Distant Deities, Central Places

Conference Paper

Session 3: Comparative Angles
Friday 2023-04-07
13:30 | 18:00

Minoan mountain peaks, sanctuaries and socio-political loci

Celine Murphy (Trinity College Dublin), 2023-04-07, Time: 15:20 - 16:00


In the Minoan period, Crete was host to a number of mountain sites today known as ‘peak sanctuaries’. Owing to their position on hostile or rugged terrain, often at a distance from large settlements, and due to the presence of thousands of ceramic drinking vessel and figurine fragments, these sites have been interpreted as extra-urban places of worship. The rudimentary appearance of the artefacts deposited at peak sanctuaries during their first period (Protopalatial) of use has led to the suggestion that they served as places of congregation for rural communities who did not have access to palatial or other urban shrines. A sudden shift in the quality of the deposited assemblages of the sites’ second period (Neopalatial) of use, however, has been regarded as indicative of their assimilation by the palaces as country satellites and of their adherence to ‘official’ religion.

Without contradicting this narrative, this paper more closely examines the use of the term ‘sanctuary’ in the description of these mountain sites while exploring how religion, its performance and material manifestation have been conceptualised in the context of the Minoan mountains. In highlighting the deep social, political and economic relevance of the assemblages through a technological and iconographical examination of a number of collections, I here propose a less binary view of urban and rural religion and ritual in Minoan Crete. In so doing, I moreover explore the theoretical and methodological ramifications that conceptualising these sites as peripheral, and thus subordinate, might bear, and subsequently propose how a more nuanced model, in which these mountain sites are attributed more influence, might shift our perception of their essence in both the Protopalatial and Neopalatial periods.


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