Traces of places: sacred sites in miniature on Minoan gold rings.
Source TitleSacred Sites and Sacred Stories Across Cultures: Transmission of Oral Tradition, Myth, and Religiosity
University of Melbourne Author/sTully, Caroline
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
CitationsTully, C. (2021). Traces of places: sacred sites in miniature on Minoan gold rings.. Kim, D (Ed.). Sacred Sites and Sacred Stories Across Cultures: Transmission of Oral Tradition, Myth, and Religiosity, (1), pp.11-40. Palgrave Macmillan.
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2023-01-01
Sacred sites in Minoan Crete are known from both archaeological remains and iconography. Glyptic art is the most extensive body of Aegean Bronze Age representational art and consists of carved seals in the form of engraved metal signet rings, stone seals, and the clay impressions (sealings) that these were used to produce. Gold signet rings from the Cretan Neopalatial period (1750–1490 BCE) depict various types of sacred site including mountain, rural, cave, and urban sanctuaries. How should we understand the built structures depicted in these miniature cult scenes? Do they all depict variations of walls or buildings, or are they altars? This paper differentiates the built structures depicted in cult scenes on Minoan gold rings, correlates them to archaeological remains at Minoan sacred sites, and proposes an explanation of ephemeral cult structures now only recorded in the iconographic evidence. It will be demonstrated that these miniature art forms represent Minoan sacred sites in three ways: as natural places characterised by the presence of trees and stones and the absence of architecture; as outdoor sanctuaries surrounded by ashlar stone walls; and as shrines and altars, the shapes of which evoke natural cult locations such as mountains and sacred groves through abstract form. It will be argued that representation of Minoan cult structures that evoked the natural landscape within prestigious art forms was a method whereby Neopalatial elites naturalised their authority by depicting themselves in special relationship with the animate landscape.
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