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Amnisos. 525 - 480 BC

At Amnisos, on the north coast of Central Crete, on the site of the earlier Minoan settlement, a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus Thenatas was founded in the 7th c. BC, as attested by inscriptions of the Hellenistic period. This imposing pair of limestone birds set on bases with three scrolls comes from the sanctuary. Opinions vary as to both their precise location and the type of bird depicted. As they were found in the Sanctuary of Zeus, the prevailing view is that they are eagles, although one of the pair does not have all the necessary iconographic features. However, the worship of Zeus is also associated, mythologically at least, with other birds. Next to the eagle of Zeus there might stand a falcon, the sacred bird of Hera. According to another interpretation it might be a cuckoo, the messenger of spring, because Zeus transformed himself into a cuckoo as a trick to win her. The bird might also be a crow or a dove. Whatever its species, this second sculpture was probably made at a slightly later date than the first, by a different sculptor. It is striking that the artist has given it five talons on each foot instead of the normal four.
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