ROBERT LAFFINEUR CLOSSING ADDRESS The First International Symposium "The Wall-paintings of Thera"
Closing Addresses ROBERT LAFFINEUR
To be entrusted with the delivery of the closing address for a Symposium like this one is not really an easy task. The person volunteering to do this cannot miss even one paper and he has to devote his whole attention to all the opinions and suggestions presented. Fortunately, while I was beginning to think of the enormous responsibility and considering that I had probably been rather rash to accept it, two big volumes were dropped in my mailbox. I should have remembered, since this was due to a judicious decision made by the Chairman of the Organising Committee, Petros Nomikos, at an early stage in the preparation of the meeting Π not to mention the willingness of the contributors (at least most of them) and the efforts made by Lena Levidis, as well as by Susan Sherratt, the editor in charge of those pre-proceedings volumes - to have them available in good time. My anxiety suddenly sub-sided on receipt of the volumes, and I immediately began to read through the papers with the sooth-ing feeling that I would avoid the traditional rush of writing the closing address on the night before its delivery.
The decreasing stress, however, was responsible for my forgetting to prepare a selection of Akrotiri slides to illustrate my talk. Alas, when I at last noticed that omission, all the slides in my office at the University were already packed, waiting to move to the new building of our Department, to be officially opened in just two weeks from now. I had no other choice than to pick up slides at home from my own collection of travel souvenirs not really Akrotiri slides, but images which in the event prove rather close to Akrotiri interests (particularly to the topic of the present Symposium), and which could deceive unwary listeners. I hope that such an association of serious comments and rather funny illustrations won’t appear inappropriate to the audience. Is some relaxation not allowed after so many hours of attentive listening to the papers and active participation in the discussions? and "s'il est permis de rire entre mycénologues", why should it be different with Minoanists and with Theranists?
The main merit of the present Symposium is without doubt that it was intended from the very beginning to aim at a definition of Theran wall painting, both in its various aspects, from technique and subject matter to composition and modes of representation, and as an artistic expression which has to be placed in the broader frame of Aegean painting, east Mediterranean painting and even world painting. In that connection, the papers presented by Colin Renfrew and by Christina Televantou are the best introductions to the topic. The former examines Theran wall painting as compared with similar artistic expressions through(out) time and space and emphasises basic features such as inclusive space, involving the viewer in a three-dimensional relationship, and the willingness of Akrotiri painters to use empty space. The latter summarises years of personal research on issues of importance such as the origin of the iconography and the identification of different styles and individual artists. The purpose is quite clear: it is art. It is not a primary consideration to discuss once more the much debated question of chronology, which has had us looking for many years now for evidence of absolute date, as far as the ice cores in Greenland and the Irish tree rings. When chronology appears in the contents, it is with the aim of providing the indispensable background for comparisons and contrasts with the paintings from Minoan Crete, and we are most grateful to Sinclair Hood for allowing this. The purpose of the Symposium was not to comment on the stratigraphic sequence either, i.e. on the volcanic destruction and the seismic destruction that occurred before it, the effects of which are quite impressive at the site. The exception here is the paper by Marisa Marthari, but again chronology and destruct-ions are not commented on for their own sake, but as a framework for the development of Theran painting Π that is, again, as mere landmarks. Art is decidedly the main concern here, and this is definitely a good choice, now that recent extraordinary finds in Egypt and the Near East have provided new evidence for comparative studies. The papers presented in the six Sessions of the present Symposium and the discussions which followed make a decisive contribution to a better understanding not only of Theran painting itself, and of Aegean painting, but also of east Mediterranean painting as a whole. The contribution is so manifold that the synthetic view of the contents which traditionally occurs at the end of a meeting might appear here as more appropriate than usual, even though the intention of giving even a short reference to every paper might appear to be the result of a wager. It reminds me of the performance of the artist on a French TV show who had to mimic twenty different well known persons within two minutes. I have been given more than two minutes for this closing address, but I have to refer to the contributions of fifty-six people - and I'm not an artist!
To review this, I propose to focus on four main themes: Theran painting and its connections with Egyptian and Near Eastern painting; defining Theran identity; Theran wall paintings as a mirror of reality; the religious/symbolic dimension of Theran wall painting.
