MYTHS OF CRETE & PRE-HELLENIC EUROPE
By DONALD A. MACKENZIE
THE GRESHAM PUBLISHING COMPANY LIMITED
66 CHANDOS STREET COVENT GARDEN LONDON
Growth of Cretan Culture and Commerce
Cretan Origin of Ægean Civilization--The Historic Periods--Cretan and Egyptian Chronologies --Egyptian Evidence of Early Shipping-- Pottery as Evidence of Racial Drifts--Asiatic Invasions--The Libyans and Early Cretans--Evidence of Imported Sea-shells--Physical Features of Crete--Prevailing Air-currents--Why Ægean Mariners sailed by Night--Homeric References to Night Voyages--Fertility of Crete--Its Natural Beauties--Life on Sea-coast and among the Mountains--Corn and Wine Harvests--Surplus Products for Early Commerce--Glimpses of Early Minoan Times--Relations with Egypt in Pyramid Period--Story of the Stone jars--Invention of Potter's Wheel--Borrowings from Egypt--Cretan Ceramic Development--Problem of Sea Routes--Cretans as Ha-nebu and Keftiu.
THE discoveries in Crete have proved conclusively that its pre-Hellenic culture was of great antiquity and local growth. It had developed with unbroken continuity from Neolithic times, and so pronounced was its individual character that it could borrow from contemporary civilizations without suffering loss of identity.
Cretan civilization was immensely older than Mycenæan. Indeed it had reached its "Golden Age" before Mycenæ assumed any degree of importance as a cultural centre. This fact has compelled archæologists to select a new name which could be appropriately applied to it. Professor Reisch favours "Ægean", and, all things considered, this generic term appears to be the most appropriate. It takes into account the obscure influences which were at work during the lengthy Neolithic Period, when independent communities were settled on various islands and on points on the mainland and had begun to trade one with another. The Island of Melos, for instance, as we have seen, was exporting obsidian and importing in exchange apparently the products of other localities. The influence of environment was directing into new lines the common form of culture derived from the North African homeland by the predominant race.
Mycenæan civilization is placed in its proper perspective by referring to it as a late stage of Ægean. On the other hand, Cretan was an early and local form of it. "In Crete", says Mr. H. R. Hall, "it first developed, then spreading northwards it absorbed the kindred culture of the islands, and perhaps the Peloponnese; then it won Central Greece north of the Isthmus from its probably alien aborigines, becoming there 'Mycenæan', and finally, when its own end was near, forced its way into Thessaly, having already reached the Troad in one direction, Cyprus (and Philistia later) in another, Sicily and Messapia in another." 1
Sir Arthur Evans has divided the history of Ægean civilization in Crete into three main periods, named after the legendary king, or Dynasties of kings, called Minos. These are:
Each of these periods has also been divided into three stages: Early Minoan I, Early Minoan II, Early Minoan III, and so on to Late Minoan III.
The Minoan Age begins with the introduction of bronze, which occurred, however, long after Ægean civilization had assumed distinctive form. Crete was then able to borrow and adapt to its own use the inventions of other countries, and yet maintain the individuality of its local institutions and art products. The introduction of bronze stimulated its industries, but caused no more change in its national characteristics than has been effected in China by the introduction of electric lighting in our own day.
Cretan archæologists as a whole are agreed as to the order and relative duration of the various historic periods, and most of them have adopted the system of Sir Arthur Evans. Nor do they differ greatly regarding the approximate dating of these. It has even been found possible, although the local script cannot yet be read, to frame a provisional chronological system based on the Berlin system of minimum dating, so as to fit the story of Crete into the history of the ancient world. Important clues have been forthcoming in this connection. From an early period trading relations existed between the island kingdom and the Delta coast, and various manufactured articles were consequently exchanged, as well as wheat and barley, oil and skins, and other perishable goods. The discovery in the deposits assigned to different and well-marked historic phases, of Egyptian products in Crete and Cretan products in Egypt, has made it possible for archæologists to ascertain which periods in either country were contemporaneous.
"With the help of Egyptian synchronisms", writes Mr. H. R. Hall, "we know that the Minoan civilization was nearly, if not quite, as old as the Egyptian. . . . If we date the beginnings of Egyptian history about 3500 B.C., we have not long to wait before we find indisputable traces of connection between Egypt and Crete." 2
Early Minoan I begins, therefore, some time after the legendary Pharaoh Mena united by conquest Upper and Lower Egypt and founded the First Dynasty, and before the great pyramids near Cairo were erected. About the same period the Sumerian civilization of Babylonia was beginning to flourish, and the Hatti tribe of the Hittite confederacy had established itself in Anatolia.
