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The exhibit

Tholos tomb at Kamilari. 1600-1500 BC

The model of four young male dancers from the tholos tomb of Kamilari in the Mesara is a unique work of Minoan coroplastic art. It depicts four young men performing a circle dance inside a low circular enclosure crowned with horns of consecration. The naked dancers have their hands on each other’s shoulders with their arms outstretched and interlinked, forming a closed circle. The triangular lock of hair on top of the head shows that they are youths in late adolescence. Their total nudity, which is very rare in Minoan art, together with the horns of consecration, indicate that the dance is directly connected to religious events. However, the fact that the model comes from a cemetery, combined with the shape of the closed circle, which is associated with apotropaic rituals to avert evil and strengthen group bonds, indicates that this is a funerary dance. This conclusion is also borne out by the low enclosure outside the tholos tomb, similar to that depicted in the clay model, which appears to show the actual architecture of the cemetery. Enclosures, paved floors and altar-like structures with deposition of offerings often mark cult spaces for the dead in Minoan cemeteries in the Prepalatial, Protopalatial and early Neopalatial periods. Closed circle dances performed by men formed part of the rites in honour of deceased ancestors during the funeral or memorial ritual.
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