1. Theran painting and its connections with Egyptian and Near Eastern painting
This is a widely accepted idea: influences from the Near East and Egypt worked extensively on the arts of the Aegean. This is particularly well illustrated on the tympanum relief of the entrance to the Oriental Institute in Chicago: "The East teaching the West", a variation on ex oriente lux, or the up-to- date formula used by Irene Winter in the present Symposium, when she invites us to "look at the Thera paintings in a morning - that is, in an easterly - light". Such influences are attested in the repertory of motifs, and their transmission as Dominique Collon reminded us - occurred primarily through the intermediary of seals. Influences in the opposite direction, from west to east, are not unknown. They were especially emphasised in Helene Kantor’s 1947 monograph and have been confirmed to an unprecedented extent by the wall paintings of Aegean type excavated at Tel Kabri and Tell el Dab'a, as well as by the thorough re-examination of the material from Alalakh by Wolf-Dietrich and Barbara Niemeier. That the similarities observed at Kabri are the result of the presence of Minoan itinerant craftsmen, as suggested by the excavators, is not accepted unanimously, and the influences appear to some scholars equally possibly as the consequence of a regular flow of mutual contacts within what appears rather as an east Mediterranean koine. In particular, to take Sarah MorrisΥs own words, the repetition of themes "could reflect not so much a standard thematic repertoire of traveling fresco painters, but shared traditions reinforced through performance, in epic and cult". Of central interest here is the technique used for wall paintings in both the Near East and the Aegean, especially the identification of fresco and secco techniques, and the Niemeiers have put it quite clearly: "The main argument for the suggestion that Aegean artistry was involved in the paintings of the palaces at Tel Kabri and Alalakh is the technique, fresco with additions in secco". More precisely, as we are reminded by Irene Winter, "the Thera paintings, those of Knossos, Tel Kabri and Alalakh are executed in Τtrue fresco", whereas the Mari paintings are done on a dry ground". But we are far from agreeing on the process used on Thera, as indicated by Christina Televantou who concludes that "the method commonly used was al secco, while true fresco was rare and most probably unintentional", and that absence of consensus is confirmed by the most recent analyses of Akrotiri samples by V. Perdikatsis et al.. The existence of a final coating (lime wash or slip?) is not indicative of the technique used, nor the penetration of the pigments in the plaster, and "the main problem here is that there are no objective criteria for the characterisation of the painting technique and therefore observations are interpreted in a subjective manner, sometimes leading to contradictory conclusions". The high degree of variety observed on other Aegean sites, Ayia Irini, Phylakopi and Ialysos - not to mention Minoan Crete - also does not seem to support the fundamental distinction referred to above. I would propose a prudent provisional conclusion: "mind the paint...and mind the gap"!
This issue of influences, whatever their direction, has been given careful attention in Irene WinterΥs paper. She stresses, rightly I think, the fundamental difference between the Near Eastern and the Theran wall paintings, namely that the former come from palaces, whereas the latter were made for the adornment of private houses, and the necessity "to compare apples and apples". A similar distinction is emphasised by Barry Kemp for Egyptian decoration and its postulated relationships with Aegean wall painting. Irene Winter observes in addition differences that prove indeed more significant than the rather superficial similarities of an iconographic nature, for example that "there is no parallel in the art of the second millennium Near East for the full range of illusionary devices employed on Thera", and that, to her mind, "this difference weighs far more heavily than the similarities in false stone or wood, or the presence of running spirals". Additional dissimilarities between Thera and Egypt are observed by Manfred Bietak as far as the respective modes of representation are concerned. The close analysis of the scenes on the chest of Tutankhamun by Regine Schulz offers a better understanding of Egyptian composition, as do the observations of Edna Russmann on outline and space.