Early Minoan II extended from about the period of the Fourth to that of the Sixth Egyptian Dynasty: that is from the Pyramid Age till the close of the Old Kingdom Period.
Early Minoan III covers the dark age of early Egyptian history extending from the Seventh till the Eleventh Dynasties.
Middle Minoan I commenced early in the Eleventh Dynasty Period. Middle Minoan II flourished during the part of the Twelfth and part of the Thirteenth Dynasties; and Middle Minoan III came to an end during the early period of the Hyksos occupation of Egypt.
The Late Minoan Period was the "Golden Age" of Crete. It began before the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt, and attained its highest splendour during the Eighteenth Egyptian Dynasty. During Late Minoan II, Thothmes III of Egypt received gifts from the island kingdom as well as from the Hittites.
Late Minoan III was an age of decline. Foreigners were in occupation of Crete, and the mainland towns of Tiryns and Mycenæ were flourishing and influential. Ægean civilization had thus reached the Mycenæan stage. Iron was coming into use; the sixth city of Troy had been built. It was the Age of Homer's heroes. At the close of the Mycenæan period of the Ægean Age the northern conquerors of Greece were inaugurating the Hellenic era. "The so-called miracle of the rise of Hellenism, early in the first millennium B.C., is to be explained", writes Mr. D. G.
Hogarth, "by the re-invigoration of aboriginal societies settled for long previous ages in the Ægean area, and possessed of an ancient tradition and instinct of culture. . . . This process was chiefly due to the blood and influence of an immigrant population of less impaired vigour, which had long been cognizant of and participant in the mid-European culture, and was itself, both in origin and development, related to the elder society of the Ægean area." 3
At what period Crete began to trade with Egypt it is as yet impossible to ascertain with certainty. Professor Flinders Petrie 4 found, in the lowest levels of the temple at Abydos, black pottery which he concluded came from Crete on account of its close resemblance to fragments discovered by Sir Arthur Evans in the Late Neolithic deposits of Knossos. He also characterized as Ægean several vases and pieces of painted pottery discovered in tombs of the First Dynasty. He maintained further that the Cretan and other foreign imports were brought to Egypt in the galleys depicted on pre-Dynastic vases.
This view has not found general acceptance. It has been urged that the galleys were ordinary Nile boats. "They have deck shelters", writes Mr. Hall, "just like the model funerary boats of the Middle Kingdom tombs, and they carry women on board. On one vase a woman is depicted waiting, with her hands above her head; it may well be that they actually represent the ferry boats of the dead. They carry purely Egyptian emblems. Now, we know of the Egyptians that they were never seafarers; they disliked the sea, and they held the seafaring inhabitants of the Delta coast in abomination: it was never the Egyptians who went to Crete in the early days or later. . . . Finally, the boats are represented amid ostriches, oryxes, mountains, and palm-trees: that is to say, they are sailing on the Nile with the desert hills and their denizens on either hand." 5
All that seems certain in this connection is that shipping was already well advanced in pre-Dynastic times. There is no evidence to show whether the seafarers on the Delta coast, or in Crete, possessed superior galleys to those used by the navigators of the Nile. No doubt they did. The Cretans who went to Melos for obsidian must have found it necessary to build galleys capable of withstanding the buffetings of wind and wave in the Ægean Sea. In fact, the early settlers could not have reached Crete unless they had superior craft to the prehistoric dahabeeyahs and feluccas of the Nile. It is possible, therefore, as Professor Flinders Petrie thinks, that oil and skins were carried across the Mediterranean from Crete in pre-Dynastic times, and exchanged for the corn and beans of Egypt. But on this point the evidence afforded by the pottery cannot be held to be conclusive.
The dark pottery with geometric designs belongs to a class of widespread distribution. Specimens with similar decorations, but of different texture, have been found as far apart as Anau by the Pumpelly expeditions, which conducted important researches in Russian and Chinese Turkestan, at Susa, the ancient capital of Elam, in Persia, at Hittite sites at Sakje Geuzi in North Syria, in Cappadocia and Boghaz'köi, and at points in the Balkan Peninsula. The black pottery of pre-Dynastic Egypt and Neolithic Crete may, therefore, have come from Anatolia. Some hold, indeed, that it has an ethnic significance.
MAGAZINE OF JARS AND KASELLES, KNOSSOS
The Jars ("pithoi") are made of decorated earthenware and are of huge size. The "kaselles" are the small square openings in the floor of the magazine, evidently used at one time for storage purposes.
Mr. Pumpelly's view is that the Central Asian oases were the sources of Western Asiatic culture, but the evidence he brings forward in this connection is of somewhat slight character and hardly justifies his theory that Egypt and Babylonia derived their knowledge how to grow barley and wheat, and actually received certain breeds of domesticated animals, from this part of the world. As we have seen, cattle were domesticated in southern France in the Aurignacian period of the Palæolithic Age, before the Fourth Glacial Epoch.
