From Egypt to Crete: Iconography on Minoan seals in the Phaistos deposit
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This thesis seeks to better define the interaction between proto-palatial Minoan iconography on seal stones and the corpus of iconography from ancient Egypt. Consisting of three parts, the first is an introduction to Minoan seals, specifically a select group from the Phaistos deposit. The second is a catalogue of those images with a discussion comparing Egyptian and Minoan social and cultural contexts. The third section is a discussion of cultural exchange between Bronze Age Crete and Egypt extrapolated from the discussion in the catalogue in the format of three hypothetical scenarios. Additionally in the second chapter, this paper offers interpretations of how the imagery on some seals interacted with proto-palatial Minoan society and the possible meanings of those symbols. Seals from the Phaistos deposit were chosen because of their secure context, their naturalistic subject matter, and because most are the first examples of their kind in Minoan art. Some of the topics addressed include the use of Minoan seals, proto-palatial Minoan society, and cultural exchange expressed through iconography. The seals were selected because they feature naturalistic iconography which not only compares well with the naturalistic iconography found in Egyptian art, but they can also be compared with what is known about the ancient indigenous fauna on Crete. This helps this study to distinguish which symbols must have been imported. Then during the second chapter, the stylistic difference between the two visual cultures is discussed as a means to understand how Minoan society reinterpreted ancient, religious, and exotic concepts. To do this, three hypothetical narratives are proposed to illustrate cultural exchange between Middle Bronze Age Crete and Egypt.