Sunday, October 22, 2006

Minoan Painting

Toreador Fresco

Toreador Fresco The palace at Knossos (about 1700-1400 bc) on the island of Crete was the home of this mural known as the Toreador Fresco. Remarkable for its energetic and graceful line quality, the mural depicts the moment in which a young man has just grasped the bull’s horns and leaped over its back. The Minoans worked in what is known as the wet fresco technique, in which the artist has to be able to create the picture in the very short time before the wet plaster dries.Bridgeman Art Library, London/New York

The Minoans, ancestors of the Greeks, created lively, realistic paintings on the walls of their palaces in Crete (Kríti) and also on pottery. For example,...
the famous Toreador Fresco (1500?bc, Heraklion Museum, Crete) shows a ritual game in which performers somersault over a bull's back. Marine life was a popular subject, as in the Dolphin Fresco (1500?bc) on the walls of the palace of King Minos in Knossos (Knosós), or on the Octopus Vase (1500?bc, Heraklion Museum), a globular container decorated with octopus tentacles that undulate around the pot, defining and emphasizing its shape.

Aegean Civilization, term used to denote the Bronze Age civilization that developed (circa 3000-1200 bc) in the basin of the Aegean Sea, mainly on Crete (Kríti), the Cyclades (Kikládhes) Islands, and the mainland of Greece. It had two major cultures: the Minoan, which flourished in Crete and reached its height in the Middle Bronze period, notably at Knossos (Knosós) and Phaestos; and the Mycenaean, which developed in the Late Bronze period on the mainland at Mycenae and other centers, including Tiryns and Pílos

Ancient Greek writers had related stories of an “age of heroes” before their time, but nothing definite was known about the Aegean civilization until the late 19th century, when archaeological excavations began at the sites of the legendary cities of Troy, Mycenae, Knossos, and other centers of the Bronze Age.

From Bulfinch’s Mythology: Theseus

By Thomas Bulfinch

Theseus was the son of Ægeus, king of Athens, and of Æthra, daughter of the king of Trœzen. He was brought up at Trœzen, and when arrived at manhood was to proceed to Athens and present himself to his father. Ægeus on parting from Æthra, before the birth of his son, placed his sword and shoes under a large stone and directed her to send his son to him when he became strong enough to roll away the stone and take them from under it. When she thought the time had come, his mother led Theseus to the stone, and he removed it with ease and took the sword and shoes. As the roads were infested with robbers, his grandfather pressed him earnestly to take the shorter and safer way to his father's country—by sea; but the youth, feeling in himself the spirit and the soul of a hero, and eager to signalize himself like Hercules, with whose fame all Greece then rang, by destroying the evil-doers and monsters that oppressed the country, determined on the more perilous and adventurous journey by land.

His first day's journey brought him to Epidaurus, where dwelt a man named Periphetes, a son of Vulcan [god of fire]. This ferocious savage always went armed with a club of iron, and all travellers stood in terror of his violence. When he saw Theseus approach he assailed him, but speedily fell beneath the blows of the young hero, who took possession of his club and bore it ever afterwards as a memorial of his first victory.

Several similar contests with the petty tyrants and marauders of the country followed, in all of which Theseus was victorious. One of these evil-doers was called Procrustes, or the Stretcher. He had an iron bedstead, on which he used to tie all travellers who fell into his hands. If they were shorter than the bed, he stretched their limbs to make them fit it; if they were longer than the bed, he lopped off a portion. Theseus served him as he had served others.

Having overcome all the perils of the road, Theseus at length reached Athens, where new dangers awaited him. Medea, the sorceress, who had fled from Corinth after her separation from Jason, had become the wife of Ægeus, the father of Theseus. Knowing by her arts who he was, and fearing the loss of her influence with her husband if Theseus should be acknowledged as his son, she filled the mind of Ægeus with suspicions of the young stranger, and induced him to present him a cup of poison; but at the moment when Theseus stepped forward to take it, the sight of the sword which he wore discovered to his father who he was, and prevented the fatal draught. Medea, detected in her arts, fled once more from deserved punishment, and arrived in Asia, where the country afterwards called Media, received its name from her. Theseus was acknowledged by his father, and declared his successor.

The Athenians were at that time in deep affliction, on account of the tribute which they were forced to pay to Minos, king of Crete. This tribute consisted of seven youths and seven maidens, who were sent every year to be devoured by the Minotaur, a monster with a bull's body and a human head. It was exceedingly strong and fierce, and was kept in a labyrinth constructed by Dædalus, so artfully contrived that whoever was enclosed in it could by no means find his way out unassisted. Here the Minotaur roamed, and was fed with human victims.

