Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Storm God of the Hatti then Hittite

During the early Bronze Age the Hatti, who were neither Semitic nor Indo-European, inhabited central Anatolia. They were actually distinct from the Hittite but as the Hittite expanded beginning about 2000 BCE, the Hatti were gradually absorbed into the Hittite political and social order. 

The Hatti were organized in monarchical city-states. These states were ruled as theocratic kingdoms or principalities. Hatti regions of Anatolia came to be influenced by mighty Mesopotamian polities, in the form the Akkadian Empire (24th-22nd century BCE) and the succeeding Old Assyrian Empire (21st-18th century BCE), both of which set up trading colonies called karum, located throughout eastern and central Anatolia. During the first centuries of the 2nd millennium BCE, an Assyrian trade colony existed in the city of Hattush, and several Assyrian inscriptions mention the existence of local rulers (kings) of Hattush, also referring to their relations with other city-states in the region.

Fortunately, a few fragments of text in the language of the Hatti were discovered among the Hittite archives. Their language  is now believed by some scholars to be related to the Northwest Caucasian language group.

The Hatti worshiped a mother goddess Kattahha (or Hannahanna) who gave birth to the storm-god Taru represented by a bull. The Hittites subsequently adopted much of the Hatti pantheon.  Taru was adopted as Tarhunt and referred to as 'The Conqueror', 'The king of Kummiya', 'King of Heaven', and 'Lord of the land of Hatti.'  His image was paraded through the streets at the festivals of Puruli in the spring, the Nuntarriyashas festival in the autumn, and the Ki Lam festival of the gate house.

The Puruli festival celebrates the battle between the dragon Illuyanka and the Storm God. Initially the Storm God is defeated by the serpent. The Storm God then goes to the Hatti goddess Inaras for advice. Having promised to sleep with a mortal named Hupasiyas in return for his help, she devises a trap for the dragon. She goes to him with large quantities of food and drink and entices him to drink his fill. Once drunk, the dragon is bound by Hupasiyas with a rope. Then the Storm God appears with the other gods and kills the dragon.

In an alternative version of the myth, the dragon takes the Storm God's eyes and heart when he initially vanquishes the Storm God. To avenge himself upon the dragon, the Storm God marries the daughter of a poor man. They have a son, who grows up and marries the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka. The Storm God tells his son to ask for the return of the Storm God's eyes and heart as a wedding gift and he does so. His eyes and heart restored, the Storm God goes to face the dragon Illuyanka once more. At the point of vanquishing the dragon, the Storm God's son finds out about the battle and realizes that he had been used for this purpose. He demands that his father take his life along with Illuyanka's and so the Storm God is forced to kill them both.

Standard with two long-horned bulls, 2300-2000 BCE, Hattian, now in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, image courtesy of the museum.

Vessel terminating in the forepart of a bull, Hittite, 14th-13th century BCE, Silver, now in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, image courtesy of the Museum and Wikimedia Commons.

Silver bull figure from Alacahöyük, 2300 BCE, now in the collections of the British Museum, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Ollios.

Vase with bull protome, first quarter of 2nd millenium, now in the collections of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Homonihilis.



Ceremonial vessels in the shape of a team of sacred bulls made of baked clay, called Hurri (Day) and Seri (Night), Hittite Old Kingdom, 16th century BCE, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Georges Jansoone.

Depiction of the myth of the Sky God (in human form) killing the dragon Illuyankas, Neo-Hittites, 850-800 BCE, from the Lions Gate at Malitiya, now in the collections of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Georges Jansoone.


 

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Were women dominant in Minoan society?

 Art historian Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe points out there is plenty of archaeological evidence to indicate that women occupied an important if not dominant position within the practice of Minoan religion and possibly the entire society as well. In scenes of ritual worship, women appear to dominate the proceedings and far outnumber male priests and attendants.