The situation is rather different at Tell el Dab ‘a - more favourable it seems, even though, as we are rightly reminded by Sarah Morris, "it is premature to select individual fragments for Aegean iconographic study before the excavators have completed their tasks". The similarities with Aegean, especially Knossian, painting are very close and very numerous, and a new instance is provided by the possible bull leaper from Xeste 4 - the first one attested on Thera, if Christina Televantou reconstruction proves correct. They occur to such an extent that the interpretation of the excavator, Manfred Bietak, appears indeed as the most plausible one: some sort of permanent residence of a Minoan community in Egypt, as the consequence of the marriage of the Egyptian king with a Cretan princess. That such a permanent presence gave the Minoan artists the possibility of a familiarity with Egyptian art is obvi-ous, even though they probably did not stay in the Nile delta for many years and could not conse-quently have had unlimited access to the whole country. As far as technique is concerned, we are still waiting for the final results of analyses of samples from Tell el DabΤa. The investigation has focused so far on the composition of the plaster, and the extreme variety of processes reconstructed by Rudolfine Seeber makes comparative studies rather complex. Precise information, however, is available on the Egyptian side with the remarkable synthesis proposed by Ahmed El Goresy, and on the Theran side with the results of investigations conducted by V. Perdikatsis et al., and improvements in our know-ledge may be expected in the near future.
Central to the issue of Egyptian influence on the art of the Aegean is the question as to whether the large scale human figures in Akrotiri were proportioned using some canon or grid system. We have to be especially grateful to Eleanor Guralnick for having made full measurements of the paintings them-selves and for having undertaken the statistical treatment of those measurements. The conclusion is that the use of an anatomical division as a proportioning module is unlikely, whether the head, the foot, the hand or the fist, and that "for all the standing figures, except one, a grid with nineteen squares or modules in figure height proved to be the best fitting grid". But this is just a probability, as is the case with any grid - for example, the twenty-one square grid suggested by Judith Weingarten some years ago for the Akrotiri fishermen and the Palaikastro kouros. In that connection, the observation made by Kiki Birtacha and Manolis Zacharioudakis appears quite stimulating: if "...there was a pattern for the drawing of figures based on the use of modules consisting of curved lines", as appears convincingly on paintings from Xeste 3, we could have an alternative to the Egyptian grid system for a regular proportioning of large scale human figures. Even before the inquiry can be extended to other Theran paintings, as well as to Minoan figures, and eventually confirm the preliminary isolated observations mentioned at the end of the paper, the curve system provides interesting implications regarding the organisation of the production of wall painting in Akrotiri. The recurrence of identical curves or parts of curves above all implies the use of "some kind of device, probably a kind of ‘french curve’ made of hard material" (a similar suggestion for the possible use of stereotypes or templates is put forward by Andreas Vlachopoulos for the depiction of the leaves of reeds from Xeste 3). These would have been the first instances of craft automation or craft mechanisation applied to drawing, long before the concentric semicircles painted with a multiple brush on Protogeometric vases. It also implies a stage of comparative elaboration in the development of workshop techniques, and thus presupposes a longlived tradition of pictorial painting on the site. And, finally, it gives some additional evidence for a further identification of individual workshops or artists, since the two possible instances of automation appear on two compositions from Xeste 3 attributed to the same "Master of the Saffron Gatherers". This leads us to the issue of artists, which is the topic of the papers by Christos Boulotis and Ellen Davis.
2. Defining Theran identity
The probability of the existence of a tradition of wall painting on Thera has been investigated by several contributors. Close connections with the iconography of the island of Minos have been reassessed, especially by Christina Televantou; the rules and conventions are also largely similar, as is the basic function of wall painting - essentially religious on both Thera and neopalatial Crete, as argued by Fritz Blakolmer. There are some significant differences, however - particularly the absence of certain images, for example the snake goddess or the ruler. The most recent finds, however, show that designs of Minoan type, which have so far been unattested, can be identified in the wall painting fragments from Akrotiri, the best example being the possible bull leaper from Xeste 4 mentioned above, which contradicts a probably too rash statement of Sara Immerwahr: "one very real distinction, however, which I think will hold even with more excavations is the absence of bull reliefs and taureador scenes which were so much a part of the Palace decoration at Knossos".
