helens_daughter (helens_daughter) wrote,

The Bees of Malia

In 1915, archaeologists began digging at a site 45 km east of Heraklion and Knossos.  What they uncovered was the palace site of Malia, the third-largest in Crete after Knossos and Phaistos.

Unlike Knossos and Phaistos, Malia's ancient name isn't known.  Its Old Palace was built between 1900-1800 B.C. and destroyed 1700 B.C., and its New Palace went up circa 1600 B.C. and was destroyed around 1450 B.C.--in short, following the patterns of building, destruction, rebirth, and destruction that befell its larger counterparts.

Malia has yielded a variety of rich artifacts, some of the most splendid from the Old Palace-era cemetery nearby, called Chrysolakkos ("pit of gold") for the splendid objects farmers sometimes discovered there.  Of these, the most famous is the Malia Bee Pendant, which depicts two honeybees or possibly wasps storing honey in a comb.

The Bee Pendant, for which there are many reproductions you can buy and wear, features fine granulation; you can see the same technique on another bee pendant below.  I've often wondered if the circular drops held pearls.

Bees were sacred in Crete and in the Near East, and the Minoans kept beehives.  There was even, as some believe, a Minoan bee goddess named Melit, Melitta, or Melissa, though none of these names has ever been found on a list of Minoan deities.  If she existed, she was probably a minor aspect of some other goddess. 
Tags: archaeology, artwork, bees, jewelry, knossos, malia, minoans, phaistos, religion
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