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THE EXHIBIT

Knossos, Tekke. 9th c. BC

Small gold ingots, gold rods and a gold sheet, part of a pre-numismatic hoard that also contained intact pieces of jewellery and parts of ornaments made of gold, silver, amber, rock crystal, ivory, faience and glass (the jewellery is on display in Room XIX, case 187). All these valuable objects were placed in two plain clay pots concealed in the earth floor just inside the threshold of a Late Minoan tholos tomb of the 13th to 12th century BC in the North Cemetery of Knossos. The tomb was reused in the Early Geometric and Geometric periods. The hoard was originally thought to be the stock-in-trade of an artisan who originated from or had learned his craft in the East, where such hoards are common from the 9th century onwards. It is now believed more likely that the assemblage is a hoard of precious items concealed, perhaps from some danger, by an upper-class Knossian family. Such an elite family would have had the means to own and handle gold, silver and other valuable items, both as imported raw materials and in the form of locally made jewellery. In any case, the weighable shapes and sizes of the rods and bars of precious metals may be considered a preliminary stage in the invention of coins, which is why the assemblage is called a pre-numismatic hoard. For the Cretans of the time, it was the precursor of a monetary economy. This is the only known assemblage of its kind in Crete, while the only Aegean parallel is a similar find from Eretria, on the island of Euboea.
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