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The exhibit

Knossos, Palace. 1650-1500 BC

This vessel in the shape of a lioness’s head, made of translucent white limestone, is an exquisite example of the Minoan stone-carvers’ skill and naturalism. The eyes and muzzle were inlaid with coloured materials. The excavator, Sir Arthur Evans, says that a small fragment of red jasper was preserved at the tip of the lioness’s nose when it was found. The vessel is a rhyton, a ritual vase for making liquid libations. The liquid was poured into a hole in the back of the neck and ran out of two holes in the nose and mouth. The rhyton was made during the period of the New Palaces but it may also have been used in the next phase of use of the palace. It was apparently stored along with other stone vessels, mostly rhyta, in the Room of the Stone Vases in the Central Palace Sanctuary of Knossos or on the floor above. This particular rhyton stands out for its shape, the head of a lioness. Although there were no lions in Crete as far we know, this pictorial theme was incorporated into the repertoire of Minoan art at an early date, often combined with Cretan fauna or men and women. It seems that the attributes of the lion, an exotic and powerful animal, acquired a symbolic significance and were associated with the ideological world of the Minoans. Thus, on a religious level the lion takes its place among the powerful symbols of the time, as the protector and companion of the goddess, while on a secular level it denotes the authority of the ruler or the courage of the warrior.
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1 January: closed

6 January: 08:30 – 15:00

Shrove Monday: 08:30 – 15:00

25 March: closed

Good Friday: 12:00 – 17:00

Holy Saturday: 08:00 – 15:00

1 May: closed

Easter Sunday: closed

Easter Monday: 08:00 – 20:00

Holy Spirit Day: 08:00 – 20:00

15 August: 08:00 – 20:00

28 October: 08:00 – 20:00

25 December: closed

26 December: closed