Friday 16 December 2005

Alexander MacGillivray
British School at Athens

Vignettes from The Minoan Book of the Dead: A new reading of the Minoan-Mycenaean gold rings

Axel Persson’s seminal 1939 Sather Lectures published as The Religion of Greece in Prehistoric Times (1942) remains the fundamental study of the scenes engraved in the tiny metal ring bezels recovered from Minoan and Mycenaean funerary contexts or recorded as ‘positive’ impressions on burnt palatial period sealings throughout the Aegean. Persson proposed that these scenes narrated temporal events linked to the seasons, which were allusions to important moments in the lives of members of the early Aegean pantheon.
I take Persson’s theory a step further and match many of these scenes with prayers, vows, hymns or incantations from the Pyramid and Coffin texts of the Early Dynastic and Middle Kingdom periods in Egypt, which formed the basis for the chapters of what became the great collection of sacred prayers known as the Book of Going Forth at Dawn, ie. Heliacle Rising or Renewal, to which modern Egyptologist Karl Lepsius gave the popular title: ‘The Egyptian Book of the Dead’.
My readings give positive identifications to the figures, their gestures and their actions, as well as the settings in which these tiny narratives are acted out. I introduce a whole new Minoan and Mycenaean cosmology, which shared many elements with Egyptian and Southwest Asian sacred texts and formed the basis for many of the myths, which the later Greeks associated with their mysteries and derived from Crete.


Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...