Theseus resolved to deliver his countrymen from this calamity, or to die in the attempt. Accordingly, when the time of sending off the tribute came, and the youths and maidens were, according to custom, drawn by lot to be sent, he offered himself as one of the victims, in spite of the entreaties of his father. The ship departed under black sails, as usual, which Theseus promised his father to change for white, in case of his returning victorious. When they arrived in Crete, the youths and maidens were exhibited before Minos; and Ariadne, the daughter of the king, being present, became deeply enamoured of Theseus, by whom her love was readily returned. She furnished him with a sword, with which to encounter the Minotaur, and with a clue of thread by which he might find his way out of the labyrinth. He was successful, slew the Minotaur, escaped from the labyrinth, and taking Ariadne as the companion of his way, with his rescued companions sailed for Athens. On their way they stopped at the island of Naxos, where Theseus abandoned Ariadne, leaving her asleep. His excuse for this ungrateful treatment of his benefactress was that Minerva [goddess of the arts and trades, Roman name for the patron goddess of Athens] appeared to him in a dream and commanded him to do so.

On approaching the coast of Attica, Theseus forgot the signal appointed by his father, and neglected to raise the white sails, and the old king, thinking his son had perished, put an end to his own life. Theseus thus became king of Athens.

One of the most celebrated of the adventures of Theseus is his expedition against the Amazons. He assailed them before they had recovered from the attack of Hercules, and carried off their queen Antiope. The Amazons in their turn invaded the country of Athens and penetrated into the city itself; and the final battle in which Theseus overcame them was fought in the very midst of the city. This battle was one of the favourite subjects of the ancient sculptors, and is commemorated in several works of art that are still extant.

The friendship between Theseus and Pirithous was of a most intimate nature, yet it originated in the midst of arms. Pirithous had made an irruption into the plain of Marathon, and carried off the herds of the king of Athens. Theseus went to repel the plunderers. The moment Pirithous beheld him, he was seized with admiration; he stretched out his hand as a token of peace, and cried, "Be judge thyself—what satisfaction dost thou require?" "Thy friendship," replied the Athenian, and they swore inviolable fidelity. Their deeds corresponded to their professions, and they ever continued true brothers in arms. Each of them aspired to espouse a daughter of Jupiter [ruler of the gods]. Theseus fixed his choice on Helen, then but a child, afterwards so celebrated as the cause of the Trojan war, and with the aid of his friend he carried her off. Pirithous aspired to the wife of the monarch of Erebus [the underworld]; and Theseus, though aware of the danger, accompanied the ambitious lover in his descent to the underworld. But Pluto [god of the dead] seized and set them on an enchanted rock at his palace gate, where they remained till Hercules arrived and liberated Theseus, leaving Pirithous to his fate.

After the death of Antiope, Theseus married Phædra, daughter of Minos, king of Crete. Phædra saw in Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, a youth endowed with all the graces and virtues of his father, and of an age corresponding to her own. She loved him, but he repulsed her advances, and her love was changed to hate. She used her influence over her infatuated husband to cause him to be jealous of his son, and he imprecated the vengeance of Neptune upon him. As Hippolytus was one day driving his chariot along the shore, a seamonster raised himself above the waters, and frightened the horses so that they ran away and dashed the chariot to pieces. Hippolytus was killed, but by Diana's assistance Æsculapius restored him to life. Diana [goddess of the moon and the hunt] removed Hippolytus from the power of his deluded father and false stepmother, and placed him in Italy under the protection of the nymph Egeria.

Theseus at length lost the favour of his people, and retired to the court of Lycomedes, king of Scyros, who at first received him kindly, but afterwards treacherously slew him. In a later age the Athenian general Cimon discovered the place where his remains were laid, and caused them to be removed to Athens, where they were deposited in a temple called the Theseum, erected in honour of the hero.

The queen of the Amazons whom Theseus espoused is by some called Hippolyta. That is the name she bears in [17th-century English playwright and poet William] Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream,"—the subject of which is the festivities attending the nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta.

[British poet Felicia] Hemans has a poem on the ancient Greek tradition that the "Shade of Theseus" appeared strengthening his countrymen at the battle of Marathon.

