The Life of A Minoan Woman Post-Puberty

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The Minion civilisation was found on the island of Crete whose north shore lies at the southern end of the Aegean Sea and south coast of the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Estimated to have begun circa 2000 BCE to 1450 BCE. (Thomas, 174) Originally founded and named by Sir Arthur Evans after the great King Minos from the Theseus myth of the Minotaur upon Sir Evans discovers of the labyrinthine palace complex at Knossos on the Aegean coast of Crete. The Minions have a rich and complex story to be told from the archaeology that has been unearthed and rediscovered by the initial and continued archaeological discoveries of other Minion archaeological sites such as Malia and Zakros.

Minoan WomenThe particular story that the focus of this article will be on is its women. More specifically the life of Minion Women’s Post-Puberty to their burial. The specifics about these women are to be understood separately from the assumptions and anachronism of Sir Evans Victorian perspective and one based off of the Archaeological evidence that has been uncovered.

Minoan Women’s Dress

The typical Minoan Woman’s outfit was derived from that of the men. In initially consisting of a four-square shawl that, when folded, in the proper way left the breasts exposed and a skirt.Ealry Minoan Woman (Myers, 2-4) However, as the outfit developed the shoulders became covered, the breasts reaming exposed, and as the extra cloth coming down from the back of shoulders could be used to create a hood for the woman as well as provide an additional layer of warmth on the back. (2-4)

Further, an apron was added to the outfit. Originally the apron was used in household labour, but eventually, it developed to become a part of the overall design of the outfit. (2-4) The classic snake goddess figurine is an excellent depiction of the “full” outfit including the apron. (2-4) The outfit for Minoan women further developed to have the layered skirt design. (2-4) This layer skirt design was one in which shorter skirts were placed over longer ones cratering the layers. (2-4) All the skirts were secured by a belt at the waist. (2-4) The skirts were sometimes stiffened with a frame to have the conical shape. (2-4) The Minoan women sometimes were depicted with a jacket or bodice.(2-4) The jacket also was similar to the “ZLater MInoan Dress.pngouave” (2-4) design.  This jacket covered the breasts and was debatably secured with buttons. (2-4) The jacket had a sailor collar at the top though it is not definitive to say they were worn in the modern design if the collar remained stiffened, or both stiffened and flaccid. (2-4) The jacket had a sleeve design that could either be free-flowing and elaborately decorated and stiffened like the multi-layered skirt, or secured and tight to the arm. (2-4)

Another form of the jacket was one in which the breasts remained exposed this version can be seen on the Snake Goddess statue as well.Minoan Dress Exposed Breasts.png (2-4)

John Myers makes the argument that the buttons that were holding many of the aspects of the garment together were beads. (2-4) Further, he claims that the many loose beads found in burial sites are likely from the clothing that had deteriorated due to time. (2-4) There are some instances of the clothing of Minoan women being held together with hooks or rings taking the place of the buttons. (2-4)

John Myers describes the headwear of Minoan Women as:

Minoan women [wore] their hair in long ringlets over the shoulders and closer curls piled on the head or behind the neck. There are many varieties of straight hairpins with ornamental heads and some traces of a band above the forehead, and raising high in front, sometimes with rosettes or flowers beneath the brim. At Knossos, there are flat caps, elaborate tiaras, crown-like or high and conical with a cat, snake, and other ornaments. A woman from Tylissos [wore] a close-fitting cap with decorated edge. (4)

The varied and elaborate designs imply a level of choice was available to the Minoan women on how they could style their hair, yet it may have still been limited in that there are particular styles only that are depicted.

