Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


6 December 2017

Truth lies in details: identifying an apiary in the miniature wall painting from Akrotiri, Thera

Irini Papageorgiou Annual of the British School at Athens 111 (2016): 95-120

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One of a number of enigmatic depictions in the Aegean iconography of the second millennium bce is the structure painted on the south wall of the Miniature Frieze from the West House at Akrotiri, Thera. This structure covers the slope of a hill and consists of two vertical blue bands on its western edge and four horizontal blue bands, all with features indicating masonry construction. Five rows of black triangles alternate with the horizontal bands. Each triangle has a round opening in its base. Unique in Aegean iconography, it has been interpreted as a dovecote, a shipshed, a storage space, a rock-cut structure with triangular niches, a geological formation and even a stretch of land with terraces and a vineyard. In one very brief reference it has been identified with an apiary.

In line with contemporary rules of perspective, certain details suggest this structure could represent an apiary on a terraced area, protected on its western edge by a wall to windward. The triangular elements must depict the vertical-type fixed-comb woven beehives, which were in use until quite recently in Greece. A road leading from the apiary and connecting the settlement with the tripartite building at the top of the hill completes the elements needed for organised beekeeping. Similarly, there is a trapezoidal expanse of blue to the east of it which probably depicts a pond, another essential element of beekeeping. Both the extent of the area covered by the installation and the prominence of beekeeping products (indicated by chemical analysis and references on Linear B tablets) raise questions about the management of the apiary and the function of the building at the top of the hill.


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