Minoan Art

The Minoan civilization was known for its beautiful ceramics, but also for its frescoes and stone and metal work.


The Bull-Leaping Fresco. Palace at Knossos. Heraklion Archaeological Museum. (c) ArchaiOptix

The majority of Minoan frescoes have been found at the Palace of Knossos and at Akrotiri on Santorini in the Cyclades. As these are the two main sites, it is not clear how wide-spread they were across the Minoan world but were clearly painted in high-status sites. They depict generic scenes, stylised and generalised images of what must have been common pictorial motifs, mostly connected to the prevailing Minoan ideology and religion.


Minoan pottery has been used as a tool for dating the Minoan civilization. Its restless sequence of quirky maturing artistic styles reveals something of Minoan patrons’ pleasure in novelty while they assist archaeologists in assigning relative dates to the strata of their sites. Pots that contained oils and ointments, exported from 18th c. BC Crete, have been found at sites through the Aegean islands and mainland Greece, on Cyprus, along coastal Syria and in Egypt, showing the wide trading contacts of the Minoans.

Marine Style flask with octopus, c. 1500-1450 BC.

Other Art

Snake goddess figurine from the Temple Repository at Knossos, 1460-1410 BC. Heraklion Archaeological Museum. (c) C Messier

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