The Palaikastro Kouros
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The Palaikastro Kouros is a
chryselephantine Chryselephantine sculpture (from Greek language, Greek grc, χρυσός, chrysós, gold, label=none, and grc, ελεφάντινος, elephántinos, ivory, label=none) is sculpture made with gold and ivory. Chryselephantine cult statues enjo ...
statuette of a male youth (''
kouros , A kouros ( grc, κοῦρος, , plural kouroi) is the modern term given to free-standing ancient Greek sculptures that first appear in the Archaic period in Greece Archaic Greece was the period in Greek history The history of Greece enc ...

kouros
'') excavated in stages in the modern-day town of
Palaikastro Palaikastro ( el, Παλαίκαστρο; Godart and Olivier abbreviation PK) is a small village at the east end of the Mediterranean island Crete. It is a historic site. Already in Minoan civilization, Minoan times the region was a centre of tr ...
on the Greek island of
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology ...

Crete
. It has been dated to the
Late Minoan The Minoan chronology dating system is a measure of the phases of the Minoan civilization The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some a ...
1B period in the mid-15th century BC, during the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age sys ...
. It is now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Siteia. Standing roughly 50 cm (19.5 in) tall, its large size by the standards of other figurines in
Minoan art Minoan art is the art produced by the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age ...
, and the value of its materials may indicate that it was a
cult image In the practice of religion Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different r ...
for worship, the only one known from the
Minoan civilization The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric that was characterized by the use of , in some areas , and other early features of urban . The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the , as proposed in mod ...
. The majority of its body (torso, legs, arms, and feet) is made of
hippopotamus The hippopotamus ( ; ''Hippopotamus amphibius''), also called the hippo, common hippopotamus or river hippopotamus, is a large, mostly herbivorous A herbivore is an animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryo ...

hippopotamus
tooth covered with gold foil, but the hair part of the head is carved from gray-green
serpentinite Serpentinite is a rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chemic ...

serpentinite
with rock-crystal eyes and ivory details. Where the carved surface survives relatively well, the carving is extremely detailed, showing the veins and
tendon A tendon or sinew is a tough, high-tensile-strength band of dense fibrous connective tissue that connects muscle Skeletal muscles (commonly referred to as muscles) are organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant ...

tendon
s of the hands and feet. The face is completely missing, but the elaborate stone hairstyle, with "a shaved scalp and
MohawkMohawk may refer to: Related to Native Americans *Mohawk people, an indigenous people of North America (Canada and New York) *Mohawk language, the language spoken by the Mohawk people *Mohawk hairstyle, from a hairstyle once thought to have been tr ...
-like crest", survives. The position of the arms can be parallelled in some
terracotta Terracotta, terra cotta, or terra-cotta (; Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance ...

terracotta
figurines from
Petsofas Petsofas is the archaeological site of a Minoan The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric that was characterized by the use of , in some areas , and other early features of urban . The Bronze Age is the se ...
, a
peak sanctuary Minoan civilization, Minoan peak sanctuaries are widespread throughout the island of Crete (Greece). Most scholars agree that peak sanctuaries were used for religious rites. In all peak sanctuaries human and animal clay figurines have been found. ...
overlooking the town. The ivory pieces were held together with olivewood
dowel A dowel is a cylindrical rod, usually made of wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), ...
s. The figure presumably represents the "young god" who had appeared relatively recently in
Minoan religion Minoan religion was the religion of the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Ag ...
, as a consort or son (or both?) of the main mother goddess. He has been regarded by some as a very early form of
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Ling ...

Zeus
, the main god in much later
Ancient Greek religion Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and mythology Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that ...
. Palaikastro is very close to one of the main traditional sites of the Dicktaian Cave where Zeus grew up. The "young god" may have been a "vegetable god" who died in the winter and was reborn in the spring each year, perhaps associated with the
constellation of Orion Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky. It is named after Orion (mythology), Orion, a hunter in ...
. The figure has been burnt and apparently also deliberately smashed up, probably in the invasion of Crete by
Mycenean Greece Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1600–1100 BC. It represents the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland Gr ...
that is thought to have taken place around 1450 BC, when the city of Palaikastro was badly burned. Alternatively, it may have been destroyed by Minoan traditionalists, in a reaction to new Egyptian-influenced religious forms.