Basic differences are attested as well, and these, too, have been emphasised by Christina Televantou. They lead to a general appraisal of the production in which the Cycladic artistic background finds a significant place. The background is also local, as is indicated by the affinities between Theran wall painting and Theran pottery, and as is to be expected from the existence of earlier pictorial wall paintings on the site, dating from before the seismic destruction - an existence largely inferred from the existence of early pictorial pottery in Akrotiri and from the observation of affinities between wall painting and pottery in the post-seismic destruction phase. The issue was already one of the important themes in the Third International Congress on Thera and the Aegean World in 1989. Evidence for this is reassessed by Marisa Marthari and by Christina Televantou, for whom Minoan inspiration and its local interpretation "do not prevent [the painters] from combining these with the Cycladic artistic background and love of pictorialism, to create their own individual style". Another feature of both Theran wall painting and Theran pottery should be added to the differences from Minoan decoration, namely the tendency to limit and repeat motifs.
In addition, the comparison with pictorial decoration raises, once again, the question of the monumental potential of pottery, as well as the question of the direction in which the influence worked from one art form to the other, whether from pottery to wall painting or vice versa. The issue is of central importance in the paper by Andreas Vlachopoulos, who concludes: "The obvious implication is that the bichrome and polychrome Cycladic pottery was that ground, where the chromatic and pictorial prototypes of wall painting were formed. The art of wall painting may have come to the islands as a new skill from Minoan Crete, but, once there, its rapid transformation should be credited to the achievements of Cycladic vase painting, which had a long tradition of naturalism, in contrast to Minoan and Helladic pottery". A similar view is offered by Fritz Blakolmer. The bird, in particular, appears as a subject which has a long tradition in Cycladic pottery and was probably transferred from pottery to wall painting, and this is confirmed by Colin Renfrew: "It is on those swallows that the case for the particularly Cycladic quality of this art may principally rest". The reed motif seems to be another example, since it is a favourite motif in Middle Cycladic bichrome pottery.
At the opposite end, offshoots of Theran wall painting should be mentioned. The contribution of Theran artists to the development, after the volcanic destruction, of pictorial pottery styles outside Thera is emphasised by Marisa Marthari: "It is difficult for someone who studies Theran art and society to think that this evolution is unrelated to the artistic achievements on Thera... Consideration of all the Theran pictorial frescoes and vases also shows that the iconographic associations between them and the pictorial styles of Minoan and Mycenaean pottery after the destruction of Thera are much greater than has been previously noted... Some Theran fresco and vase painters could have moved to Crete or the Greek mainland and worked in the pottery workshops there".
Such a local identity would have found its expression in various features, some of which have been further defined in several papers: a sense of emotion and vividness emphasised by Maria Shaw; a sense of colour and a feeling for light, according to Clairy Palyvou; the otherwise unattested use of decorative patterns as compositional devices within figural scenes, according to Marion True; a keen interest in the concept of space which, according to Philip Betancourt, might result in the first possible instance of true perspective in ancient wall painting - namely, some of the swallows of the "Spring fresco", shown in a three-quarter view, with the back wing smaller than the near one; "...a certain lavishness and abandon in the use of frescoed wall surfaces", which Sara Immerwahr rightly considers as the probable consequence of a simpler architecture, in which "the architect had at his disposal fewer resources - no gypsum for orthostates or dado courses which led to the simulated cutstone dado, less abundant wood for columns..."; the painted window jambs in Room 4 of the West House, with a trompe l’oeil image of marble vases with red lilies, "a pure Theran fantasy" according to the same scholar.
3. Theran wall paintings as a mirror of reality
It is immediately obvious to everybody looking at the Akrotiri wall paintings that they provide "panoramas of Aegean life in city and country, in harbours and at sea", "a unique vista of human and animal activity, nature and built environment, ritual and leisure", "a mirror of Theran society...even when that society is not deliberately trying to represent itself ", to borrow formulations from the papers by Sarah Morris and Colin Renfrew.
Evidence concerns mainly the environment in its broadest form, and most of the aspects of that environment have been covered in the programme of the Symposium. Plants have been the subject of several papers, by Moshe and Ora Negbi (the Madonna lily), Ray Porter (the sea lily, crocus and ivy), Andreas Vlachopoulos (the reed) and Anaya Sarpaki. John Coutsis has proposed identifications for the insects depicted on the paintings, Panos Economidis and Dimitra Mylona for the images of fish, Kenneth Harte for the representations of birds, Dagmar Kleinsgütl and Aikaterini Trantalidou for animals in general.
