown.  It may have been used for religious ceremonies but was unlikely to have been a throne room in the modern sense.

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Shrine of the Double Axes.

A stone double axe and votive clay offerings were fond here.

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Outside The Hall of Double Axes.

This was named by Evans after double axe signs carved into the walls of the lightwell at the rear.  Evans thought it was the King’s residence.

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Inside The Queen’s Megaron.

A richly decorated room that Evans though must have belonged to the Queen.  A small side-room is named the Queen’s bathroom due to ceramic fragments that he thought were remains of a bath.

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Outside The Queen’s Megaron.

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Pithoi from The Magazines of the Giant Pithoi.

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Pithoi from the Corridor of the Bays.

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North Lustral Basin

This leads down to a room at a lower level than the rest of Knossos that Evans thought was something like a cistern, used for purification ceremonies.  However, it is unlikely that there was water here and its purpose is unknown.

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Theatral Area.

This reminded Evans of later Greek theatres and he thought this may have been used for performances viewed by a standing crowd.

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The Royal Road.

So-named by Evans with his usual royalist preoccupation.  It continues on (under the modern road) to the Minoan town that eventually became Heraklion.

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References:

Heraklion and Knossos.

Heraklion and Knossos, Crete, Greece, 12th to 13th October 2018.
Temporary Post. Brief image descriptions and no commentary.

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I’ve been back but I’m continuing the temporary posts.  What that means is that I’m just processing in Lightroom and ignoring images that I bracketed for exposure or for focus stacking.  There are quite a few of those.  In due course I’ll include those images and others in final posts with details on the subject matter, including history and archaeology.  That may take a while because I expect I’ll finish off final posts for Cuba and the Caribbean (2016) first.

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Venetian fort in Heraklion, from our hotel room.

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Old building in need of roof repair, also from our hotel room, Heraklion.

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Knossos (and following images).

West Porch, I think.

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Recreated murals in South House.

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Original fragment of mural with some recreated surrounds.

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Throne room.

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Minoan Bull mural.

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Storage jars.

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“The Royal Road”.

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Heraklion Archaeological Museum ( and following images).

Monochrome Pithoi, Phaestos, 1600-1450BC.

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Decoration on a jar, Knossos, 1800-1700BC.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Octopus jar.  The most famous jar decoration of them all, Knossos, 1500BC.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Bull-leaping fresco, original and restoration, Knossos, 1450BC.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Gold axe, Arkalochori Cave, 1700-1450BC.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

The Harvester Vase, Hagia Triada, 1450BC.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

The Snake Goddess, Knossos, 1650-1550 BC.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Funeral urn, Knossos or Eastern Crete, 1700-1450 BC.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Coffin, Tylissos, Panokklisia, 1370-1300 BC.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Conversing lovers, detail of vase decoration, Arkades-Afrafi, Archaic period, 7th century BC.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Heraklion Harbour.

Shells for sale by fisherman.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Fishing boats.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Fishing net on the wharf.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Crete, Greece, Heraklion, History, Landscape, Live Music, Photography, Sculpture, Street photography, Travel

Nighttime concert.

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