The study of prestige materials is one of the best approaches to obtain information on different aspects of a society, such as internal complexity or, due to the exoticism of many materials, the external relations and mobility of groups. Of those high-value materials, ivory is especially useful due to its restricted provenance and its availability to characterize its source relatively easily, both visually and by spectrometric techniques.
Ivory from the Early Minoan period has been mainly identified as hippopotamus ivory, the product of trade with the Syrian area or Egypt. Our recent investigation of 35 ivory seals from the Early Minoan tholoi shows that ivory supply was less homogeneous than previously thought. Four of the seals, from Ayia Triada and Archanes, have been identified as cetaceous ivory, while one amber seal from the tholos of Platanos has also been identified.
During the same period (3rd millennium B.C.), the use of cetaceous ivory is only identified in the Iberian Peninsula, where it is possible to identify the presence of similar typologies, such as the anthropomorphic folded-arm figurines and the important number of tholoi present in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. These typologies, together with the sharing of the same prestige material supplier, support the existence of long-range contact around the Mediterranean World at this early date.