Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Departure scene

Cat. No.





Idaean Cave, Crete


L (max.): 37 cm; H (max.): 26.3 cm; L (horizontal rod): 32.3 cm


Two fragments of a four-sided bronze stand

Accession Number

Heraklion Archaeological Museum 186


Basch 1987: 173, 175-76, nos. 364, 365a-b; Papasavvas 2001: 249-52, no. 48, figs. 132-145; 2012: 152, figs. 6,7; Rolley 1977: 119-20, figs. 40-41; Spathari 1995:68-69, fig. 76

Single levelled ship to the right with a low flat hull, a massive square bow with a vertical stempost integrating the bow projection, and a curving sternpost. The forecastle is solid and square much like the ones depicted on figural pottery. The bow projection is particularly short. There are no decorative devices on either post. Following the contour of the gunwale is an additional horizontal feature that clearly extends outwardly from the hull proper. This piece begins from the upper inner edge of the forecastle whose accentuated curve it espouses closely, and ends in a gentler curve near the beginning of the sternpost. This detail, otherwise much more difficult to interpret in pictorial representations, is a unique contribution of the medium's three-dimensionality. Basch interprets this feature as an outrigger, which also appears to be used for embarking/disembarking from the vessel. The five rower face left sitting at gunwale level, their torsos upright, their hands grasping at their oars held in a vertical position.

Context: during the LBA and EIA, rod tripods and four-sided stands of Cypriote type were disseminated and incorporated into the metal industries of other Mediterranean regions including the Levant, the Aegean, and even Sardinia. Although these regional examples follow the types and techniques of the Cypriot originals, they nonetheless display important structural and morphological characteristics that attest to localized traditions in manufacturing. Crete appears to have enjoyed a pivotal role in this process, as it was the main centre of production outside of Cyprus. Besides the remarkable concentration of these stands on Crete itself, the majority of the exemplars from non-Cretan Aegean contexts are furthermore attributable to Cretan workshops (Delphi, Thera, Rhodes). In addition to being distinguishable by local structural and stylistic peculiarities, these Cretan examples date to the EIA, whereas the Cypriot specimens are overwhelmingly of LBA date. Their find context includes tombs (with a high concentration around Knossos) and several distant Cretan cult places which enjoyed intra-regional importance (Syme, Idaean Cave, Amnisos, Palaikastro). About two thirds of the Cretan stands are from cultic contexts, with nearly all of the four-sided stands restricted to sanctuaries. Four-sided stands consist of a rectangular part mounted on feet or on wheels and crowned by a ring intended for supporting a vase. By their nature these allowed for a great variety of uses since the vases for which they acted as support were independent, separate units. This specimen from the Idaean cave belongs to this category, and has a clearly geometric style. It has close parallels from the sanctuary of Zeus Thenatas at Amnisos and in the rich tomb of Khaniale Tekke, as well as two additional closely related examples from Delphi and a third from Rhodes. Papasavvas argues that all of these were produced in the same workshop operating during the 8th century B.C., most likely Knossian (Papasavvas 2001: 192-93). The Knossian associations of the Idaean cave in particular have been widely noted, including comparable luxury artefacts such as bronze jugs with lotus-handles, faience and ivory items, and gold artefacts with orientalising motifs. The presence of Cretan stands and other elaborate bronze in Delphi, Olympia and elsewhere indicate that Cretans were actively participating in Panhellenic networks.

Composition: the rectangular side panel of the stand is comprised of two horizontal registers, each further divided by a one vertical and two oblique cast rods. In the upper right corner of the composition is a figure facing right playing the tambourine. A second figure is milking a cow facing left. The main composition below is a naval scene with a hoplite embarking a woman aboard a ship facing right and five rowers. In the upper right corner of the scene, between the oblique rod and the rowers is a complex figure touching the head of the second rower from the right, possibly a bird. The lower horizontal register was separated by a vertical rod flanked by two volutes that extend into oblique rods. Figure grabbing a dog by the neck. The upper right corner preserved a figure holding a dock by the neck. The remaining smaller fragments include hoplites and chariots.

Basch, L. 1987. Le musée imaginaire de la marine antique. Athens: Institut Hellénique pour la preservation de la tradition nautique.

Papasavvas, G. 2001. Χάλκινοι υποστάτες από την Κύπρο και την Κρήτη : τριποδικοί και τετράπλευροι υποστάτες από την Ύστερη Εποχή του Χαλκού εώς την Πρώιμη Εποχή του Σιδήρου [Bronze stands from Cyprus and Crete. Tripods and four-sided stands of the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age]. Nicosia: A.G. Leventis Foundation.

―――. 2012. “Cretan Bronze Stands of Cypriot types from sanctuaries and Cemeteries: Cretan Society in the Early Iron Age,” in M. Iacovou (ed.) Cyprus and the Aegean in the Early Iron Age. The Legacy of Nicolas Coldstream. Nicosia: Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, pp. 129-153.

Rolley, Cl. 1977. Les trépieds à couve clouée. Fouilles de Delphes Vol. 3. Paris: Ecole Française d’Athènes.

Spathari, E. 1995. Sailing through Time: The Ship in Greek Art. Athens: Kapon Editions.

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