Mr. Pumpelly 6 has, however, demonstrated that climatic changes which took place in the Transcaspian oasis caused the early civilization, of which he discovered important traces, to vanish entirely. The "Kurgans" were buried by drifting sand, and the agriculturists and pastoralists had therefore to migrate in search of "fresh woods and pastures new". It may be that their movements are indicated by the various finds of black pottery. Communities of the wanderers may have settled in Elam and Anatolia, and drifted into Egypt through Syria, and towards Crete through the Balkans. Professor Elliot Smith says that "a definitely alien strain made its appearance in the people of Egypt during the Early Dynastic period, and left its indelible impress in their physical traits for all time. The heterogeneous features appear in a form so pronounced as to justify the positive assertion that the alien element in the mixture was neither Egyptian nor did it belong to any of the kindred peoples. It was something quite foreign and certainly Asiatic in origin--that variety which Von Luschan has called Armenoid." 7 If the Anatolian "broad-heads" were the distributors of the black pottery obtained from the cast, representatives of their stock may have reached Crete as well as Egypt before the introduction of metal-working. The evidence obtained from graves shows that they were pressing westward into Europe long before the close of the Neolithic Period, although not in such great numbers as in the Copper and Bronze Ages.
Another view of the problem has been urged by Dr. Duncan Mackenzie. He considers it probable that while the Libyans were developing the black-topped style of pottery "the allied Neolithic people of the Ægean, in a wider European context, were creating the peculiar style of black hand-polished ware typical, for that early period, of the Ægean. Well on in this Neolithic epoch", he says, "must come the Egyptian-looking black-topped ware found in the Copper Age tombs of Cyprus, whose significance in this connection was first pointed out by Furtwangler as being a new indication of race connection between the Egyptian and East Mediterranean of that period, and of a northward movement of the Libyan race consequent upon, and caused by, the first appearance of the Egyptians proper in the Nile land. If, as is likely, this northward movement began before the Ægean civilization had attained to such consistency in itself and such influence outwards as could have had any definite echo in Egypt, then we should have sufficient explanation of the fact that of imported remains in Egypt none from the Ægean region go back to this early period." 8 The pottery with geometric designs found by Professor Flinders Petrie at Abydos may therefore have come from North Africa.
It will thus be seen that the problem as to whether Crete traded with Egypt in Late Neolithic and the earliest Minoan times must be left in the realm of conjecture. What seems certain, however, is that the island kingdom received cultural influences directly or indirectly either from North Africa or Anatolia at an early period in its history. This could not have occurred without navigation being well advanced. But, although such a conclusion seems highly probable, it would be rash to build upon it in absence of direct evidence regarding the existence of the regular and constant exchange of commodities, and the influence which would consequently be exercised in the development of art. "We can hardly as yet", writes Mr. H. R. Hall, "speak of relations between Egyptian and Ægean Art in Neolithic days, though it is by no means certain that such relations did not then exist, especially since there is a probability that the Ægean civilization was ultimately derived, in far-away Neolithic times, from that of Egypt, or rather from one of the primitive elements that went to form Egyptian culture." 9 It should be mentioned, however, that a piece of ivory was found in Neolithic strata at Phæstos, in Crete. It may have come from Egypt. Shells have also been discovered by Italian archæologists in the caves of Liguria, which do not belong to the north Mediterranean coast, but are common along the Libyan coast. These are wave-worn and were probably carried to Italy by early navigators, but whether these were Neolithic or Early Minoan Cretans is uncertain.
The makers of pottery with geometric designs must have regarded sea-washed Crete as a veritable Paradise, whether they came from Libyan grasslands fringing yellow desert, or the Delta region with its seasonal plagues, or from the uplands of Anatolia where in winter the passes are often snow-blocked. Quite a variety of climates is offered by the picturesque island, with its great mountain spine fretted by peaks which rise from 5000 to 8000 feet above the sea-level, its sloping forests of pine and oak and chestnut, and its sheltered valleys where grow the olive and fig and vine. A sharp contrast is afforded by even its northern and southern shores, especially in winter, when the former is chilled by bleak winds from the mainland, and the latter is as balmy as the North African coast. During the greater part of the year the prevailing winds blow alternately from the north-east and north-west, and from the south-west and the south. The northern winds, ever welcomed through the ages in Egypt, attain greatest velocity in late winter and whiten the mountains of Crete with the snows they retain until July, while the currents from the south come chiefly during the months of autumn and early winter. Easterly and westerly breezes are invariably light and of short duration. "The cold current rushing over the easy north slope of the Balkan, and through the Rumelian gap, gathers force", writes Mr. D. G. Hogarth, 10 "as it nears the African vacuum. Local relief shelters the Adriatic coasts, and to some extent western Macedonia, Thessaly, and Botia; but Attica receives a full draught through the depression between its low hills, Pentelicus and Hymettus; and the isles, especially Crete, are scourged to such purpose that the higher vegetation in many districts will only grow in triangular patches to southward of sheltering rocks. The counter-current blows off the Sahara with terrific energy for almost as many days annually as the steppe wind; but the high relief of Crete breaks its force from the Ægean, and it is on the slopes of the White Mountains, Kedros, Psiloriti and Lasithi, and the western coasts and isles of Greece that it expends the most of its storms and rains." The north wind, however, brings more moisture to the peninsula. But the rainfall diminishes towards the south) "till little is left to Attica or the Cyclad isles but a hard cold current of more bracing and stimulating sort for the healthy human frame than is found anywhere else in the area of the Nearer East".
