Minoan “Snake Goddess” The “Goddess With Snakes” created c 1600 BCE in the Aegean region by a group of people who lived on the island of Crete and are referred to as the Minoans. Three cultures thrived simultaneously in the Aegean region between c. 3000-1100 BCE Cycladic on smaller cluster of islands 3000-1600 Minoan on Thera and Crete 1900-1100 Helladic, including the Mycenaean, on the mainland of Greece 1500-1100. Three Minoan Periods The Old Period 1900 – 1700 BCE The Second Period 1700 – 1450 BCE (Artwork was made) Late Period 1450 – 1100 BCE Other Flourishing Cultures Sumerian, Akkadian, Neo-Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrians were flourishing throughout the Mesopotamia region Egypt was thriving through the Old Middle and New Kingdoms Social and Political Environment of Minoans 1900-1100 BCE Minoans Lived on Crete largest of the Aegean Islands (150 miles long 36 wide). The name Minoan comes from the legend of Minos Self-sufficient farmers and herders who produced their own grains, olives and other fruits. Heavily influenced by the sea that provided a link to each other and the rest of the world Became wealthy due to location and trade. Egypt and Near East civilizations were important trading partners. Using metal ores imported from Europe, Arabia and Anatolia the Ageans became master artisans most notably utilizing bronze. Written records exist, yet only one form of language is translatable and gives insight into the culture. Held Impressions of Minoans Elegant fashionable costumes and art imply physical gracefulness, sensitivity, sophisticated tastes, and love of luxury Perceived as having refined manners and worldly ways Thought to have high intelligence and love of beauty nature and peace Women played an important roll in Minoan society. May have been a matrilineal or even a matriarchal, society. No evidence of male dominated society or warlike tendencies common to Eastern Mediterranean cultures No Walled citadels, fortifications, no temples to the gods No large public sculptures No clear evidence of a hierarchically structured society ruled by kings and priest nor boastful inscriptions telling of wars or conquests. Utilizing dressed stone, great architectural complexes were constructed and were the center of Minoan culture “Palace” of Knossos Layout was so strange that in later Greek mythology it is referred to as the labyrinth (Spawned the legend of the Minatare) Judging from the huge storage areas and layout the palace of Knossos may have been used as a collection and distribution centers for agricultural production, local leaders, artists and artisans (leaders unknown) as well as a general meeting location (town square). Religion From evidence that has been uncovered archeologists believe that this was a polytheistic society, and early on many of their political beliefs were enforced by whom no one is certain, but influenced by these deities. They could have believed in mythology based on these gods It is theorized that the Minoans may have worshiped a mother Goddess that could have been represented by the Women With Snakes. They believed in mythological creatures, as shown in the Palace on Knossos. Griffins with flowers. Also other mythological beasts with lion bodies and bird heads and the Minotaure Archeological digs suggest that they may have believed in an afterlife. Graves were dug into the ground within a circular enclosure. Vast amounts of gold treasure- including death masks, jewelry, and weapons were found within grave sights. Influence and influencing Cultures Influenced by the Egyptians Aegean culture is known for the light it throws on later cultures Influenced much of the Greek Culture. Many of the gods and goddesses of the Aegean’s may have influenced the Greek culture These mythological stories most likely traveled with those who traded along these areas of the Aegean Sea Many Greek Myths use Crete as a focal point. They tell tales in the Odyssey about “Crete of a Hundred cities,” which is a reference to the “ruthless” King Minos, who would sacrifice men and women to the Minotaur within the Labyrinth. Artwork Analysis Geographic Influences Discovered in 1903 by British Archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans Found in Temple Repositories on the site of the "Palace" of Knossos Found along side other “ceremonial” objects Geographic Influences Sculptures of the region during this period consists mainly of small, finely Executed works in wood, ivory, precious metals, stone and faience. This statue is a wonderful example of this technique Faïence is pottery glaze technique using ground quartz, which can be tinted. Much artwork, including painting and jewelry, appear to be for aesthetic purpose only. Art for Arts sake Art for Arts sake Art for Arts sake Geographic Influences Materials for this sculpture were found on the Island. Other materials used in various artwork such as metals were imported (Well known for their bronze work) Possibly influenced by nearby Egyptian art (Snake Goddess in Egyptian Art) Social/Political Influences Female figurines holding serpents were fashioned on Crete as far back as 6000 BC Stands out as an object central to the understanding of Minoan culture (whether or not this is warranted is left to debate). In the same way that the “Venus” of Willendorf, has come to epitomize Paleolithic sculpture, the “Snake Goddess” is regarded as a particularly important manifestation of Minoan society. According