"Moreover men are rarely seen in commanding positions, despite attempts to identify them in such positions," Witcombe says. "Even the lifesize male figure in the reconstructed frescoed stucco relief at Knossos which Evans identified as the "Priest-King" is now believed to be made up of fragments of several different figures. The only thing that seems relatively certain is that one or more of the figures was male."

He also observes that typical evidence of a male-dominated society in the second millennium including walled citadels, fortifications, temples to gods, large public sculpture and boastful inscriptions are essentially absent.

When Sir Arthur Evans found fragments of faïence figurines, one which he dubbed the "snake goddess," in 1903, he asserted it was clear from the evidence that the Minoan religion was based on a dominant goddess of fertility just as described by James Frazer in his text "The Golden Bough" that had been published in 1890.

"Part of the attraction of the figurines is that they can be interpreted as embodying many of the perceived, and admired, characteristics of the Minoans: their elegant, fashionable costumes, their physical gracefulness, their sensitive yet forthright personalities, their sophisticated tastes and love of luxury, their refined manners and worldly ways, their seemingly high intelligence combined with an endearing forthright innocence, and their apparent love of beauty, nature, and peace," says Witcombe.

What I was surprised to learn is that the figurine widely known as the "Snake Goddess" was categorized by Evans as just a votary. The figurine he called the "Snake Goddess" wore a tall hat and stood with her arms extended out and down with palms up. She grasps the head of a snake in her right hand and it winds up the upturned flat underside of her forearm  over her right shoulder, down one side of her back, over her buttocks, up the other side, over her left shoulder, and down her right arm.  A second snake is looped over her right ear and winds down over her right shoulder following the curve of her exposed breast continues down below her waist, then loops back up the left side of her torso, up in front of her left ear, and up her tall hat to the apex. A third snake entwines her waist. Only her torso, right arm, head, and her hat (except for a portion at the top) were found.

The figurine now known as the "Snake Goddess"  was missing its head, most of its hat, the right arm, the lower part of the snake held in the right hand, and large segments of the flounced skirt. It is assumed Evans used images of women in Minoan frescoes to fashion a new head.

Read much more about Minoan Women and the Snake Goddess here: http://arthistoryresources.net/snakegoddess/discovery.html

Reproductions of restored faience figurines that Sir Arthur Evans found in the Temple Repositories of Knossos, Crete. The figurine on the left was originally dubbed the "Snake Goddess" by Evans while the figurine on the right is the one most recognized today as the Minoan "Snake Goddess". I photographed these figurines at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Figurine of Female Worshiper, Minoan, 1600-1500 BCE, in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, image courtesy of the museum. This extremely rare Minoan bronze statuette represents a girl worshiping a deity. It was probably left as a dedication to a divinity. She wears a flounced skirt over a sleeved robe open at the front. The figure shows a remarkable degree of detail, including looped earrings, bracelets, and a necklace. Her shaved hairstyle, not found on any other Minoan bronze statuette, matches that of painted figures in roughly contemporary frescoes uncovered on the island of Thera, north of Crete. Its excellent condition, rarity, fine detail, and balanced proportions set it apart from other statuettes of its type to have survived.

Minoan girl from the fresco "The Saffron Gatherers" in Akrotiri, 1600-1500 BCE, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Yann Forget

Closeup of Minoan girl from the fresco "The Saffron Gatherers" in Akrotiri, 1600-1500 BCE, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Closeup of Minoan lady from Room 1 of the House of the Ladies in Akrotiri courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor ArchaiOptix 

Minoan lady from Room 1 of the House of the Ladies in Akrotiri courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor ArchaiOptix 

Fresco from room 1 (“vestibule”) in the “House of the Ladies” of the excavation site near Akrotiri (Santorin) in the Prehistoric Museum of Thira, Santorin (Thira), Cyclades, Greece, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Olaf Tausch

Closeup of Fresco from room 1 (“vestibule”) in the “House of the Ladies” of the excavation site near Akrotiri (Santorin) in the Prehistoric Museum of Thira, Santorin (Thira), Cyclades, Greece, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Olaf Tausch