Theseus is a semi-historical personage. It is recorded of him that he united the several tribes by whom the territory of Attica was then possessed into one state, of which Athens was the capital. In commemoration of this important event, he instituted the festival of Panathenæa, in honour of Minerva, the patron deity of Athens. This festival differed from the other Grecian games chiefly in two particulars. It was peculiar to the Athenians, and its chief feature was a solemn procession in which the Peplus, or sacred robe of Minerva, was carried to the Parthenon, and suspended before the statue of the goddess. The Peplus was covered with embroidery, worked by select virgins of the noblest families in Athens. The procession consisted of persons of all ages and both sexes. The old men carried olive branches in their hands, and the young men bore arms. The young women carried baskets on their heads, containing the sacred utensils, cakes, and all things necessary for the sacrifices. The procession formed the subject of the bas-reliefs which embellished the outside of the temple of the Parthenon. A considerable portion of these sculptures is now in the British Museum among those known as the "Elgin marbles."…


We have seen in the story of Theseus how Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, after helping Theseus to escape from the labyrinth, was carried by him to the island of Naxos and was left there asleep, while the ungrateful Theseus pursued his way home without her. Ariadne, on waking and finding herself deserted, abandoned herself to grief. But Venus took pity on her, and consoled her with the promise that she should have an immortal lover, instead of the mortal one she had lost.

The island where Ariadne was left was the favourite island of Bacchus, the same that he wished the Tyrrhenian mariners to carry him to, when they so treacherously attempted to make prize of him. As Ariadne sat lamenting her fate, Bacchus [the god of wine] found her, consoled her, and made her his wife. As a marriage present he gave her a golden crown, enriched with gems, and when she died, he took her crown and threw it up into the sky. As it mounted the gems grew brighter and were turned into stars, and preserving its form Ariadne's crown remains fixed in the heavens as a constellation, between the kneeling Hercules and the man who holds the serpent.

[Sixteenth-century English poet Edmund] Spenser alludes to Ariadne's crown, though he has made some mistakes in his mythology. It was at the wedding of Pirithous, and not Theseus, that the Centaurs and Lapithæ quarrelled.

"Look how the crown which Ariadne wore
Upon her ivory forehead that same day
That Theseus her unto his bridal bore,
Then the bold Centaurs made that bloody fray
With the fierce Lapiths which did them dismay;
Being now placed in the firmament,
Through the bright heaven doth her beams display,
And is unto the stars an ornament,
Which round about her move in order excellent."

Source: Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry, Legends of Charlemagne. New York: Random House, 1934.

Drama of Death in a Minoan Temple

By Yannis Sakellarakis and Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki

We will never know all the details of what happened on that rocky hillside in the unimaginably distant past, but we are more than reasonably certain of these salient facts:

Thirty-seven centuries ago, in a time when savage earthquakes were rocking the island of Crete, a Minoan priest sought to avert final catastrophe with a rare, desperate act: To the deity of his hillside temple, he offered up the ultimate sacrifice—a human life.

But the victim died in vain. Scarcely had his death rattle ceased than a climactic temblor brought the temple roof and massive stone walls tumbling to earth, killing the priest beside the body of the young man he had just slain.

At the same time, the falling roof killed two others, probably temple functionaries. One was a young woman; the other a person—whether man or woman we do not know—who appeared to have been carrying a sacred vase of a type used for libations of animal blood.

Completing the destruction, flames swept the temple ruins. Earthquake and fire went hand in hand in ancient Crete, where oil lamps provided interior lighting.

That much of a recently discovered ancient drama now seems clear. But before ever we dared utter the dread words "human sacrifice" aloud, we spent agonizing hours pondering the evidence.

In some respects we were fortunate. The site was compact and our team of workers highly skilled. An associate professor of archaeology at the University of Athens, Yannis was in a position to enlist university colleagues as consultants. For financial assistance we had the generous support of the Archaeological Society of Athens.

When finally we revealed our discovery and our conclusions, we caused quite a stir both in the archaeological world and among the public. Never before, for one thing, had there been strong proof that Crete's prehistoric Minoans practiced human sacrifice, although it had long been suspected.

And our fellow Greeks, it soon became apparent, were loath to believe that the Minoan civilization, forerunner of their own, had a dark side. The Cretans, they had been taught from childhood, were lovers of peace and beauty, a cultured people who would have abhorred such a brutal ritual as human sacrifice. Yet the evidence has been pronounced incontrovertible by many of our scientific colleagues.

The actual skeletons of those who perished in the temple, preserved under the rubble of the building in the positions in which they died, provided telling clues. Nothing had disturbed them, we discovered, between the time of the disaster and the day we brought them to light. Their unusual positions told us immediately that they had died violently. But under what circumstances?