to some scholars, including Arthur Evans, one of the prime pieces of evidence that women dominated Minoan culture Basis for the argument that Minoans lived in a matrilineal or even a matriarchal society Examples of Snake Goddesses Social/Political Influences Goddess and other art found nearby are some of the best examples of Minoan art. Can be interpreted as giving insight and embodying many of the perceived, and admired, characteristics of the Minoans Elegant, fashionable costumes Dressed in the typical Minoan clothes with a long skirt (flounced, or with an apron) Tight open bodice (can be seen in many other works of Minoan art) Crystallizes idea that Minoans were artistic and enjoyed creating art simply as an object of beauty Tight open bodice common in Minoan Fashion Social/Political Influences - Perceived Characteristics Physical gracefulness Represented in more sinuous and naturalistic form Figure is both lively and dauntingly, almost hypnotically powerful (A combination that has led scholars to disagree whether statues such as this represent deities or their human attendants.) Social/Political Influences - Perceived Characteristics - Physical Gracefulness Social/Political Influences - Perceived Characteristics - Physical Gracefulness Social/Political Influences - Perceived Characteristics - Physical Gracefulness Social/Political Influences - Perceived Characteristics - Physical Gracefulness Social/Political Influences - Perceived Characteristics - Sensitive yet forthright personalities A bear breasted women is somewhat obvious and forthright yet sensitive in the possibility that the object represents fertility and protection Sophisticated tastes and love of luxury Sophisticated tastes and love of luxury Sophisticated tastes and love of luxury Sophisticated tastes and love of luxury Clothing reflects the Minoan preference for bright colors, patterns and fancy edgings. Refined Manners and Worldly Ways Nothing threatening or demanding reflected in artwork Seemingly high intelligence and innocence Understanding of the world and ecology Master craftsman especially with metals and faience Artwork/architecture suggests that they are unlike other warlike and male dominated societies. Apparent love of beauty, nature, and peace. Represented in sinuous naturalistic form Well ornamented One figurine is decorated with a saffron-flower pattern No evidence of domination or war or desire to conquer Bare breasted, arms extended with snakes perhaps a symbol of protection A leopard or a cat rests on the head perhaps a symbol of protection. Religious/Mythological Influences Debate as to what this object symbolized or represented There is little archaeological evidence to support the existence in the Minoan religion of a snake deity. (Although could have Egyptian or Mesopotamia influence) Among the many examples of cult objects such as the double-axe, the sacral knot, the sacral horns, sacred pillars, sacred trees, birds (doves), and beasts (bulls, lions, goats) seen painted in frescoes or on pottery, sculpted in reliefs, and engraved in seals, the snake appears only rarely. Religious/Mythological Influences Religious/Mythological Influences Religious/Mythological Influences Could have several symbolic meanings Minoan religion, constructed by some historians, reflects prehistoric religion centered on a dominant goddess of fertility May have represented maternity as well as fertility including agricultural re-growth and rebirth. Goddess of Fertility In the Sumerian and the Old-Babylonian literary tradition the snake was a wise creature and an expert for miraculous herbs of the eternal youth and immortality. A similar idea is contained in the Cretan myth about Glaukos, where the snake knows the herb of rebirth and resurrection Invoked to ensure abundant crops, or the plentiful production of lambs and kids among the herds of sheep and goat. the planting of crops and tending of animals were principally male activities, the "Snake Goddess" may have served primarily the male population. A sort of domestic goddess or goddess of the house A kind of guardian angel–in many regions of the world, including Greece, the household snake was worshipped and fed as a domestic guardian angel. In the Egyptian mythology the snake was a personification of the goddess Kebechet, symbolized the purification by water in the funeral cult, so the snake became a protector of the pharaohs in their death. A leopard or a cat rests on the head perhaps a symbol of protection. Found alongside other artifacts put together by Evens as a shrine The faïence objects included fragments of three figurines, as well as votive robes and girdles, cups and vases, shells in the round, quantities of beads, a variety of plaques for inlay, and two small reliefs’, one of a cow suckling a calf and another of a wild goat (or agrimi) suckling a kid Evidence suggests there was some level of religious significance Due to the lack of decipherable written history we can only speculate, based on surrounding cultures influence combined with interpretation of the artifacts found at Knossos and surrounding Aegean areas, as to what the figure may have represented. However, we can be sure that in some way Minoan religious/mythological, social/political, and geographic influences are reflected in the art piece. Hopefully historians will be able to unravel the unreadable forms of writing of the time and gain greater insight into this very interesting culture.