Fresco of a priestess from the passage from room 4 to room 5 on the upper floor of the west house of the excavation site in Akrotiri on Santorini, Cyclades, Greece, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Fresco of the so-called Parisian woman from the Palace of Knossos (1450–1350 / 1300 BCE), exhibited in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete, Greece courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Olaf Tausch


 

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Mycenaean gold "seal" rings with Minoan-style iconography

 When the so-called "Griffin Warrior" was discovered near the Palace of Nestor in Pylos, the young man who died around 1500 BCE was buried with some 2,000 objects, including silver cups, beads made of precious stones, ivory combs, a sword and four intricately decorated solid gold rings. Archaeologists Shari Stocker and Jack Davis from the University of Cincinnati that excavated the warrior's burial think these grave goods provided evidence that Mycenaean culture recognized and appreciated Minoan culture more than previously believed, especially the gold rings. Made of multiple sheets of gold, the rings depict detailed scenes including bull leaping and iconography such as sun symbols and mythological genii creatures from Minoan mythology.  

Originally the rings were thought to have probably been crafted on Crete where they were used to seal documents or indicate ownership of goods or other objects and pillaged in warfare. But, after extensive study, Stocker and Davis have expressed their opinion that these items were probably not plunder but examples of exchanged ideas and the adoption of certain aspects of Minoan culture including religious concepts and symbols of political power.

Cynthia W. Shelmerdine of the University of Texas, an expert on the Bronze Age in the Aegean, observes, "These things clearly have a power connection…[and] fits with other evidence that the elites on the mainland are increasingly closely connected to the elites on Crete whether or not the rings were used in the Minoan way for sealing objects.”

"The elite of Pylos at this time knew what these symbols and objects meant.  The Griffin Warrior was not simply imitating the Minoan world but he was a part of it, just as he was a part of the Mycenaean world.  His burial serves as a testimony that the transition between the two eras was neither abrupt nor concrete, but that the process was much more complex. There was a time, at least in Pylos, where the two cultures seemingly blended and coexisted." - Uncovering Pylos, The Archaeological Institute of America.

Gold Mycenaen Seal Ring with two female figures with raised arms praying by a shrine or altar. The branches on either side of the central structure may indicate that the ritual is related to seasonal cycles and fertility, end of 15th century BCE, now in the NAM Athens. I photographed this ring at "The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great" exhibit at the Chicago Field Museum.

Mycenaean gold signet ring depicting a man with a branch approaching a building with a goat behind him intended for sacrifice 1500 BCE NAM Athens. I photographed this ring at "The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great" exhibit at the Chicago Field Museum.

Gold ring from grave IV of grave circle A at Mycenae 1500-1200 BCE courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Schuppi

National Archaeological Museum of Athens, NAMA 240: Gold ring from grave IV of grave circle A at Tiryns, 1500-1200 BCE courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Schuppi.


Archea Nemea, Corinthia, Greece: Mycenaean Gold Signet Ring MN 1005 showing a chariot. Part of the Repartriated Mycenaean Treasure of the Mycenaean cemetery of Aidonia in the Archaeological Museum of Nemea courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Schuppi.

Archea Nemea, Corinthia, Greece: Mycenaean Gold Signet Ring MN 1006 showing two woman holding flowers. Part of the Repartriated Mycenaean Treasure of the Mycenaean cemetery of Aidonia in the Archaeological Museum of Nemea courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Schuppi

Mycenaean gold seal ring, two lions tied to a pillar, said to be from Mycenae, 1700-1400 BCE, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Zde

A ring with a hunting scene from the Minoan and Mycenaean culture, around 1400 BCE. Gold, Historical Museum of Serbia. Inv. No. 50/A, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor M Todorovic

Gold ring with relief: Sitting Goddess and procession of seahorses. Mycenaean Late Bronze Age. Tiryns, 15th cent. BCE. National Archaeological Museum of Athens N 6208, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Zde.


 

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