alphabetic script (alphabet)
A script where each character is rendered by a consonant (e.g. p) or vowel (e.g. o), as opposed to a syllable (e.g. po).
Certain combinations of signs (motifs) encountered on Minoan Prepalatial seals (ca. 3100-1925 BC) which are considered the first evidence of writing in the Aegean. It is not known whether these are the first attestations of the Cretan Hieroglyphic Script or Linear A.
A long-term project that documented and published Aegean Bronze Age seals and sealings in a consistent manner. The project ran from 1958 to 2011 in Marburg, Germany. The archive collected in the duration of the project is now kept at the Institute of Classical Archaeology, University of Heidelberg.
One of the two script systems that developed in Crete in the Minoan Protopalatial period. It is a syllabic, as opposed to an alphabetic script, which means that each character corresponded to a syllable (e.g. po). The script signs (characters) take the form of small images (e.g. eye). The script was not used after the end of the Protopalatial period. It remains undeciphered.
Early Bronze Age
The early phase of the Bronze Age. In the case of the Aegean, the period between ca. 3100-2050 BC.
The Cretan Bronze Age period that dates to ca. 1470-1330 BC. During this time, there was only one palace on the island, that of Knossos. The period is preceded by the Neopalatial period, during which there were several palaces in Crete.
The art of seal engraving/carving.
Stones with hardness Mohs 5 or more. Such stones cannot be engraved by hand tools but require fast-rotating tools. The most common hard stones used in Aegean glyptic are agate, amethyst, rock crystal, chalcedony, haematite, jasper, cornelian, lapis lacedaemonius, lapis lazuli, obsidian, and quartz. Sources for most of these stones are not found in the Aegean. These materials are considered today semi-precious stones.
A piece of clay that carries one or more seal impressions. Impressed nodules could be attached to an opening or document to to secure from unauthorised access, hang from a string around an object to provide some information, or constitute free-standing lumps of clay that were used as some kind of tokens or receipts.
intaglio (on seals)
The carving, i.e. the sunken area (the motif), on the surface of a seal.
Late Bronze Age
The late phase of the Bronze Age. In the case of the Aegean, the period between ca. 1700-1075 BC.
One of the two script systems that developed in Crete in the Protopalatial period and the only one that continued into the Neopalatial. It was the only Minoan script of this period. As with all Aegean scripts, it was a syllabic as opposed to an alphabetic script, which means that each character corresponded to a syllable (e.g. po). The script takes its name from the linear appearance of its signs and remains undeciphered. It can be read (but not understood) to a certain extent by applying to its signs the phonetic values they have in Linear B. It was not used after the Neopalatial period.
A script used in the Aegean in the period from ca.1450 to 1150 B.C and the only one of the Aegean Bronze Age that has been deciphered. As with all Aegean scripts, it was a syllabary, as opposed to an alphabet, which means that each character corresponded to a syllable (e.g. po). As is the case with Linear A, with which it shares many signs, this script also takes its name from the linear appearance of the characters. It is believed that Linear B borrowed Linear A signs to encode a language different from that written by the latter. The script was deciphered in 1952 by the British architect Michael Ventris. It encodes an archaic form of the Greek language commonly referred to as Protogreek.
Middle Bronze Age
The middle phase of the Bronze Age. In the case of the Aegean, the period between ca. 2100-1700 BC.
An aegean hybrid creature with a hippopotamus or lion head, lion or hippo limbs and a dorsal appendage. The creature stands on two legs (human posture) and often carries a jug with the front legs that function as arms. It is considered the Minoan adaptation of the Egyptian hippopotamus deity Taweret and was first introduced in Crete during the Protopalatial period. Later, it was also overtaken in the Mycenaean iconography. It is our teacher in this webpage.
The Bronze Age of Crete. The term is conventional and comes from the name of the legendary King Minos of Crete. It was coined by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans who excavated the palace of Knossos at the start of the 20th century when he realised he discovered a new civilisation.
The Late Bronze Age of the Greek mainland (also referred to as Late Helladic). The name is conventional and comes from the site of Mycenae where an impressive fortified acropolis with a palace as well as tombs of this period has come to light. According to Greek mythology, the site was ruled by the mythical king Agamemnon who led the Greeks to the Trojan War.
negative (of seals)
Engraved (sunken) on the surface of a seal.
This is the period before the Aegean Bronze Age. It is characterised by the use of stone tools but also the sedentary lifestyle of humans who could now permanently settle in one place because of the development of agriculture. In Greece, this is the period from ca. 6000-3100 BC.
The Bronze Age period in Crete that dates to ca. 1750-1470 BC. This is commonly considered the period when the Minoan civilization reached its peak. During this time there were several palaces on the island, the most known of which were Knossos, Malia, Phaistos and Kato Zakros. The period is preceded by the Protopalatial period when the palaces emerged for the first time on the island.
A large complex architectural structure that played a central role in administrating the economy of the region in which it was situated. Palaces are attested in Crete (Minoan palaces) and the Helladic mainland (Mycenaean palaces). Minoan palaces differ in many aspects in their architectural form from the Mycenaean ones, the most evident being that they have an open central court. The first palaces in Crete emerged in the Minoan Protopalatial period. In the mainland, they appeared much later, in the late Mycenaean period (ca. 1390-1200 BC). While Mycenaean palaces would have probably been ruled by Mycenaean elite, the issue of the authority in charge of Minoan palaces has not yet been agreed on.
positive (in relief) (of seals)
Motif raised above its surrounding surface on an object.
The Bronze Age period in Crete that dates to ca. 1330-1075 BC. This is the period after the abandonment of the Knossos palace. No palaces were active on the island during that time. It is preceded by the Final Palatial period and is the last period of the Aegean Bronze Age.
Pertinent to the geographical area of modern Greece in the Bronze Age.
The Bronze Age period in Crete that dates to ca. 3100-1925 BC. This is the time that the Minoan civilisation appeared on the island, but one with no palaces yet. The material culture of this period is mainly known by settlements and tombs. The period is preceded by the Neolithic period.
The Bronze Age period in Crete that dates to ca. 1925-1750 BC. The first palaces emerged in Crete during this period in Knossos, Malia and Phaistos. It is preceded by the Prepalatial period when there were no palaces on the island.
A small portable object made of stone or other material, such as bone or metal, which has engraved motifs on at least one surface. As a rule, seals have a trait that allows them to be worn on the body, such as a perforation. Their seal faces can be impressed on a malleable material for the motif to appear in relief.
The face of a seal that bears the engraving.
The impression of a seal face. The term could refer to an ancient or a modern impression of a seal. Modern impressions are necessary to study an ancient seal, as the motif is better visible in relief than in negative.
The interfacial edges of a seal. As a rule, the seal profiles do not carry engraving. Depending on the seal shape, the profiles often display the string holes of the perforation channel.
See impressed nodule.
A seal made of stone resembling a bead or pendant.
A ring with a bezel with engraving on it, thus a specific seal shape.
Stones with hardness Mohs 1-3. Soft stones can be easily engraved with hand tools. The soft stones mostly used in Aegean glyptic are steatite, chlorite, schist, serpentine, sepiolite, fluorite and calcite. All soft stones are found in sources in the Aegean.
Perforation on the body of a seal aimed at allowing the object to be hung from a string.
A script in which each character corresponds to a syllable (e.g. po), as opposed to a letter, consonant (e.g. p) or vowel (e.g. o).