Archive for the 'Crete' Category

Object: Replica of Phaestos Disk

Figure 1 Front of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 1 Front of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 2 Back of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 2 Back of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

 

C/1985/9/1
Replica of Phaestos Disk
Minoan
Crete
Late Minoan Period
Materials: Plaster

This Phaestos Disk replica is a modern cast of the Late Minoan Period original. It measures 16.5 centimeters in diameter and 1.5 centimeters in width. It was originally on loan from Dr. Allen C. Johnson, former professor of the Department of Classics at Princeton University, but since his death has become a permanent part of the Classics Collection at SNOMNH.

Figure 3 A view of the site of excavation of the Phaistos Disk; Photo "Festos1(js)" by Jerzy Strzelecki - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Festos1(js).jpg#/media/File:Festos1(js).jpg

Figure 3 A view of the site of excavation of the Phaistos Disk; Photo “Festos1(js)” by Jerzy Strzelecki – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Festos1(js).jpg#/media/File:Festos1(js).jpg

The original Phaestos (or Phaistos) Disk was unearthed on the island of Crete by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in 1908. The excavation took place on the south coast of the island, and the disk gets its name from the ancient region and palacewhere it was discovered. Experts date the disk to the Minoan Neopalatial (New Palace) Period, about 1600-1450 BCE [1]. Currently, the original Phaistos Disk resides in the Heraklion Museum in Crete, along with other extremely well known objects from the Minoan time period. The Minoan people are known for their unique advancements in religion, art, and technology [2].

Figure 4 This map depicts the island of Crete during the Minoan period. Photo "Map Minoan Crete-en" by User:Bibi Saint-Pol - Own work (data from http://metamedia.stanford.edu/imagebin/minoan%20crete%20map.JPG, map background from Image:Map greek sanctuaries-fr.svg).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg#/media/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg

Figure 4 This map depicts the island of Crete during the Minoan period. Photo “Map Minoan Crete-en” by User:Bibi Saint-Pol – Own work (data from http://metamedia.stanford.edu/imagebin/minoan%20crete%20map.JPG, map background from Image:Map greek sanctuaries-fr.svg).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg#/media/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg

The most fascinating thing about the Phaistos Disk is its mysterious symbols and figures that are inscribed in a circular spiral on both sides. Archaeologists are still unsure as to what the markings mean, or even the original purpose of the disk itself [3]. In recent years, however, scholars have claimed to make significant strides in cracking the code of the disk, translating the text, and determining its purpose and significance. Yet the fact that we still don’t know for sure the meaning of the text or reason it was used has caused some critics to question the authenticity of the disk [4]. Despite such controversy and confusion, the fact that classical archaeologists and scholars have spent so much effort over the past 107 years trying to interpret the nature of this small circular object suggests that when we ultimately and definitively crack the Phaistos Disk code, we will be able to understand much more about the Minoan culture, and the ancient world as a whole.

In this TEDtalk, Dr. Gareth Owens shares the progress he and his colleagues have made in deciphering the Phaistos Disk.

[Elizabeth Rischard]

Object: Pot

C/1957/6/1
Mycenaean: Basket-handled Pot
Greece
Late Helladic III, 1675 – 1050 B.C.
Materials: Clay

This object is a Mycenaean basket-handled pot dated to the Late Helladic III period. The small, handmade pot has a flat base and straight walls. A flat strap crosses the pot mouth from side to side and draws in the sides to create an oval-shaped mouth. Above the strap a rolled basket handle arches over the mouth. The buff clay is painted with a reddish glaze. The base is decorated with concentric circles and the walls of the basket have a pattern of triangles that alternate being filled in with dots or sequent triangles. Dots of red glaze decorate the handle between two solid bands. Basket-shaped pots similar to this one have been found in tombs at Mycenae.

Until Heinrich Schliemann found the ancient city of Mycenae in 1870, many thought the city only existed in the legends and poetry of Homer. Schliemann discovered the city using only landmarks from the text of Homer’s Iliad. The city of Mycenae was the center of the large and very powerful Mycenaean Greek civilization which existed from 1900 to 1125 BC. It was located in the south central part of what is present day Greece. The Mycenaean people were known as warriors with a king who lead a strong military. Evidence suggests the Mycenaean culture had extensive trade connections throughout the Mediterranean, as Mycenaean pottery has been found in southern Italy and as far away as Egypt.

Mycenaean pottery was functional art for daily use. Pottery from the Late Helladic period incorporated pottery styles of Minoan Crete. During the 14th and 13th centuries BC, cultural conformity began to affect the pottery of Mycenae through the use of a generally uniform decoration of simple linear designs or animal motifs. Toward the end of the Mycenaean period, around the 11th century BC, the pottery that was produced consisted largely of small vessels with linear decorations. This pottery decoration style was the precursor of the Greek Geometric style.

[Debra Taylor]

Object: Votive replica

C_1953_42_4

C/1953/42/4
Cast Replica, Votive of Snake Goddess
Crete, Palace of Knossos
Minoan
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.

Presently, the original votive is located in the Heraklion Museum, but replicas like this help visitors all over the world see what Minoan artwork was like.

[Brittany Teel]


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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