Between July and September the north-east or northwest wind falls in the late afternoon, and then "the overheated land begins to suck a current off the cooler sea--that familiar inbat breeze which, after a short interval of stillness following midday, sets the caiques dancing in every Levantine harbour". At midnight the land breeze commences to blow seaward.
Early navigators among the isles must have soon learned to take advantage of morning and evening breezes as they passed from harbour to harbour with their commodities.. In the Odyssey 11 the wanderer Odysseus spends his last day among the Phæacians on the isle of Scheria longing for the sun to set.
He to the radiant sun
Turned wistful eyes, anxious for his decline.
After supper he was escorted to the vessel which was to convey him to Ithaca. Ere the port was cleared he "silent laid him down", and when the rowers
With lusty strokes upturned the flashing waves,
His eyelids, soon, sleep, falling as a dew,
All night long the vessel sped like a falcon, "swiftest of the fowls of heaven".
The brightest star of heaven, precursor chief
Of day-spring, now arose, when at the isle
(Her voyage soon performed) the bark arrived. 12
Telemachus also sails at midnight, when
blue-eyed Pallas from the west
Called forth propitious breezes; fresh they curled
The sable deep, and, sounding, swept the waves . . .
A land breeze filled the canvas . . .
Thus all night long the galley, and till dawn,
Had brightened into day, cleared swift the flood. 13
In early spring navigation is perilous in the Ægean, and even in summer winds may veer suddenly without warning. It was a meltem or summer gale that caused the ship on which St. Paul was being carried to Italy to meet with disaster. The "south wind blew softly", and "they sailed close by Crete". 14 Then arose "a tempestuous wind called Euroclydon", a hard north-eastern which comes in violent gusts and covers the heaving bays with sheets of foam. "And when the ship was caught," says the Biblical narrative, "and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive." The meltem was encountered by the captain of the vessel, who paid so little heed to St. Paul's warning, in late autumn, when, as was wonted to be said, "sailing was now dangerous because the fast was now already past". 15
Classic legends of heroes who were shipwrecked like Odysseus, and of sea monsters and syrens, are eloquent of the perils which the sea rovers of the Ægean confronted with unflinching courage and increasing skill wrung from hard experience. But as man has ever achieved greatest progress when confronted by difficulties, the islanders became the first traders on the Mediterranean. They were lauded for their seamanship in song and story--those self-confident men so proud and cold, of whom the goddess Athene spoke to Odysseus, the wanderer, when on the Island of Scheria:
Mark no man; question no man; for the sight
Of strangers is unusual here, and cold
The welcome by this people shown to such.
They, trusting in swift ships, by the free grant
Of Neptune traverse his wide waters, borne
As if on wings, or with the speed of thought. 16
In early Minoan times Crete must have proved as attractive to settlers as it did to traveller Lithgow in 1609, when, describing the plain of Khania, in the north-west, he wrote: "Trust me, I told along these rocks at one time, and within my sight, some sixty-seven villages; but when I entered the valley, I could not find a foote of ground unmanured, save a narrow passage way wherein I was, the olives, pomegranates, dates, figges, oranges, lemmons, and pomi del Adamo, growing all through other, and at the rootes of which trees grew wheate, malvasie, muscadine, leaticke wines, grenadiers, carnobiers, mellones, and all other sortes of fruites, and hearbes the earth can yeld to man, that for beauty, pleasure and profit it may easily be surnamed the garden of the whole universe, being the goodliest plot, the diamond sparke, and the honeyspot of all Candy (Crete). There is no land more temperate for ayre, for it hath a double spring tyde; no soyle more fertile, and therefore it is called the combat of Bacchus and Ceres; no region or valley more hospitable, in regard of the sea having such a noble haven cut through its bosome, being as it were the very resting-place of Neptune."
