Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Tomb IX at Mochlos, LM IB, 1500-1450BC – only electrum copy survives

This ring from Mochlos is somewhat worn from heavy usage, which may present difficulty in certain aspects of the interpretation. We see a seated female figure in her ship with a distinctive 'sea-horse' or 'dragon' prow, bearing a shrine out from which trees and plants are growing.

Mochlos Ring
Fig 41. Mochlos Ring – Image and Sketch

Judging by the arrangement of prow and stern, the ship appears as if it is leaving the land, perhaps departing for a voyage: the building at right perhaps suggests a shrine or urban space, and the ambiguous trace of rocks beneath the lower right part of the boat suggest a shoreline. It appears the female figure is wearing her hair tied up – two lines emerging from her head denote this and thus indicates her elder status, although the worn nature of the ring means previous faint dots or lines suggestive of the hairstyle of a younger woman have been lost.

We are witness here to a type IV epiphany, but there are ambiguities. It is not clear if this is a visionary depiction of the 'Goddess from the Sea' or a ritualistic enacted epiphany in which the seated figure is a human woman. Again, the distinction may not have been relevant to a Minoan audience. We also question whether the boat is leaving to deliver a shrine, or indeed the fruits of fertility and wild nature implied by the trees, to some distant locale from the shrine or building at right, or whether it represents a departing voyage in line with the thalassocratic interpretation from Galanakis given above. He narrates:

“[The] female figure is seated with her left hand bent like a farewell gesture... The representation on the Mochlos ring is unique in terms that it presents with a simple but clear way almost everything about the Minoan religious iconography.”

We note the excellent depiction of shrine architecture and animistic wild nature in the trees, as well as the fine nature of the ship's depiction. But there are two other aspects worth mentioning here.

Firstly we note the bodily attenuation of the seated female figure, which appears distinctive even beyond the ring's worn nature. The upper body appears to be wholly separate from the lower body, suggestive of modified experiences of the body that occur during trance or altered states; the head also appears to be floating slightly above the upper body, though we note that this may be due to previously faint traces of the figure's neck having been worn away. These signs of trance resonate with previous images in which both enacted and visionary epiphanies behold visions or experience trance.

Secondly, there are two floating objects towards the upper right of the image. The first item appears to be a pedestalled offering table, but the second is more ambiguous, being described as a sacred heart motif by Galanakis. However, it bears striking resemblance to the depiction of baetyls (particularly ones made from two boulders) in other images of Minoan glyptic. Considering the line of the shore (and thus ground level) is depicted by the rocks beneath the ship's stern, we might consider this baetyl to be floating, and thus of visionary content (type IId??). Alternatively, its proximity to the building on the shoreline may underscore its status as a place where baetyl rituals were held.

The status of these objects as epiphany items, however, is challenged by the two lines above the female figure's head, representative of tied-up hair, which might suggest the gaze of the deity is facing to the left, away from these two items. We thus conclude the building to the right may therefore be a shrine, and the baetyl and offering table are depicted with the intention of confirming this.


'The Minoan Epiphany: A Bronze Age Visionary Culture'
Bruce Rimell, 2010 - 2013


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