Archaeology & Cephalopods

Headfoot

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Hello again and thanks for the warm welcome!
For those who asked: my avatar is Minoan in origin, a culture which I have been long interested in. The octopus was a very common theme in Minoan ceramics, metalwork, etc. It is not clear whether the Minoans viewed octos with any particular reverence, or simply depicted it often as a result of its commonality in the marketplace and on the dinner table. I would like to think the former, but who knows? The Minoans did not leave all that much in the way of mythical or religous texts to go by.
Oh, well. I like it, and I'm glad you do too...
 

Tentacular!

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Good stuff. (What little I know of) Minoan culture is pretty interesting. I believe some anthropologists have postulated that they were primarily matriarchal, goddess worshipping & very different to the civilizations that surrounded them. Their whole civilization got wiped out, as you say, leaving very little behind, so what remains is open to debate and interpretation

I've seen some etruscan pottery that has similar decoration. As you say, hard to know whether there is any deeper significance operating in choice of subject. I guess if we knew more about who used the pieces and in what context, we might have a better idea. Nice to imagine an ancient ceph cult though... :notworth: :tentacle:
 

Phil

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Thanks very much for the information. It would be interesting indeed to know if the octopus was indeed worshipped by the Minoans. As you say though, it seems more likely that the animal makes for wonderful decoration and is a very lively and interesting shape. (Methinks it is easy overinterpret and to read ritual significance into artifacts in order to provide an explanation. I'm sure often the explanation is much more simplistic. Sometimes a knife is just a knife; just because it is found in an unexpected location does not make it sacrificial......).

In the meantime, here is another octopus jar datable to about 1500 BC at the Heraklion Museum in Crete. It was found at the Knossos Palace:

Octopus Jar

Here's another:

Octopus Vase

Thanks for introducing these vases to the site. I had never heard of them and I don't think they have been mentioned before.

Cheers

Phil
 

Phil

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While we are at it, it's probably worth pointing out that the Romans were also fond of depictions of marine life, especially in town houses and villas on the Mediterranean coast and in Italy. Depictions of octopi and squid were not uncommon on motifs on mosaic floors.

Here is an example of an odd looking squid that is on display in the British Museum in London. I'm afraid I don't know the precise source of the mosaic though:

Sealife Mosaic at the British Museum

And a 2nd century Octopus mosaic from the Roman city of Mevania in Italy:

Octopus Mosaic

Beautiful stuff!
 

Melissa

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Phil

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Great pictures, Melissa.

I suppose it is quite possible that the Roman artist(s) who created that mosaic probably had only limited experience of the source matter. It’s almost as if they were drawn from verbal description excepting, of course, the capricorn. The animals depicted are rather stylised such as the octopus with six arms, an amusing looking shrimp/lobster, and a jellyfish that looks like a hot air balloon.

Here is another depiction of a squid, this time from an amazingly detailed and lifelike fresco from Pompeii. It seems that squid must have formed a common part of the diet in the Roman world for it to have been painted as part of a food larder.

Roman wall painting with a squid

It’s a pity that outside of Pompeii so few Roman wall paintings are known. In my home town, Dover in the UK, we have a Roman town house on display that was excavated in the early seventies. When the building was demolished in the late third century to make way for a Roman military fort, many of the rooms were back-filled by the Romans themselves. As the ‘Painted House’ as it is known was not exposed to the elements to decay, large sections of the interior wall surfaces have survived. Although there are no paintings as detailed as the one I have linked to above, there are nice images of deities, coloured panels, brooms and grapes often arranged in mock 3D effects. Most of these were quite gaudy and used strong colours mainly pink, greens and brown. The inside of a Roman villa to our modern tastes would have looked quite hideous!

Here’s a link if anyone would like to know a little about the building and paintings at this little known site, even if they are non-ceph related:

Roman Painted House at Dover
 

Headfoot

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:shock:
I had no idea what I started w/ this thread...
I loved all the links and pics... people don't know what they're missing w/o TONMO in their lives.
Mmmmm... Ceph cults.....
:notworth: :tentacle:
...But that's a different topic altogether...
 

Clem

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Headfoot said:
:shock:
I had no idea what I started w/ this thread...
Headfoot,

I'm glad you did. So glad, in fact, that with Phil's blessing I'm going to clone this thread for the "Culture & Entertainment" forum. As payment for your efforts, here's an ancient (circa 450 B.C.) coin from Syracuse.


Yours truly,

Clem
 

Clem

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Folks,

Here's Herakles in the Cup of Helios, off to "take care of" Geryon, with an octopus escort:



This decoration appears on an Attic cup circa 480 BCE. Herakles looks a little worried, doesn't he? Or is it sea-sickness?

Thanks again to Headfoot for starting this thread, and to Phil for giving his blessing to the thread's new home. (And, to TONMO for moving it.)

:notworth:

Clem
 

Phil

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That's a great image, Clem.

How about this, a Sicilian coin from Syracuse which dates to about 410BC:



By the way, do you think this topic should be named 'Cephalopods in Archaeology'? It seems to have grown somewhat.....
 

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