The year is divided into three seasons. After the gales and rainstorms of Winter comes in March a luxuriant and balmy Spring, when fragrant and many-coloured wild flowers, anciently sacred to the Earth Mother, bloom everywhere in great profusion. Flocks and herds that were "wintered" in the valleys are driven once again to the uplands, where rich fresh herbage springs up in abundance. Rivers and streams flash in the sunshine; torrents leap gladly among the rocks, and the sound of falling waters mingles with the constant hum of insects and the songs of melodious birds. In April turtle doves are numerous in passage; in Crete as in Egypt and Babylonia they were associated in other days with the goddess of love.
When the grey dusk blots out the splendour of sunset, and the olive warblers are silenced in the olive groves, the nightingale's sweet "jug-jug" and clear pensive carol ripples through the shadowy woodlands. The shepherd who has ascended the mountain slopes to his summer shelter does not hear the songster of night, but at dawn he is awakened by the wise thrush which "sings its song twice over", and ere long in the growing brightness his heart rejoices to hear once again the full-throated chorus of blackbirds and linnets and woodlarks in leafy woods. where silent lizards come out to listen to the pipes of Pan, where rough satyrs dance merrily, and wide-eyed nymphs peer shyly through congregated trees and whispering water reeds at the human intruders of their solitudes. Higher up the slopes are scented pine-woods that murmur in the breeze like the everlasting sea. Spring comes slowly up this way. Beyond the forest zone the snow retreats grudgingly, and is replaced by the bright foliage of Alpine plants in sheltered nooks, and especially on the southern mountain face. When the glistening diadem of snow is robbed from Mount Ida, and no storm-cloud comes nigh, its bald crest looms greyly across the blue Mediterranean.
There are villages on bracing upland valleys, and in these the present-day descendants of the ancient Cretans lead simple and secluded lives, like the earliest pastoralists. Herding their flocks, they climb shelves of rasping rock, wearing the quaint skin boots with protruding heel and toe pieces that were invented by their remote ancestors. Hither may have come by preference many of the booted Anatolians who were attracted to the island in Minoan times. In midsummer, when the valleys beneath are parched with heat, and their fields and gardens must needs be irrigated, a temperate climate prevails on the plateaus. The nights are cool and refreshing, and amidst the hushed silence of the mountains the voices of men who guard their flocks can be heard calling from great distances through the rarefied air, when the Sphakiots, who claim to be descendants of the Dorians, come to raid the sheepfolds.
It is on these uplands, where Artemis still cares for her nimble-footed herds, that the greatest activity is displayed in Spring-time and early Summer. In the rich alluvial valleys the small farmers have not much else to do than to survey their growing crops. Their fields were ploughed and sown before the "storm season" came on, and they secured ample nourishment from the drenching rains. The harvest falls in May on these lower grounds, but on the uplands it cannot be gathered in before July. After crops are threshed and stored, the fruit is ripe for plucking; then grape juice flows crimson from the wine press, and sweet oil from golden olives.
In ancient times Crete yielded a rich surplus of its products which was available for purposes of trade. Ships were loaded with skins and wine and oil, dried fish and sponges, dried fruits and sacks of barley, which were bartered for the commodities of other lands. The seamen visited island after island in the Ægean sea, and they ventured westward to Sicily; the mainland of Greece was but a day's journey; eastward lay the shores of Anatolia, where the second city of Troy had rich gifts to offer in exchange for heavy cargoes. In time Egypt attracted the fearless mariners. It lay towards the south-east, and when favourable winds were blowing could be reached in the space of two or three days. They may have heard of this rich and wonderful land on the Syrian coast, or perhaps there were Cretan traditions regarding it. Birds that flew thither may have guided them. In the story of Uenuamen, the Egyptian emissary who was forced to remain in Cyprus, that melancholy man laments, gazing across the sea, "Seest thou not the birds which fly, which fly back unto Egypt? Look at them; they go unto the cool canal. And how long do I remain abandoned here!" 17 Let us follow the island mariners to the homeland of their ancestors, voyaging in the track of migrating birds.
In the Cretan period, Early Minoan I, is embraced the Third Egyptian Dynasty (C. 2980-2900 B.C.). A change had taken place in the administration of Egypt, Pharaoh Zoser having transferred his court from the south to Memphis, the London of the Nile Valley. He was the builder of the first pyramid-the step pyramid of Sakkara; and his activities extended to Sinai, whither he sent annual expeditions to work the copper mines. Early Cretan traders must have returned home with wonderful stories of his great achievements. But they were doubtless more greatly impressed by the tireless Pharaoh Sneferu, who did so much to strengthen and consolidate united Egypt. He battled against Asian hordes which invaded the Delta region, constructed roads there, and fortified strategic points on the eastern frontier. This monarch built great river vessels for purposes of trade and defence, some of which were over a hundred and seventy feet long. As he also dispatched on one occasion, as he duly recorded, a fleet of forty ships to the Syrian coast to obtain cedars from Lebanon, it is evident that Mediterranean navigation had been well advanced ere his time. He may have been not only familiar with the achievements of Cretan mariners, but perhaps even employed them.
