Exotica and the Early Minoan Elite: Eastern Imports in Prepalatial Crete

Saffron-gatherer from Xeste 3
Saffron-gatherer from Xeste 3

Eastern imports, including finished products, raw materials, and technologies, first appear in Crete in the Early Minoan (EM) II period. The relative inaccessibility of imports to Crete, and that they are found in clusters—sometimes in monumental tombs or associated with ritual objects—suggests that they were used in the creation and continued negotiation of elite identity. Although found primarily in mortuary contexts, these imports often show evidence of wear and sometimes repair, indicating that they were used during the lifetimes of their owners before being deposited in tombs. As many of these imports were used as bodily adornment, they were highly visible and may have taken on a performative role, especially during ceremonies or rituals. Several of the imports also draw on Eastern power symbols. Thus, as emblems, exotic imports were likely used by the Cretan emergent elite to distinguish themselves from the general population of the island and perhaps to align their new status with that of the ruling elite from powerful Eastern centers.

Related Articles: