The Museum was stunning. Our guide issued us with earbuds as she had to use a radio mike to keep her voice down inside the museum. After waiting in a long queue we started upstairs in the fresco gallery. These were the original frescoes, first excavated by Arthur Evans. They included the bull-leapers, the dolphins, the ‘Prince with the lilies’, and the cup-bearer. For years I’ve seen photos of the originals, and of the reconstructions. Now I could stand in front of them and admire. They did not disappoint.
Downstairs we went through the galleries in chronological order, from Neolithic to the Classical Period. There’s such a wealth of material that the afternoon just wasn’t enough to take it all in. The material is from Knossos, Phaestos, Zakros, Agia Triada and other sites. We saw the still undeciphered Linear A hieroglyphs, and examples of Linear B. The ceramics were amazing – such quality, such decoration. We saw octopus, snake and bird symbols. Jane wondered about the owl symbolism, and I said I thought it might have to do with the goddess Athena. I’ve since looked it up, and the Little Owl (Athene noctua) is indeed associated with Athena. I loved the bull’s head rhyton, made from steatite, and the lioness head rhyton. We saw the two snake goddesses, one with a cat on her head. I googled the Cretan wildcat, and it’s a fearsome looking beast. The image is copyright, so I won’t post it here, but do look it up. I loved the sarcophagi. So much, just so much. It’s wonderful.
Walking round Heraklion and the archaeological sites I reflected that I had grown up learning the Greek legends. They became part of my history, my culture. The more places I visit, the more things I see, the more languages I encounter, the more internationalist I feel. I’m a Scot of course, and I love the country I live in, but I feel my European heritage and kinship acutely, especially in these times.