I did my PhD Completion Seminar yesterday, 28th of April, as one of the University of Melbourne's Ancient World Seminar Series. The presentation was called The Cultic Life of Trees in Late Bronze Age Crete. Abstract:
Glyptic art is the largest corpus of Aegean Bronze Age representational art and consists of carved seal stones, engraved metal signet rings and the clay impressions (sealings) that the seals are used to produce. A particular group of images engraved on the metal signet rings are thought to depict human and divine figures participating in cult activity. In the absence of translated texts from Minoan Crete, glyptic iconography is the most informative category of evidence relied upon in the interpretation of Minoan religion. This paper uses glyptic images that depict human figures interacting with trees to examine claims first put forth by Sir Arthur Evans (excavator of Knossos on Crete) in 1901 that Minoan religion was characterised by a primitive, aniconic cult of trees, stones and pillars, strongly influenced by the Levant and Egypt. As well as responding to Evans the paper examines the images in light of animism, royal ideology and performance and proposes a new reading in which the Minoan landscape was co-opted in the service of elite ideology and functioned as a politicised active agent in the enactment of power.