Sneferu was the last king of his line. The Fourth Dynasty (c. 2900-2750 B.C.) produced the stern and masterful Pharaohs--Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura--who erected the immense pyramids near Cairo. In this Age imposing royal statues were carved from material as hard as diorite, that of Khafra being one of the triumphs of Egyptian art.
Direct evidence of Crete's connection with Egypt during this, the Old Kingdom, period is of scanty character. It is not to be wondered, however, that such should be the case. The marvel is that any traces at all should survive of trading relations conducted at such a remote period.
To emphasize the importance of the few significant finds that have enabled the Sherlock Holmeses of Archæology to prove that such relations did exist, it should be explained that after copper came into use in Egypt, fine stone working became possible, and developed rapidly. The invention of the copper drill enabled workmen to construct shapely bowls, vases, jars, platters, and other vessels of porphyry, diorite, alabaster, and other suitable stones. Craftsmen took evident delight in their handiwork. In one of the tomb scenes, two of them are depicted squatting on the ground drilling out stone vessels. The artist imparted to their faces an expression of self-conscious reserve which suggests that they were accustomed to hear their praises sounded and took pride in their skill. Hieroglyphics placed between the figures record a characteristic conversation. "This is a very beautiful vessel," says one, and his comrade replies, "It is, indeed." 18
These stone vessels were in great demand, and displaced in the market the rough hand-made pottery, which consequently deteriorated in quality; evidently it was manufactured chiefly for sale to the poorer classes, and) as burial rites have ever been of conservative character, to be placed in graves. The same thing happened in Crete after the introduction of metal. There, too, stone vessels caused much unemployment among the potters, and less skill was displayed by those who supplied cheap vessels of baked clay to a declining market.
It is of special interest to find in this connection that the Cretan stone vases among Early Minoan relics show points of resemblance to those of Egypt. The most important evidence, however, is derived from strata of Middle Minoan I. Some fragments of carinated bowls belonging to this period resemble closely characteristic Egyptian carinated bowls of the Third and Fourth Dynasties. The Cretan vessels were made of Liparite imported from the Lipari islands, which are situated to the north of Sicily, and were apparently visited by the adventurous mariners of Crete in Early Minoan times. No doubt can remain that these Cretan bowls were copies of Egyptian models, and these were probably carried direct from the land of the Pharaohs.
The copper drill, which filled the hearts of Egyptian potters with despair, was in time surpassed by a more wonderful mechanical contrivance, which ultimately restored the prestige and popularity of their ancient craft.
EARLY MINOAN POTTERY, INCLUDING EXAMPLES WITH "BEAK" OR "TEAPOT SPOUTS"
Sometime during the Fourth Dynasty, when the industries were being stimulated by the Pyramid -building activities of the Pharaohs, and inventive minds were constantly directed towards the solution of difficult problems with purpose to simplify and expedite the work of construction, an ingenious craftsman produced the potter's wheel. He was probably a citizen of busy Memphis. As much is suggested by the fact that the new invention was afterwards associated with Ptah, the god of that city, and his southern form, Khnumu, of the First cataract colony of artisans. These deities were depicted shaping the sun and moon and the first man and woman on the potter's wheel. The discoveries and inventions of pious worshippers were always attributed to the culture deity.
As the shapely products of the potter's wheel had to be burned with more care than the old hand-made articles, the problem of firing was solved by the introduction of the enclosed furnace. Results were then obtained which placed the workmanship of the stone-vessel workers in the shade. One can imagine the proud inventor carrying his wonderful jars and vases to the royal palace to receive the congratulations of the Pharaoh, and perhaps a decoration of which he was richly deserving.
The new pottery attained speedy and widespread popularity. Both in Egypt and Crete the potters first imitated the vessels of stone and metal. Indeed the Early Minoan workers, when they decorated their productions, painted imitation rivets on the handles. The Cretan Schnabelkannen (vase form), with "beak spout", "bridge spout", or "teapot spout", had been evidently modelled on similar copper and stone vases of the Egyptian Old Kingdom Period. Trading relations between the Cretans and the Nilotic peoples must therefore have been of a direct and intimate character.
