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The exhibit

Petsophas Peak Sanctuary. 1900 - 1700 BC

Small clay figurines of men and women were very common votive offerings at the so-called “peak sanctuaries”, meaning sanctuaries that were founded on hills and mountains and were active during the Protopalatial and Neopalatial periods. One such sanctuary stood on the hill of Petsophas in East Crete, where this group comes from. Figurines of men, women, farm animals like sheep and oxen, and other creatures such as weasels and birds, were placed in cracks in the rocks of the hill, as offerings by Minoans seeking the help and protection of the gods for themselves and their animals. There were also models of human arms and legs, some of them clearly diseased, presumably offerings made by sick people in search of healing and relief. The standing male figurine has bent arms with hands to chest in a characteristic gesture probably indicating prayer. The face is coarsely rendered by pinching the wet clay with the fingers, while the hair and some details of the clothing, such as the loincloth and the end of the knotted belt with the dagger, are applied. We see that in spite of the small scale, the dagger is faithfully rendered in detail, with the hilt and the two rivets securing it. The figurine was painted reddish-brown. The female figure has her arms extended and is strikingly dressed in a tight bodice, a belt, a long skirt and a tall hat. The bell-shaped skirt, which is hollow inside, also forms the base of the figurine. The figurine is painted black, while details of the clothing and the hat are picked out in white and red paint. Female figurines of this type are impressively varied in the features of the head, especially hats and hairstyles. The many figurines displayed in the Museum are only a small part of the assemblages found at the Cretan peak sanctuaries. They do, however, give a vivid, representative picture of the worshippers, who gathered in large numbers at the festivals held at these mountain sanctuaries. The offerings are direct and moving evidence of their beliefs and needs, like the votives offered at Christian churches by the faithful today.
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