Such precise identifications are possible because of the naturalistic rendering of reality by the painters. This, however, never reaches the stage of photographic reality, and there is always some distance from the real world - the "near naturalistic", as defined by Peter Warren, a feature common to Minoan and Theran painters, sculptors and engravers, who are "astonishingly acute and detailed in their observational powers", but who "mentally translated distinct real world identities into images on a representational spectrum which ranged from near naturalistic through to essentialist". The reason for the difference between nature and its representation is not necessarily to be found in the creative artistΥs imagination (or at least not in the first place, except perhaps for the addition of two rows of black spots on the fish carried by the ΤLittle FishermanΥ (Panos Economidis)), but has probably rather to do with practical constraints: either technical ones - a limitation of the artistΥs palette, or missing colours, such as green, being replaced by others (the duck from Xeste 3 with a black head, as observed by Harte; the reeds and most of the plants, in which green is replaced by grey-blue or ochre yellow, as noted by Vlachopoulos); or compositional ones - the normal white-petalled flowers of the Madonna lily being painted red on the ΤSpring frescoΥ for the sake of contrast, according to the Negbis (though that very difference is considered by Sarpaki as implying two different identifications, the white (Madonna) lily and the red variety (Lilium chalcedonicum, or scarlet martagon lily) respectively); or even the desire to represent the most typical parts, even if it implies a "twisted view" in which the underside of the wings and the upper side of the tail are depicted on the same plane, which brings apparent mistakes in colour definitions (the rock dove from Sector Alpha and the doves depicted on the hull of the ship under sail in the south miniature frieze, as suggested by Harte). Other inconsistencies are worth mentioning in that connection: for example, the small loop at the end of the tail streamers on the swallow in the ΤSpring frescoΥ - a detail that is not present on the variety (Hirundo rustica rustica or barn swallow) depicted (Kenneth Harte).
The corpus of images, in addition, should be used with great caution when reconstructing the ecological environment: animals depicted on the walls may represent habitats outside the Cyclades, some even outside the Aegean; and there is no exact correspondence between the pictorial evidence and the evidence provided by the ornithological, ichthyological and archaeobotanical remains, as emphasised by Aikaterini Trantalidou: "With the exception of the domesticated animals and the fish, for no other species is there absolute correspondence between the osteological material and the iconographic programme" - even though some differences might be explained by the fragility and perishability of the bones, as in the case of the dolphinfish (Panos Economidis) and the barn swallow (Aikaterini Trantalidou). An additional source of discrepancy between reality and image is the combination of essential or naturalistic characteristics of two different plants in a single image, the so-called hybridism of Peter Warren.
A remarkable consequence of ΤnaturalisticΥ representations is that identifications are in some cases so precise that they invalidate widely accepted interpretations. The usually accepted view that the swallows of the Spring fresco are mating is inconsistent with the sex determination of the birds as proposed by Kenneth Harte: out of seven specimens, six are adult males (not to mention that bill-to-bill contact is not mating behaviour). Decidedly, "les hirondelles ne font pas le printemps", according to the French proverb; and they don’t even make a spring fresco!
Of environmental interest is also the identification of the fish carried by the Little Fisherman (common dolphinfish or Coryphaena hippurus), an identification confirmed by Dimitra Mylona, as well as the estimated weight of the fish which the fisherman is carrying in his hands - respectively twelve and ten kilos. A plausible alternative to the traditional ritual interpretations of the fishermen as adorants holding their offerings (Nanno Marinatos) or as boys taking part in rites of passage (Christos Doumas) could be, as suggested by Panos Economidis, that the images provide the visual record of an exceptional catch, not unlike present day pictures.