But although Crete thus borrowed from Egypt, just as any modern country may borrow an invention from another, its civilization maintained its strictly local character. It was because the island craftsmen had attained a high degree of skill that they were able to adopt new methods, and contribute to the general growth of culture. They were not mere imitators who slavishly copied the methods of their neighbours. Their own inventions were in turn borrowed by others.
The study of Cretan pottery shows that its culture was of local growth and that development was not due merely to outside influence, although outside influences may have at periods provided the stimulus which caused craftsmen to produce something new and improve upon what was being done elsewhere. The spirit of rivalry involved has ever made for progress.
Dr. Duncan Mackenzie, who has acted as Sir Arthur Evans's "lieutenant" in Crete, and is "the chief authority on Early Cretan pottery", as Professor Burrows says, 19 was the first to deal with the development of ceramic art of the island in a manner which has thrown much light on the growth of its civilization. The American and Italian archæologists acknowledge freely his influence and example as an accurate observer, and constantly refer to his "masterly analysis" of Knossian ceramic art. He has woven a wonderful narrative from the collection of fragments dug out of the soil, setting in order what had for so long been confused and obscure. 20
Trial pits were sunk at various points on the hill of Knossos and inside the palace, with purpose to ascertain the contents and depth of the Neolithic stratum. It was found that the average thickness from the virgin soil upwards was about six metres, the greatest being eight. In the lowest layer, fragments were obtained of a "sooty grey" pottery which had been hand-polished outside and inside. The primitive potters made vessels of rough shape from poorly sifted clay, which had neither necks nor differentiated bases: there was no decoration. The second metre yielded a similar ware, but a few fragments were found to be ornamented with geometrical designs, the V-shaped zigzag being either filled in with or surrounded by dots. Some authorities believe that this geometric motive is of northern origin. It appears on Late Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery in our own country and throughout the continent.
In the third and fourth metres a small percentage of the fragments are incised. Then in the fifth metre appears a new development. The incised geometric designs are found to be filled with gypsum or chalk. Here begins the "light on dark" ornamentation of Cretan pottery. This style of pottery has been found in the first stratum of Troy and also in Egypt. Whether it was imported into the Nile Valley from Crete or Asia Minor is, however, uncertain. The evidence afforded indicates either a racial drift from some cultural centre, or the existence of commercial connections between widely separated districts at a remote period in the Neolithic Age. The interval represented by this stratum was of a lengthy duration.
Another new development occurs in the fifth metre. The commonest primitive ware, which shows gradually improving workmanship, is no longer wholly plain. After the vessels were polished, some of the potters began to decorate them with waved rills which gave a rippling aspect to the surface. This style of ornamentation increased in popularity during the period represented by the sixth metre, and was not only effected on the outsides of vessels, but also inside the jutting rims.
We now approach the close of the Neolithic Period.
The pottery increases in quantity, and among the new forms which appear are cups which are evidently the prototypes of the Kamares vessels of a later age.
In the seventh metre we are in the period of transition between the Stone and Bronze Ages. It comes up to the level of the floor of the first Knossian palace, and as the ground was levelled before this building was erected, the eighth metre of the Early Minoan Period appears to have been swept away. Fragments of it may have become mixed with those in the seventh stratum.
The seventh metre is of special interest because it contains the earliest specimens of painted ware. The potters who ornamented their vessels with white-filled geometric incised designs, began to paint them instead. This departure opened up endless possibilities of development. At first the early zigzags were imitated, but in time new decorative motives evolved, and then came a free use of various colours, with variations of "light on dark" and "dark on light" designs. Varnish was also used to give a more lustrous surface than was obtained by hand-polishing. This early painted and varnished ware was hand-made. In the Latest Neolithic Period, however, the clay was finely sifted and well baked. Instead of being dark, like the earlier productions, it was of a bright brick-red colour. Apparently the enclosed furnace had come into use in Crete before the introduction of the potter's wheel. It was when the potters succeeded in baking this red ware that the "dark on light" designs came into use.
At Phæstos similar results were forthcoming from a pit sunk below the palace floor. The hill had been levelled prior to the erection of the palace, and only 5½ metres of the strata remained. "I was able", writes Mosso, who conducted this excavation, "to confirm the result of Dr. Mackenzie's investigation of the black pottery upon the virgin soil being plain.
