Monday 26 December 2011

Minoan Gardens - did they or didn't they?

Now here is a Boxing Day teaser.  Did the Minoans on Crete make ornamental gardens?  Certainly their religious practices contained an element of sacred nature.  

 Mt. Juktas - the peak sanctuary and view down

Archaeological evidence in the form of glyptic art (seals and the such like), frescoes and votive offerings demonstrate a strong plant symbolism, for example crocus, sea daffodil, silphium and opium poppy.  With these plants depicted in possibly sacro-religious natural scenes.

 The Isopata Ring c.1,500 BC

But gardens?  There is some evidence.  Frescoes from the villa at Amnisos (just the the east of Heraklion) are claimed to show a formal garden and there is an rock outcrop with planting holes in the south eastern corner of the east wing of the palace of Phaistos.  This, it is claimed, may be a naturalistic proto-rock garden that would in style be similar to fresco representations of landscape scenes (see Maria C  Shaw ‘The Aegean GardenAmerican Journal of Archaeology, 1993, Vol. 97, No. 4). 

All grist to the mill.  The reason I mention this is that under the aegis of the British School at Athens, Professor Oliver Rackham, author of The Making of the Cretan Landscape (1996) is running a field course entitled ‘The Making of the Cretan Landscape’ between 22 and 28 April next year.

The field course is limited to 10 participants and for more information and an application form please visit here 

1 comment:

  1. Jane Sproull Thomson2 January 2012 at 17:23

    Really beautiful and interesting website, Toby! The archaeological evidence for sacred plants and specialized gardens especially fascinates me; this seems to be a worldwide phenomenon which I guess is hardly surprising given the vital links between plants and human health.