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The exhibit

Arkalochori Cave. 1700-1450 BC

This large and impressive group of objects was found in a small cave near the village of Arkalochori in Central Crete. The cave was investigated for the first time in 1913 by Iosif Hatzidakis, and 22 years later by Spyridon Marinatos and Nikolaos Platon. This is probably the largest Minoan assemblage of metal objects found in Crete and includes bronze swords and daggers, copper ingots, bronze, gold and silver double axes of various sizes, and small sheets of gold. Looking at the long bronze swords, we see that most of them have a narrow blade reinforced by a midrib, which ends in rounded shoulders with a tang for securing the hilt, but lacking the rivet holes needed to attach it. The surviving examples of such swords had magnificent hilts made of precious materials, but these are absent from the Arkalochori swords. The lack of a hilt, combined with the thin blade, indicate that these swords were not intended for use but were votive offerings to a sanctuary. This is probably true of most of the objects in this group, such as the thin double axes, finely made artworks of bronze, silver and gold, which obviously have a symbolic significance. The inscribed double axe with incised signs in Hieroglyphic script stands out. The deposition of so many cult or votive objects in a small cave is not easy to interpret. Since the metals were imported to Crete as raw material, perhaps these valuable items were deliberately concealed or deposited in the cave to secure them from some danger and never recovered. Or perhaps the assemblage consists of votives to a cult place of a war deity, since most of the objects are weapons. Lastly, the discovery of pieces of copper may indicate that there was a coppersmith’s workshop nearby.
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