helens_daughter (helens_daughter) wrote,


Before reading Woven Threads and working on the Saffron Goddess from the last post, I hadn't known that the Minoans used murex purple in their frescoes.  Yet having also learned that murex shells could yield quite a bit more purple dye than previously assumed, I was pleased to find traces of it in the blouse of the Saffron Goddess and elsewhere.

If you blow up the image you can see the crocus stamens picked out in light purple on the seated goddess's pale blue sleeves.

Traces of fresco purple have been found at Knossos, Akrotiri, and Pylos, the Mycenaean kingdom with the closest ties to the Minoan world.  The Mycenaeans didn't use purple in their frescoes, but then, the quality of their wall art doesn't match the Knossians or Therans in terms of intricacy and delicacy; as imitators in this particular instance, they're copying form without substance.  You can see it here, in a procession of women from Thebes.

women fresco

Purple may have been too expensive for the Mycenaeans to use for wall decoration, or they may have had other ideas about decorating their palaces.

However, the Mycenaeans must have used purple elsewhere, probably in their textiles, because they had a word for it: po-pu-re-yo, which is very close to the later Greek puperea, which is the Linnean species name of the murex which produces the dye.
Tags: akrotiri, artwork, frescoes, knossos, minoans, mycenaeans, pylos
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