The images on the walls of Akrotiri houses are also interesting for the insight they give into the life of the ancient Akrotirians. The best example is given by Anaya Sarpaki’s analysis of the picture of the saffron gatherers and the thorough analysis of the social and economic implications of the successive stages in that activity. Of economic importance is also the role of animals and plants as providers of raw materials for craft production, as put forward by Aikaterini Trantalidou (in the case of the former) and by Maria Beloyianni (in the case of the latter - especially concerning the baskets carried by the saffron gatherers in the painting of Xeste 3, which show similarities with early Late Bronze Age vessels as well as with present day basketry). Relevant in the present connection is also Eva Panagiotakopulu’s idea that "...in view of the discovery of a wild silk cocoon in Akrotiri, the iconographic motif of the butterfly as depicted on the prows and masts of ships from the flotilla fresco could be reinterpreted as silk moth", and that this could give evidence of wild silk production at an early period in the Aegean, and be related to the exchange of precious textiles. As the present speaker has recalled, depictions of dress, hairstyle and personal adornment also provide interesting evidence of the conditions of everyday life, even though, for instance, unusual or extravagant headgear is not attested in the corpus of images. The varieties of hairstyle and personal adornment, in addition, are frequently indicative of age, as emphasised by Christos Doumas, whereas "the lack of any evident consistency between garments and age categories is rather puzzling" compared with usual ethnographic evidence.
Finally, the wall paintings offer far from negligible testimony to the political situation in the Aegean in the early Late Bronze Age, which "looks rather like an arms race in a precarious balance of powers", according to Imma Kilian-Dirlmeier. Information on marine affairs and conditions of exchange is collected by Shelley Wachsmann, with special focus on sea routes, along which - to judge from the evidence of later underwater finds - heavy cargoes were traded, sometimes over rather long distances. All of this has connections with the location of the Akrotiri harbour. A close examination of the topography by Joseph Shaw and Marjatta Luton results in an interesting correlation with the miniature frieze in the West House: "If we identify Town V [the so-called ΤArrival TownΥ] as Akrotiri as seen from the south, then it is tempting to equate the first harbour on the left with that suggested by Doumas [between the hills of Cape Rachidi and the Mesovouna], and the second as one directly south of the excavated town [not far from the Potamos valley]...in an area towards which the centre of the town is likely to extend, judging from the location of the ΤpublicΥ buildings and the direction of the streets".
4. The religious/symbolic dimension of Theran wall painting
This has been a favourite and stimulating theme in Theran studies for decades, and the present Symposium is no exception.
New interpretations were proposed, for example by Stefan Hiller in relation to the ships cabins in Room 4 of the West House, especially the detail of one of the pendants of the garlands suspended between the poles. This appears to be, rather than a stylised crocus flower (which would refer to the womenΥs sphere), the image of a bee, or fly, more appropriate in the context of the room as a male status symbol, like the necklaces of flies which Egyptian military leaders received from the pharaoh as reward for their bravery. Focusing on the depiction of two varieties of lily, the white and the red, and on the specific meaning that must have been attached to each of them (probably purity for the former and sensual desire for the latter), Anaya Sarpaki suggests that the presence of red lilies on the "Spring fresco" in Room Delta 2 would be quite appropriate if the room was indeed a bedroom - though this identification is questioned by Sara Immerwahr, who interprets the room rather as a cult place.
Complementary suggestions were also offered by Nanno Marinatos in connection with the decor-ation of the ships on the fleet frieze. While the designs on the hulls appear to refer to the totality of nature, including air, land and sea, the fragmentation of that whole into individual units and their reassemblage in the group might suggest the idea of confederacy - but you probably would not expect me to agree that we have here "the Minoan confederate fleet". That the ships, however, like the early Mycenaean inlaid weapons, are meant as instruments of aggression is a confirmation of earlier suggestions by myself, particularly in the association of warrior and feline, which I illustrated some years ago. Both Sara Immerwahr and Geraldine Gesell have drawn a comparison between the decoration of the Throne Room at Knossos and the composition of Xeste 3, with the seated goddess and her attendant griffin; and this complements earlier suggestions by Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier about the development of the Throne Room area in the palace of Minos and its functions. And Sarah Morris has suggested interesting links with Anatolia, especially with Hittite rituals connected with crocuses or fighting - as well as an equation of Thera with Homeric Scheria, the island of the Phaeacians.
The methodological issue was not overlooked - as appears especially in Natasha Angelopoulou's paper, an appeal against generalisations in interpretation, based on the observation of a ΤrecyclingΥ of individual iconographic elements, used in nature scenes in different associations and probably with different meanings.
In connection with interpretation, however, the most frequently recurring issue in the Symposium has been initiation.