Power and Privilege

Religious

The Minoan civilisation is centred around the worship of a supreme mother-goddess or goddesses, what is important here is that it is a woman who sits at the top of religious importance. (Thomas, 175) Religious influence can be interpreted as a possibility of a greater level of relevance for women in Minoan society than the Olympian Pantheon. On a Minoan woman’s relative position in society, one can observe in several artefacts such as the frescos and figurines in which they are consistently shown in a position of at the very least religious importance.knossos_earth_goddes (175) Also, the importunate is reflective in that these depictions were not exclusive to a private sphere. The Minoan women were constantly being depicted in different public areas, meaning that their importance in society was a public affair. However that public affairs were centred around religion. (175-6)

Financial and Marital

The property rights of these Minoan women. A source to reflects upon is the Law Code of Gortyn. (178) This law code is based on an inheritance system in which women could and were the primary heirs. Some aspects of this legal code about the Minoan women are in divorce a woman was allowed to control her property and half of the joint property. (178) Women owning their property is significant in three ways. (178) Firstly, women controlled their property .(178) Secondly, the marriage was, financially at least, equal. (178) Thirdly, women could divorce. (178) If a mother died woman_dancingthe father administered the property for their children, but if the father remarried he would relinquish his right to administration. (178) Women were supposed to marry a paternal uncle to inherit or someone from another tribe if no one was available or they could refuse their inheritance and marry anyone in her tribe she chose. (178) The freedom here may be harder to see in the strictness of their choices, but it is evident in that they had a choice. By having a choice in inheritance and some level of protection, the women were in a sense given some form of power over their financial situation. If these laws are reflective of Minoan life, then it means that a Post-puberty Minoan woman had financial rights.

Gendered Separation

knos_qeen_hall.jpgIn the Minoan palace of Knossos, it has been unearthed that the men and women had separate workspaces and duties save for the two of slavery and religious life. (Thomas, 177) One can draw from this that there was a level of separation in everyday life for the woman. (Olsen, 383-4) Further, it emphasises the importance of Minoan women in the religious life. (383-4)

In the case of child rearing, it was mostly the job of a Minoan woman when the child was younger. (383-4) Once a boy reached a certain age of maturity, the boy would then be the men’s role to train the child.(383-4) From this, it is evident that a portion of the life of a post-puberty Minoan woman lead was one in which caring for children of both sexes was a part.

Minoan women were never depicted in iconography or other such artefacts as those of the nurturing kind.  Instead, they are mostly portrayed in a religious or ceremonial setting. (Thomas, 177) fresco_bull_gameThe implication is that in a Minoan woman’s life the acts of childbearing and nurturing was not the most important aspect of Minoan woman’s life. For if the nutritive aspect was the most important that would be the element most likely to be depicted in the texts or artefacts yet it is the religious aspect that is most prevalent instead. (177)

Artefacts of Death

Inscribed Minoan Jewellery which has to do with the artefacts found in Minoan graves that were mostly found on females. (Verduci, 55) Minoan Hair Pin IThese important items provide an insight into what the relevant objects to a Minoan woman was in her death as well what objects might have been important in life. Many of tombs contained hair pins suggesting a need from Minoan women have their hair styled in a way that a hairpin would be required. As well several rings were found Verduci explained that many of these rings are hard to firmly establish where the Minoan women would have worn them as many seemed too small to where on the hand yet the iconographic images do not appear to depict many of a Minoan woman wearing rings. (51-54)Minoan Hair Pin VAll of the hairpins that were found had liner A inscriptions on them. These suggest some purpose beyond utility for these hair pins. The burials that have been unearthed are mostly of wealthier Minoan women. (55)

Minoan Women were an integral part of the society that they lived in as child readers and as religious elements of their community.MInoan Hair Pin III The clothing they wore in their daily life was reflected in the depictions of their goddess and were very complex. Their headwear was varied, and if the hairpins found in burial are reflective, their hair style was an important Aspect of their daily lives. (55)

