The Ring of Minos

Minoan Signet Ring (1600 - 1450 BCE)
The Ring of Minos (1600 - 1450 BCE), Iraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete

“It is a truism in archaeology that religious interpretations are often assigned to artifacts that are otherwise as yet inexplicable [...]” - D.J. Ian Begg

Signet rings are also particularly susceptible to these kinds of interpretations.

The interpretations suggested in the The Ring of Minos, representing the common interpretation of this signet ring, are no exception.

On the left? A female tree-worshipper / adorant!
At the top center? A male tree-worshipper / adorant!
In the boat? A goddess!
To the right? A goddess!
In the background distance? A tiny goddess hovering in the air!
Sacred "baetyl" stones everywhere!

After a trip to Crete and a recent adventure to help my friend Kris pick grapes from the vines at her house in Portland, OR, what I see is a harvest scene.

The woman on the left and the man in the middle? Harvesting grapes. The man even has a grape cluster dangling from his left hand.
The sacred "baetyl" boulders strewn about? Harvesting bags.
The woman on the right? Management ;) And based on the position of her hand, quite possibly eating a grape.
The woman in the distance? Rather than a tiny goddess, why not another harvester in the distance to show that everyone is at the task?

There are two things I noticed while helping my friend pick grapes:
1. There were lots of bees buzzing about my head
2. Low-hanging fruit, indeed! The high stuff is much harder to get to, and required some amusing contortions on my part, quite like the position of the man in this signet.

While this signet ring does not depict bees buzzing about, a ring from the Tholos tomb at Phourni from the Arkhanes site most certainly does, and bears a similar scene that should be compared to the one above. András Zeke discusses his interpretation of this and other sealings in the following blog posts with some excellent visual aids: http://minoablog.blogspot.com/2010/05/mythical-figures-on-cretan-jewellery.html, http://minoablog.blogspot.com/2010/07/more-minoan-signet-rings-tales-of.html.

If one of the women in these sealings is indeed a goddess, then she is very likely a goddess of the harvest. Hi, Demeter :)

The book is absolutely worth buying for the fabulous photographs of this and several other signet rings and seal stone impressions. It is time, however, to consider some more mundane interpretations.

References

Dimopoulou, Nota and Yorgos Rethemiotakis, 2004 The Ring of Minos (Ministry of Culture Archaeological Receipts Fund)

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