THE "HARVESTER VASE" (STONE) FOUND AT AGHIA TRIADHA
(See full description in Chapter XII)
A little higher appears pottery with decoration of punctured dots and lines. In a later period the decoration of the pottery becomes more complex; imitation of basket-work is found, and the deeply incised lines are filled with white chalk. The vases become more elegant, and have decoration in white on a black ground. This pottery is identical with that found in the Troad and in Sicily." 21
When Cretan pottery attained its highest development in the Middle Minoan Period, it found a ready market in Egypt, which never produced ware so richly coloured or elaborately ornamented. In another direction the Cretans also surpassed their teachers. This was in the carving of vessels of stone. The island craftsmen began by imitating Nilotic forms, but used a softer material which allowed their artists freer play. The greatest surviving triumph of Cretan decoration on stone is the so-called Harvester vase from Aghia Triadha, near Phæstos. With consummate skill the artist depicted upon it a procession of men marching four deep, who are evidently taking part in some ceremony. One of the figures holds in his right hand an Egyptian sistrum, and is followed by a number of lusty singers. The drawing is entirely devoid of Egyptian conventionalism, and possesses a degree of naturalism which is typically Cretan. It is a spirited impression of an emotional group of human beings, and strikes quite a modern note. These stone vases were manufactured in Crete long after the new pottery had displaced stone and metal vessels as articles of everyday use. It is believed they were covered with thin layers of gold, and could have been purchased only by wealthy persons.
Another direct connection between Egypt and Crete is the button seal. It came into use in Crete during the Early Minoan II and III Periods. Mr. H. R. Hall thinks it passed from the island to the Nile valley, where the cylinder seal had long been the popular form. Sir Arthur Evans, on the other hand, is inclined to regard it as being of Delta origin. Be that as it may, there can be no doubt it is a relic of direct trade oversea between the two peoples.
The interesting problem here arises: By what route did the Cretans navigate their vessels to the Egyptian coast? One view is that they sailed across the open sea to the Libyan coast and the Delta, and another that their route was along the Asiatic coast by Cyprus. Mr. H. R. Hall has pointed out in this connection that the Mediterranean tribes "who attacked Egypt in the reign of Rameses III actually did take the longer route". He grants that single ships might have directly crossed the sea. but says that "the probability remains that the longer and safer route was the original one by which connection was first established, and that it was not until the approximate position of either Egypt or Sicily was well known that the direct route could be first dared". 22
It is probable that the Cretan mariners first came into touch with the coast population of Egypt, who were known as the Haau, that is, "fen men" or "swamp men". They were a seafaring folk, and were regarded by the Dynastic Egyptians as aliens. The magical spells of the "Book of the Dead" were forbidden to them. About the time of the Sixth Dynasty references are made to the Ha-nebu, which meant "all the northerners". In the Eighteenth Dynasty it was applied to signify the Anatolians and the inhabitants of Greece. The early Cretans may have been called the Ha-nebu also. A more direct and later term applied to them was the Keftiu. Maspero has suggested that Keftiu signified the people and Keftiu the land. According to Hall, Keftiu is the same expression as Kefti, "signifying 'at the back of', or 'behind'; i.e. the land Keftiu. was the 'hinterland', the 'Back of Beyond' to the Egyptians". 23 In the Bible Crete is referred to as Caphtor.
Figures of the Keftiu in Egyptian tombs of the Empire Period are typically Cretan, with wasp waists and girdle and Minoan kilt, and hair falling over the shoulders in pleated tails. They carry vessels of Cretan shape with characteristic decorations. Towards the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty the racial designation Keftiu drops out of use, and names of tribes are given. By that time the island had been overrun by conquerors from the mainland who sacked and destroyed the palaces and overthrew the Knossian Dynasty.
1 The Journal of Egyptian Archæology, Vol. I, p. iii (April, 1914).
2 The Journal of Egyptian Archæology, Vol. I, pp. 111, 112 (April, 1914).
3 Ionia and the East, p. 99 (1909).
4 Abydos, Vol. II, p. 38.
5 Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. XXV., pp. 321 et seq.
6 See also The Pulse of Asia, by Professor Huntington, a member of the staff of the Pumpelly Expedition in Turkestan.
7 The Ancient Egyptians, pp. 95, 96.
8 Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. XXIII, pp. 155 et seq.
9 Journal of Egyptian Archæology, Vol. I, p. 110, and Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. XXV, p. 337.
10 The Nearer East, pp. 99 et seq.
11 Book XIII.
12 Cowper's translation.
13 Odyssey, Book II (Cowper's translation), 530-53.
14 Acts, xxvii.
15 Ibid., xxvii, 9. The fast was the great day of atonement in the month of September.
16 Odyssey, Book VII (Cowper's translation), 39-44.
17 King and Hall's Egyptian and Western Asia in the Light of Recent Discoveries, p. 430.
18 Breasted's translation, A History of Egypt, p. 96.
19 The Discoveries in Crete, p. 48.
20 Journal of Hellenic Studies, XXIII and subsequent volumes.
21 Palaces of Crete, p. 25.
22 The Annual of the British School at Athens, VIII, pp. 157-8.
23 The Annual of the British School at Athens, VIII, pp. 159-60.