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The exhibit

Phaistos. 1300-1100 BC

For the inhabitants of Minoan Crete, the bull was a symbol of strength and fertility. It is depicted in many art forms during the Bronze Age. This figurine is one of the largest and best-preserved examples of the Postpalatial period. It was probably a votive offering to a sanctuary founded on the ruins of the Palace of Phaistos. The various parts of the figurine were made separately on a potter’s wheel and joined with pieces of raw clay. Although it has some naturalistic features, the head is more stylised than those of examples of the preceding Palatial period. Although the painted decoration on the body is also stylised, it seems to be intended as an abstract rendering of the animal’s dappled colouring. The figurine probably originally stood on a clay base, as the bull’s legs are too thin to support its body. There was a long tradition of making bull figurines and using them in sanctuaries in Palatial Crete. In the Postpalatial period they appear in large numbers at open-air sanctuaries. Animal figurines, mostly bulls, have been interpreted as substitutes for the sacrifice of real animals, but they may also have been associated with fertility rites.
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