Abstract

This paper presents a new interpretation of a unique Bronze Age (c. 3000-1100 BCE) Aegean wall painting in the building of Xeste 3 at Akrotiri, Thera. Crocus cartwrightianus and its active principle, saffron, are the primary subjects at Xeste 3. Several lines of evidence suggest that the meaning of these frescoes concerns saffron and healing: (1) the unusual degree of visual attention given to the crocus, including the variety of methods for display of the stigmas; (2) the painted depiction of the line of saffron production from plucking blooms to the collection of stigmas; and (3) the sheer number (ninety) of medical indications for which saffron has been used from the Bronze Age to the present. The Xeste 3 frescoes appear to portray a divinity of healing associated with her phytotherapy, saffron. Cultural and commercial interconnections between the Therans, the Aegean world, and their neighboring civilizations in the early 2nd millennium BCE indicate a close network of thematic exchange, but there is no evidence that Akrotiri borrowed any of these medicinal (or iconographic) representations. The complex production line, the monumental illustration of a goddess of medicine with her saffron attribute, and this earliest botanically accurate image of an herbal medication are all Theran innovations.

pdf

Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.