We believe that archaeologists should interpret their finds so as to illuminate human behavior and history. Thus our hillside temple offered not only discoveries of intrinsic worth but also a mystery to solve.

But perhaps we are getting ahead of our story. It begins with Efi's discovery of the hillside site and her belief that beneath the brush-covered slope might lie an archaeologically important ruin. This section of north-central Crete abounds with Minoan remains, best known of which is the palace of Knossos seven kilometers (four miles) to the north.

For 16 years we had been excavating a lesser known but possibly equally important palace in the heart of Arkhanes, now a large modern village. Meanwhile, we had explored the nearby cemetery of Phourni, which we believe to be the most important in the Aegean of prehistory. Here we uncovered more than a score of burial buildings dating from the third millennium b.c. down to later Minoan times, when the warrior people of mainland Mycenae occupied Crete.

One day, searching the countryside near Arkhanes for undiscovered ancient sites, Efi led some of our Phourni workers to a small hill at the base of Mount Juktas, legendary tomb of the Cretan Zeus. It is a place of singular beauty. The Aegean Sea bathes the shore in the distance, and pungent herbs perfume the air. Because shallow caves believed carved by Aegean gales pock nearby rocks, the local people call the area Anemospilia, or "caves of the wind."

On the north slope of the foothill, the group came upon pottery sherds incised with signs in Linear A, the earliest and as yet undeciphered Minoan script, scattered among the tumbled stones of a very old wall. Probing deeper into the underbrush, the party found a piece of carved limestone they recognized as part of a sculpture called "horns of consecration." These Minoan symbols, probably stylized representations of bulls' horns, graced the facades of buildings that had religious significance.

Efi called Yannis to the site.

"There's something of importance here," he agreed. "We'll dig and find out what it is."

And dig we did in the early summer of 1979. Each morning for more than a month our team of University of Athens students and Arkhanes villagers, many of the latter trained veterans of earlier campaigns, made their way to Anemospilia, half an hour's walk from the village, and worked until late afternoon.

By the close of the first day's labor we had traced the plan of a freestanding building that we concluded could only have been a temple. For one thing, it had stood in the center of a small walled plot that we identified as a temenos, or sacred enclosure, familiar to us from Cretan works of art. For another, it faced north, often a sign of a building with religious significance.

The Anemospilia temple had contained three narrow rooms. They did not interconnect, but each opened into a corridor that extended the width of the building.

Now we began digging in earnest, starting with the corridor. We had a fright at first when we found a place where treasure hunters had hacked at the walls. But our worries proved groundless. The would-be plunderers had not entered the ruins.

The corridor had had two functions. First, it provided access to the three temple naves. Second, it had been the place where materials for offerings were initially assembled. These went next to what we may call side, or secondary, altars for final arrangement, and were then carried to the central altar, where all offerings were made.

In the corridor we uncovered rows of vessels that had contained offerings such as fruits, grains, peas, and possibly milk, honey, and wines. In some of the jugs, many of them miraculously unbroken, we found charred fruit seeds.

People of the countryside often came to visit us, following a deeply rutted, centuries-old path that you can still see bisecting the temenos. When they saw the jars, they were amazed.

"To think," said one man, "we have walked over these things all our lives and never known they were there!"

Pottery styles, decoration, and techniques offer the archaeologist a relatively accurate calendar. From ceramics at Anemospilia we learned that the temple had been destroyed in the earthquakes that many believe had thrown down all the first palaces of Crete around 1700 b.c. We knew too that our temple had never been rebuilt, as were most important places of the so-called old palace period. Had it been, its priests would have furnished it with utensils made after the time of its destruction.

Important as was the pottery, the discovery in the corridor of our first skeleton provided the greatest thrill. It was a unique find: The only remains of Minoans heretofore unearthed had been recovered from tombs.

Initially, we thought we had found merely an earthquake victim; only later were we able to ascribe to this person a possible role in the drama on the hillside.

When we had finished the corridor, we turned to the central chamber. Our familiarity with contemporary Minoan art led us to conclude that the room must have contained the image of the temple deity, and hence was the heart of the shrine.

Such images were life-size wooden statues that never survived fire or the ravages of time. But from art found at Knossos and in the rich ruins of Phaistos, we know what they looked like.

They often wore headdresses, sometimes curls, of bronze or steatite—soapstone—and were richly gowned. At Anemospilia we recovered no headdress, but we did find bits of burnt wood and a pair of clay feet that had been the idol's base.

