General Kurt Student (kneeling with map), the German airborne commander-in-chief, discusses the situation with staff officers. For the firtst few days, the German grip on Crete was tenuous in the extreme.
In the Minoan culture bulls were an important symbol, they make appearances in many of the famed Minoan frescoes that adorn the walls of their palaces and are featured in almost every form of art available. Walls, jewelry, vases, rhyta and statues often depict either the image of a bull or bull-leaping.
These vessels while they were used to dink from, they were also used in blood ceremonies. Afamous example of Cretan rhyton artistry is the Bull’s Head Rhyton found in the city of Knossos, dated c. 1450-1400 BC. The Bull’s head Rhyton was too heavy for casual use, weighing between 1 kg to 3 kg empty (2.2 - 6.6 lbs.) and so they are believed to have been used in rituals. This rhyta would’ve had liquids poured into its neck and when tilted, the liquids would pour out of its mouth.
It is believed that some of these rhyta were used for animal sacrifices in which they would carry the blood of the animal that was slain. Sometimes the vessels would be fashioned after the animal they would hold the blood of. This may point to the Bull’s Head rhyton’s use as a ritualistic vessel used in the sacrifice of bulls.
14th cent BC
(Right) Depicts cattle being prepared for sacrifice (Left) Depicts what appears to be a rhyta filled with blood being poured by women into an altar.
The Hagia Triada ‘Boxer Rhyton’ depicts boxing, wrestling and bull-leapers with one that appears to have been gored by the horns of a bull.
Bull head necklaces
“It is often interpreted as a depiction of a ritual performed in connection with bull worship. This ritual consists of an acrobatic leap over a bull; when the leaper grasps the bull’s horns, the bull will violently jerk his neck upwards giving the leaper the momentum necessary to perform somersaults and other acrobatic tricks or stunts. A difficult and dangerous acrobatic feat, bull-leaping is frequently shown in Minoan art, and probably formed a part of ritual activity.
The strength and potency of bulls perhaps lay behind their religious importance to the Minoans. It seems highly unlikely that an acrobat could grasp a bull’s horns and use the toss of its head to flip over onto its back, because of the unpredictability of the bull’s movements. Perhaps in reality the bulls were restrained or even tamed.
Certainly some Minoan representations show bulls being captured, tethered and led, as well as apparently being held by the horns. It is probable that the Minoans put considerable effort and long experience into the sport, and were able to achieve dramatic effects. Even so, the possibility of some artistic license in the representations should not be discounted.”
Bull leaping Fresco
The famous Bull-leaping fresco, from the palace at Knossos, depicts a critical moment in the event.
Some bull-leaping frescoes are seen as depicting a sequence of movements of a man leaping over a bull, while others are seen as two women (which were painted lighter) flanking a bull as the man somersaults /handsprings over it. Another view is that the woman on the left is holding the bull by the horns, possibly subduing it or holding it in place while the male at its center is balancing / hand standing on the bull’s back.
Minoan bull leaper
Crete, Minoan, about 1700-1450 BC
Object details Height: 11.1 cm Width: 4.7 cm Depth: 15 cm
“Different leaps are represented. In this version the leaper is somersaulting over the bull’s head and landing with both feet on its back.”
“Above, an ivory figurine of a bull leaper was probably part of a three-dimensional composition depicting bull-leaping. Recovered from Knossos, it dates to the New Palace period, ca. 1600–1500 BC.”
Interpretations and Opinions
- Decorative and metaphorical J. Alexander MacGillivray believes that these scenes are merely symbolic: “They suggest instead that the artistic depictions of bull- leaping are representations of a celestial drama. “Orion confronts Taurus, composed of the Hyades and Pleiades (the seven sisters), while Perseus somersaults with both arms extended over the bull’s back to rescue Andromeda.” Even if we were to suppose, reasonably, that the astrological traditions of the Near East were familiar to the Cretans, their existence alone would not be enough to dismiss bull-leaping as modern invention, or to read the scenes of bull-leaping as purely symbolic.”
- Cultural or religious event, maybe even as Sport “Younger (1995) classifies bull-leaping depictions as follows:
Type I: the acrobat approaches the bull from the front, grabs the horns, and somersaults backwards
Type II: the acrobat approaches the bull from the front, dives over the horns without touching them and pushes himself with his hands from the bull’s back into a backward somersault
Type III: the acrobat is depicted in mid-air over the bull’s back, facing the same way as the animal”
“They are taken as evidence that a “sport” of bull-leaping did occur. The conclusion of Younger’s study sums up the connection between artistic representations and the performances they recall:”
^Bull Leaping restoration, Evan’s Schema
“In conclusion, bull-leaping begins to appear in artistic representations toward the beginning of the Late Bronze Age in Crete and on the Mainland.”
“The main system of performance probably followed that of the Diving Leaper Schema.”
^Bull Leaping restoration, Diving Leaper
“When bull-leaping itself was discontinued, perhaps towards the close of the LB IIIA or the beginning of the LB IIIB period, ca. 1340 BC, later representations depicted the leaper in the floating pose (Type III), a pose not copied directly from the sport.” – John Younger
Are the Minoan depictions of Bull-leaping impossible? “The only compelling objection to the existence of real bull leaping, in fact, is the assertion that it is physically impossible, a claim often made in discussions of contemporary bull sports. Yet in the southwest of France, a version of bull-jumping is still practiced regularly in a form that is an almost exact parallel of the Minoan version: the course landaise.”
Course Landaise is a modern bull-leaping sport practiced mostly in Northern Spain and Southern France.
Similarities: • Athletes in course Landaise compete as a cuadrilla, or team, as in the Bull-Leaping Fresco. • Sauteur, or leapers, are usually young men, as is the leaper in the fresco. • In both instances, sauteurs leap directly over a charging bull. Differences: • Sauteurs do not quite handspring over the bull, as the athlete in the fresco does. They do, however, perform different sorts of flips. • The animals used in course Landaise are usually cows, not bulls.
Greece’s culture ministry has announced that work will begin on Monday to restore damage caused by illegal digging carried out by looters at the Zominthos archaeological site, on Mount Psiloritis on Crete. According to experts, there are signs that the site was vandalized and disturbed.
In an announcement issued on Sunday, the ministry reported damage in three of the 42 rooms uncovered by the official archaeological excavation. It said the illegal diggers had gone through the floor and destroyed a section of the southern wall of one room, that the base of a pillar found on the site had been moved and broken, while in rooms 35 and 26 there were signs of disturbance and illegal digging. (source).
Fashioned from hippopotamus-tusk ivory, gold, serpentine, and rock crystal, the figurine is a very early example of chryselephantine (gold-and-ivory) sculpture, a technique the Greeks would later use for their largest and costliest cult images. The Minoans probably imported the ivory and gold from Egypt, the source also of the pose with left foot advanced, but the style and iconography are unmistakably Cretan. The work is a creation of a sculptor of extraordinary ability who delighted in rendering minute details of muscles and veins. The Palaikastro youth stood alone in a shrine and therefore seems to have been a god rather than a mortal.