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TITLE Deities above animals. On the transformation of Near Eastern iconography in Minoan Crete
AUTHOR Blakolmer Fritz
LANGUAGE Αγγλικά / English
PUBLISH DATE 25.07.2018
KEYWORDS Minoan Crete, iconography of deities, deities above animals, artistic transformation, Eastern Mediterranean koiné
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The representation of a male or female deity standing or sitting on the back of an animal constitutes a widely spread and long-lived topos in the iconography of the Ancient Near East and beyond. In the Aegean Bronze Age, however, this pictorial formula for defining the elevated character of a deity as dominating or being protected by an animal or a hybrid creature was widely absent, always constituting a foreign idea which was never really integrated into the repertory of Aegean imagery. A closer comparative analysis of the few examples of this “orientalizing” motif formula which can be sporadically observed, mainly in the seal glyptic of Neopalatial Crete, is therefore of interest. This material allows us to define Minoan imitations, adaptations, individual variants, misinterpreted versions as well as other forms of transformation of the Near Eastern prototypes, demonstrating the insufficient familiarity of Minoan artists and beholders with this iconic concept. Thus, in spite of the plethora of examples of the transfer of iconographic motifs from the Near East into the artistic language of Minoan Crete, the topic of the deity above a quadruped shows quite plainly the contrasting iconographic concepts of defining deities in both regions and enables us to study more closely the mechanisms of the Minoan appropriation of Near Eastern principles of representing deities. Moreover, this topic urges us to question the validity of the scholarly concept of an “Eastern +Mediterranean koiné” with regard to iconographic motifs and religious ideas. Instead of being a coequal member of and active participant in this koiné, Neopalatial Crete seems to have been positioned rather at the periphery of this ideological realm.