Universitätsbibliothek HeidelbergUniversitätsbibliothek Heidelberg
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This study is a chronological consideration of the typology, style and iconography of early
Cretan seals. "Early Cretan" is here meant to include material from the beginning of the Bronze
Age on Crete until and including the ceramic phase MM IIIB, the latest possible cutoff for the
Old Palatial Period on Crete and the latest Middle Minoan ceramic subphase. The seals, interest-
ing in their own right, comprise the most important source for the visual arts of the Early and
Middle Minoan Periods. Although the broad lines of the development have been known for some
time, a systematic, large-scale attempt at ordering this vast and heterogeneous material is yet to
be made. In comparison to ancient Near Eastern and Classical glyptic these seals have received
sadly little attention.

We are concerned with a great number of varied seal shapes and motifs which can be effec-
tively studied solely with reference to the entire corpus of material. No single criterion is ade-
quate to date early Cretan seals. For this reason, several aspects are analyzed as chapters: the
stratigraphic basis for dating, the typology of shape/material combinations, decorative elements,
syntax, materials and carving techniques. Each chapter is at the same time a classification of the
features in question. The results of these separate analyses are the building blocks for the chap-
ter on style-groups. No attempt is made here to lay down rules; at this stage of research one is
better off without dogma.

Conceived as a field manual and handbook, this study is so structured that one can quickly
look up a given shape, motif or style-group or find a short summary on a particular basic aspect
with a minimum of paging back and forth. My goal is to define terms clearly and to arrive at a
minimum of inconsistency between the criteria of shape, motifs and contexts, which in turn shall
hopefully lead to a convincing seal chronology, the strengths and weaknesses of which are clear
to the reader. Because I am interested first in dating and describing early Cretan seals, and for
reasons of space, foreign relations and other interesting topics have not been included here, al-
though I considered them as potential dating criteria in my research. The dates supplied for seal
motifs, shapes and style-groups reflect the main appearances and not their earliest incipient begin-

My purpose is not to gather an exhaustive corpus of early Cretan glyptic but rather system-
atically to study the readily available 437 sealing designs and 2173 seals and to present them in
a way that shall stimulate future work. By treating the material en masse and not by extrapolat-
ing from selected examples, a truer picture emerges. Seals which are less aesthetically pleasing
may also furnish useful information. The seals excluded are those which, in my opinion pos-
sibly are foreign imports, forgeries or "dubitandae". The indications for questioning the authen-
ticity of a seal are clear typological contradictions, certain stylistic peculiarities and attribution to
forgery workshop groups. Excluded are most ivory blanks, many of which are presently stored in
the Heraklion Museum. They are not listed here as their primary function is unclear. A seal with-
out an engraved motif would not have been very useful as a personal signet. In the CMS office
in Marburg is also a short list of seals in the Heraklion Museum which have no inventory numbers.
These are few, utterly uninteresting and not discussed here. Studying the style of seals from
photos or drawings alone is unsound and I have worked in several museums with the seals them-