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Department of Archaeology


Miss Elena Soulioti

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Research Topic

The meaning and the function of symbolism in Minoan society. A contextual approach


Symbols have played an enormously important role in Minoan society. The use of symbols as conspicuous images of permanent display, as well as portable objects in ceremonial acts, is ubiquitous in the archaeological record and the Minoan iconography. Traditionally, the study of symbolic artifacts by Minoan researchers has been conducted in a way which tended to separate artefactual from iconographic evidence on one hand and to detach data from their contextual framework on the other.

My research focuses on a different approach which comprises of a systematic and all-encompassing recording of some of the most important symbolic motifs (double axe, horns of consecration, figure-of-eight shield, sacred knot, triton shell and the common shell) and the contextual study of their representatives in all artifact categories.

Through the application of this method I aim first to identify any emerging patterns which outline specific behaviours of the above symbols in their contexts and second to further interpret these patterns with the aid of a framework based on the interdisciplinary examination of the different approaches to the theory of symbolism, Peircian semiotics and cognitive theoretical models in material culture studies.

Sources of Material: The material under study derives from a sample of five sites in Eastern Crete (Zakros, Palaikastro, Gournia, Pseira, Mochlos) and a number of interrelated sites in North-Central Crete comprising Knossos and its territorial surroundings (from Poros-Katsambas port to Archanes and from Youhtas peak sanctuary to Arkalochori cave).