Our statue, or xoanon—the word is ancient Greek—had stood on a raised platform. At its feet priests had placed the best and most of the more than 400 pottery vessels we recovered from the temple.

Close to the xoanon had been left unhewn a piece of the hillside rock, symbol of the earth, which with the sea and the sky the Minoans considered the eternal elements of their world. The sacred stone played a role in cult ritual; over it, we believe, priests poured blood offerings to the deity.

After the central room, we excavated the nave to the east. Here bloodless offerings had been arranged prior to being laid before the idol next door. The vessels that had contained them still stood on and before a ruined stepped altar that rang a bell in our memories: Such an altar had been pictured on a rhyton, or libation vase, recovered from the Minoan site of Zakros.

If further proof of the room's liturgical role was needed, it was near at hand in the Iraklion Museum. Here a popular display is a famous sarcophagus from Hagia Triada, painted with ritual scenes; in one appear virtually exact duplicates of ceramic vessels that turned up at Anemospilia.

Now we had only the west room to clear. The team began the job with its usual enthusiasm, but as the hot, dusty days passed, the enthusiasm turned to disappointment, for the trowels unearthed nothing.

And then it happened. Nearing the original floor level, we found three more human skeletons. Disappointment turned to exhilaration, fatigue vanished.

Two skeletons, both found lying on the floor, clearly were the remains of earthquake victims. Falling debris had broken the legs of one.

The third was another matter. We believed we had found animal remains. They rested upon a platform we recognized—again the Minoan artists!—as an altar upon which animals were sacrificed. Close beside the platform, furthermore, had stood a pillar with a trough at its base. Just such troughs at Knossos, we believe, were used to collect blood as it dripped from the altar.

We began careful clearing of the bones, still thinking they were those of a young bull or other beast. Suddenly a worker's trowel struck a metal object. We brushed away the earth to reveal a bronze knife such as we have never seen before or since. Still almost razor sharp, it was 16 inches long and weighed more than a pound. Each side of the blade bore the incised rendering of an animal head.

And what an animal this was! Unlike any beast in the natural world, it had the snout and tusks of a boar, ears shaped like butterfly wings, and the slanted eyes of a fox. Apparently the artist had symbolized, in this composite rendition, animals in general. To us there could be only one explanation. This great weapon was a sacrificial knife, used to kill animals for blood libations.

Although more than a year has passed since we closed the season at Anemospilia, our recollection of what followed the finding of the knife is as clear today as if it had happened yesterday. On his knees in the dirt, patiently cleaning the bones on the altar. Yannis looked up and said in a strained voice:

"This was a human being, not an animal. It is hard to believe, but I think we have found a human sacrifice."

In retrospect, perhaps we should not have been so thoroughly shocked. Written history documents the practice of human sacrifice in mainland Greece, mythology describes it in prehistoric Crete as well, as witness the story of the Minotaur and the Athenian youths and maidens.

In the normal course of events, the Minoans and the Greeks of later years sacrificed animals, with bulls the preference in Minoan blood rituals. But under unusual stress, the ancients grew desperate and offered human lives to angry gods.

Plutarch tells us, for example, that Themistocles sacrificed three men to assure victory at the Battle of Salamis, although some scholars doubt the account. Again, a seer ordered a human slaughtered to rid Athens of a plague in the seventh century b.c. If a crucial battle and a devastating epidemic produced abnormal stress, we can be quite sure that earthquakes would do the same.

We now believed we knew the true story of Anemospilia. But confirming it would require expert help. We turned to our friends at the University of Athens. Dr. Alexandros Contopoulos, professor of anthropology and director of the Athens Medical School Anthropological Museum, joined us in Crete with his assistant, Dr. Theodoros Pitsios. So did Dr. Antonios Koutselinis, assistant professor of criminology at Athens University and a master of the coroner's art.

Carefully our friends studied the temple site and all it contained When they were satisfied, we gathered in the pleasant courtyard of our excavation headquarters in Arkhanes and together reconstructed the final act in the drama of Anemospilia.

The skeleton on the altar, reported the anthropologists, was that of a male, about 18 years old. Well built, five feet five inches tall, he lay peacefully curled on his right side.

And how had he died? Probably from loss of blood, the anthropologists told us. Neither the falling roof nor the fire that followed had killed him.

"There is evidence that when a body with its blood supply intact is burned, the bones turn black," explained Dr. Contopoulos. "But if the blood has been drained before the fire, the bones will remain white.

"When we looked closely at this skeleton, we saw that the bones of the left side, which was uppermost, were white, while those on the right side were black. Thus, I believe that half this man's blood had been drained before the fire. The loss was more than enough to kill him. The heart stopped pumping, leaving blood still in the body's lower side."

The carotid arteries lie close beneath the skin on the sides of the neck. Knowing from animal sacrifices that through these vital arteries passes the entire blood supply, the ancient executioner, we can reasonably assume, severed the one on the left side to kill the youth and obtain his blood.

But who was the executioner? Surely it was someone whose bones we had found in the temple, for catastrophe had struck swiftly, leaving no time for escape.

We ruled out the skeleton farthest from the altar, that of a woman about 28 years old, of medium build. Other than the fact of her presence in the west room, there was absolutely nothing to connect her with the sacrifice.

One suspect remained: The skeleton lying very near the altar. It was that of a powerful man, six feet tall and in his late thirties. We found him on his back, hands raised as if to protect his face. Coroners, who often see this defensive posture in victims of earth cave-ins and building collapse, have even coined a name for it: the "boxer's position."

The tall man left two clues as to his calling. On the little finger of his left hand he wore a ring of silver and iron, the latter a rare and precious metal in the Bronze Age Aegean.

On his wrist he carried an engraved seal of such exceptional artistic merit and obvious worth that only a person of substance could have possessed it. Surely this was a priest, a man of power and standing in the highest classes.

How he had managed to get the strong youth on the altar must remain forever a mystery. A religious zealot or, as Dr. Konstantinos Romaios, ethnologist of the Academy of Athens, has suggested, the obedient son of the priest who slew him, the teenager might have gone willingly to his death.

Or perhaps he had been overpowered or drugged, trussed up like the red-spotted bull being sacrificed in the Hagia Trinda painting, and carried to the altar. His legs, at least, had probably been bound, said the criminologist, Dr. Koutselinis, for they had been bent so far back that the right heel nearly touched the thigh bone.

When we suggested the priest as the likeliest murder suspect, Dr. Koutselinis quickly agreed.

"We could make a good case against him in court," he said. "I'd suggest to the jury that after slashing the carotid, he laid the knife on the body where you found it, then began to collect the blood. We can only guess how long he lived before the roof fell."

At some point he or another closed the young man's mouth, which would have started to sag open in death. When we found the remains, the jaws were tightly locked. In the tomb burials we have excavated, the lower jaw was always slack.

The sekelton found in the corridor was in such poor condition that the anthropologists could not even tell us whether it had been a male or a female. We decided to call it a man; at least we had one chance in two of being right!

If the pathetic bones told us nothing, the pieces of a shattered vase scattered next to them gave food for thought. When our technicians put the 105 sherds together, we had an exceptionally beautiful piece of Kamares ware, so called for the Cretan cave that yielded the first examples of such pottery. We consider it the best of our Anemospilia finds, and we know that spouted bucket-like vases similar to this one were used for the pouring of blood libations.

Perhaps our reconstruction of what took place in the corridor at the moment of disaster is fanciful. But we can suggest a reasonable theory: The man, perhaps a second priest, was carrying what may have been the temple's most sacred vase from the central chamber to safety when the building collapsed. He left two similar vessels of lesser quality behind. Again, he may have been taking the vase, already containing the blood of the human sacrifice, from the west room to offer to the idol in the central nave.

Then came the cataclysm, and three and a half millennia of silence, until our trowels disturbed the dust.

A peasant passing the dig one morning reined up his donkey and gazed into the green Arkhanes valley at our feet. Then he turned to us and said: "You have chosen the right place to work. Here the partridges sing more sweetly than anywhere else."

We may find little more of importance at Anemospilia, but we treasure it for something that far transcends even beauty and serenity. From this lovely height we have the mystic feeling we can look into eternity.

Nothing here can have changed greatly in 3,700 years, nor is it likely to do so for centuries to come. The sea sparkles as always in the distance, azure by day, wine red in the glow of the setting sun. The donkeys serenade their loved ones in the vineyards as always, roosters acclaim the morning of each day.

So in time we will finish at Anemospilia and pay the debt we owe it by leaving it to the sun and the winds. Then, when quiet once more bathes the hillside, the partridges will return to sing more sweetly than anywhere else.

Source: Sakellarakis, Yannis and Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki. “Drama of Death in a Minoan Temple.” National Geographic, February 1981.

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