Excavation

The statue was found in several stages over a number of years: most of the torso in 1987, and the head in 1988. Unexpectedly, parts of the legs were then found in 1990, some thirty feet away from where the upper body parts had been. A thorough and careful water-sieving of six tons of soil from the site then produced hundreds of further fragments, including most of the feet, the eyes, and part of an ear. Piecing all these together took a further four years. Parts of a gold kilt and an ivory dagger pommel were also found, but are not included in the reconstructed figure. Fragments of what is thought to have been a wooden base, painted with
Egyptian blue Egyptian blue, also known as calcium copper silicate (CaCuSi4O10 or CaOCuO(SiO2)4 (calcium copper tetrasilicate)) or cuprorivaite, is a pigment that was used in ancient Egypt for thousands of years. It is considered to be the first synthetic pi ...

Egyptian blue
and decorated with
gold leaf Gold leaf is gold Gold is a chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms tha ...

gold leaf
were also found. Possibly a "star-spangled" base represented the starry sky the god walked on. A small
serpentinite Serpentinite is a rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chemic ...

serpentinite
boulder was excavated very close to the kouros; perhaps it was its
baetyl Baetylus (also Baetyl, Bethel, or Betyl, from Semitic languages, Semitic ''bet El (deity), el'' "house of god") are sacred stones that were supposedly endowed with life, or gave access to a deity. According to ancient sources, at least some of thes ...
or sacred stone. In
Minoan religion Minoan religion was the religion of the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Ag ...
, it has been suggested that rubbing, lying, or sleeping on a baetyl could summon a vision of the god, an event which appears to be depicted on some gold
Minoan seal Minoan seals are impression seal The impression seal is a common seal Seal may refer to any of the following: Common uses * Pinniped Pinnipeds (pronounced ), commonly known as seals, are a widely range (biology), distributed and diverse clad ...
rings, where the stones are large oval boulders. Marinatos, Nanno (2004), "The Character of Minoan Epiphanies", ''Illinois Classical Studies'', vol. 29, 2004, pp. 32–39
JSTOR
Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.
File:Roussolakkos 038.jpg, Map of "building 5" where parts of the statue were found at 4 locations, marked with * File:Palaikastro Kouros 09.jpg, Another angle File:Palaikastro Kouros 08.jpg, Another angle File:Palaikastro Kouros 08 (cropped).jpg, Detail


Notes

{{Reflist


References

*Hemingway, Seán, '' Art of the Aegean Bronze Age'', ''The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin'', Spring 2012 Volume LXIX, Number 4 * MacGillivray J.A., Sackett L.H., Driessen J.M. et al., "The Palaikastro Kouros, a Minoan Chryselephantine Statuette and its Aegean Bronze Age Context",
British School at Athens , image = Image-Bsa athens library.jpg , image_size = 300px , image_upright = , alt = , caption = The library of the BSA , latin_name = , motto = , founder = ...
, BSA Studies, (1999). A book-length study by many authors, available on JSTOR, with each chapter treated as an article **"Chapter 14": MacGillivray, Alexander, and Hugh Sackett. “The Palaikastro Kouros: the Cretan God as a Young Man”, p. 166,
British School at Athens , image = Image-Bsa athens library.jpg , image_size = 300px , image_upright = , alt = , caption = The library of the BSA , latin_name = , motto = , founder = ...
Studies, vol. 6, 2000, pp. 165–169
JSTOR
Accessed 22 Feb. 2021 *Also: (Lapatin, Kenneth D. S., J. A. Macgillivray, J. M. Driessen, L. H. Sackett, C. V. Crowther, P. Harrison, S. A. Hemingway, R. B. Koehl, M. S. Moak, A. Moraitou, J. Musgrave, A. Nikakis, S. E. Thorne, and J. Weingarten. "The Palaikastro Kouros: A Minoan Chryselephantine Statuette and Its Aegean Bronze Age Context." American Journal of Archaeology 106.2 (2002))
The Palaikastro Kouros
at the Odysseus portal of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture 15th-century BC works 1987 archaeological discoveries Minoan art Ivory works of art Kouroi Minoan religion Archaeological discoveries in Greece Cult images Sculptures of Zeus