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					        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.

				
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posted:3/22/2010
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