Cast Replica, Votive of Snake Goddess
Crete, Palace of Knossos
ca. 1750-1580 B.C.E.
Materials: original of faience
This object is a cast replica of a votive found in the excavation of the Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete in 1903. The leader of the excavation was Sir Arthur Evans. The original statue was found in an area of the palace named the Temple Repositories. Evans named the figure in this votive the Snake Goddess because of the repeated theme of snakes throughout the palace compound. For the Minoans, snakes were honored for their ability to shed their skins and resurrect themselves. This votive was found with another statue of a woman with snakes, and the two are thought to be a pair. However, the two objects have definite distinctions between them.
The original votive shows the woman with a full bell skirt, short apron, tight shirt exposing the chest, and arms raised above her head. The other statue shows a woman in a similar shaped skirt and tight shirt but her arms are raised out in front of her instead over her head. Some scholars still debate, which representation of the woman is the snake goddess and which is the snake princess.
As a method of understanding the Minoan culture, objects such as this one have been helpful, since scholars do not have a complete written record for the Minoans. Current research indicates that literacy was not widespread in Minoan culture and may have been strictly confined to the palaces. Additionally, most of the evidence of Minoan writing (Linear A) is found only on seals. Many think that because the figure of the Snake Goddess is prevalent in the palace artwork then they may have been a matriarchal society and worshiped primarily female deities. This has been used as evidence that Minoan society focused on fertility instead of warfare, and has given Minoan culture a much more peaceful reputation than their mainland counterparts, the Myceneans.