Conclusion

The holes left in the understanding we have of Minoan women is very frustrating and requires further archaeological investigation. It is important to understand because understating the daily life of the historically marginalised group is always a difficult undertaking to go through. Alexandros Magnus is readily known about so are the great philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle yet the daily life of a Minoan woman is tough to understand fully. A portion of this problem has to do with the time that separates us from the Minoan civilisation, but these restrictions are not solely to blame. The effect of our historically patriarchal society has been an impediment to having a better understanding of the women of our past and their daily life experience. In undertaking an investigation of the lives of Minoan women, in particular, the scholarship can embrace a unique opportunity. The opportunity is that these women in Minoan society are depicted all over their artwork, excluding pottery. As such, there is a chance to investigate the women in an ancient society beyond them being second class citizens or simply relegated to the nutritive aspect of their community. This is why it is so important to investigate Minoan women.  For if we do not, it is a missed opportunity to understand how the other half of our ancestral history experienced their lives.

Works Cited

Evans, Arthur J., Mark Cameron, and Sinclair Hood. 1967. Catalogue of Plates in Sir Arthur Evans’ Knossos Fresco Atlas. p. 41, London.

Koletsis, T. Minoan figurine pictures and photo collection from Greek museums. Retrieved February 12th, 2017, from http://www.greek-thesaurus.gr/minoan-figure-photo-gallery.html

Myres, John L. “1. Minoan Dress.” Man 50 (1950): 1-6. doi:10.2307/2792547.

Olsen, B. A. (1998). Women, children and the family in the late Aegean Bronze Age: Differences in Minoan and Mycenaean constructions of gender. World Archaeology, 29(3), 380-392. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.mta.ca/docview/224094307?accountid=12599

Thomas, C. G. (1973). Matriarchy in Early Greece: The Bronze and dark ages. Arethusa, 6(2), 174-179. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.mta.ca/docview/1307022803?accountid=12599 (

Verduci, J., & Davis, B. (2015). ADORNMENT, RITUAL AND IDENTITY: INSCRIBED MINOAN JEWELLERY. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 110, 51-66. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0068245415000015

Image Source in Descending Order

Saint-Pol, Bibi “Map of Minoan Crete” http://metamedia.stanford.edu/imagebin/minoan%20crete%20map.JPG. Jan. 12th 2006. web.

Evans, Arthur J., Mark Cameron, and Sinclair Hood. 1967. Catalogue of Plates in Sir Arthur Evans’ Knossos Fresco Atlas. p. 41, London.

Myres, John L. “1. Minoan Dress.” Man 50 (1950): 1-6. doi:10.2307/2792547.

Myres, John L. “1. Minoan Dress.” Man 50 (1950): 1-6. doi:10.2307/2792547.

Myres, John L. “1. Minoan Dress.” Man 50 (1950): 1-6. doi:10.2307/2792547.

Koletsis, T. Minoan figurine pictures and photo collection from Greek museums. Retrieved February 12th, 2017, from http://www.greek-thesaurus.gr/minoan-figure-photo-gallery.html

Koletsis, T. Minoan figurine pictures and photo collection from Greek museums. Retrieved February 12th, 2017, from http://www.greek-thesaurus.gr/minoan-figure-photo-gallery.html

Koletsis, T. Minoan figurine pictures and photo collection from Greek museums. Retrieved February 12th, 2017, from http://www.greek-thesaurus.gr/minoan-figure-photo-gallery.html

Koletsis, T. Minoan figurine pictures and photo collection from Greek museums. Retrieved February 12th, 2017, from http://www.greek-thesaurus.gr/minoan-figure-photo-gallery.html

Verduci, J., & Davis, B. (2015). ADORNMENT, RITUAL AND IDENTITY: INSCRIBED MINOAN JEWELLERY. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 110, 51-70. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0068245415000015

Verduci, J., & Davis, B. (2015). ADORNMENT, RITUAL AND IDENTITY: INSCRIBED MINOAN JEWELLERY. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 110, 51-70. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0068245415000015

Verduci, J., & Davis, B. (2015). ADORNMENT, RITUAL AND IDENTITY: INSCRIBED MINOAN JEWELLERY. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 110, 51-70. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0068245415000015

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