There is wide agreement that initiation rituals were probably performed in Xeste 3, and that the wall paintings in Rooms 3a and 3b can help reconstruct those rites. But substantial progress can be made in the interpretation. Close similarities in "the disposition of figures, their action [including the objects they carry] and their communicative details" were convincingly observed by Lyvia Morgan. They indicate that the two groups of female and male figures, in Room 3a and Room 3b respectively, are depicted in the framework of a parallel performance with a related meaning, and "rather than being adjuncts to the female scene, the males are engaged in rites of their own, and given the careful attention to stages of youth and maturity, that these too are connected with puberty and initiation". As argued by Geraldine Gesell, the crocuses may have been collected not for their whole flowers but only for their styles, the most important part of the flower because it is the part of the female organ of the plant leading to the ovary; and the red material ΤdrippingΥ from the horns of consecration on top of the door could be the strands of styles hung on the shrine, not blood as usually agreed. The style would indeed be the most appropriate offering in female puberty or pre-marriage rituals, and the seated figure in the centre of the group of three female figures in the lower storey of Room 3a would be the initiate who has been through an initiation ordeal. A similar interpretation is proposed by Mario Torelli, who recognises two stages in female initiation rituals: a prenuptial status connected with ritual hair cutting and gathering of flowers (the anthologia), and marriage proper, with the dressing of the bride (women carrying a dress in the House of the Ladies, adorant carrying a necklace in Xeste 3) and her ritual purification bath. Initiation is also hinted at in the papers by Irini Papageorgiou and by Tessy Sali, the latter in relation to a new interpretation of the pictorial programme of Room 5 in the West House. Room 5 is considered as a simulacrum of the mythical labyrinth, in which some kind of initiation took place - but the association with the myth of Theseus suggested by the same scholar appears to be based on rather slight evidence (for example, the white sail of the ship under sail in the fleet frieze is compared to the white sail as a sign of the victory of Theseus over the Minotaur, or the triangular protuberances on the roofs of buildings where young men are isolated before their initiation are regarded as possibly recalling the horns on the keraton altar on Delos, around which Theseus and his companions danced the geranos). Even the fish carried by the fishermen are presented by Dimitra Mylona as referring to initiation: since the fish depicted have their habitat in the open sea, and since it was probably difficult for the fishermen of that time to catch them, the presence of such species is probably a clue to the ability of young people in relation to rites of passage.
Though other instances of ritual function and meaning were not investigated, I would like, before concluding - and just for a joke - to contribute to the topic myself, and offer conclusive evidence of a maritime nature confirming the religious context to which the Akrotiri fleet frieze must be related. I refer, first of all, to the so far unnoticed inscription on the licence plate on the stern of a first vessel (as we usually call those huge US cars of the sixties) - a real confession by the owner, the Τadmiral of the fleet’: "God is my co-pilot". As an additional piece of evidence, I'm proud to show you another inscription, this time on the prow of a boat, which clearly reads NAOPIO (ναοπιός, for ναοποιός, ‘he who builds a temple'). The find place of this, the Hawaiian islands, is rather puzzling, unless the captain, attracted by local sights that reminded him of his volcanic homeland rather than by some place appropriate for far niente, had stopped there on his way back to the Aegean, with a round-the-world ticket in his pocket, after delivering his cargo of Theran ashes to Californian forests and initiating a tradition of wall painting in that part of the world - an echo of which has survived on the walls of the Getty villa in Malibu. That such long voyages were not impossible at such an early date might find confirmation in the depiction of an Aegean-looking ship on the reliefs of the Borobudur stupa in central Java, a later recording of an unusual past event, which had been watched with great attention, in the usual Aegean manner, from the windows and roofs of local buildings by sitting Buddhas. The pre-sent interpretation would account at the same time for other images of clearly Aegean inspiration on a neighbouring temple in Prambanan: monkeys flanking a tree, and sirens in a similar position. The continuation of the journey westwards would have resulted in the adoption of Aegean maritime traditions in such remote areas as the future Thailand, traditions which have survived until recent decades in the famous Τroyal barges'. That those planetary contacts occurred long before Christopher Columbus or Vasco da Gama is not the least significant implication of the extraordinary discovery reported above.
Now, and more seriously, to the conclusion. Various aspects of Theran wall painting have been investigated during the Symposium, especially in connection with the recent finds from Egypt and the Near East. Our knowledge of the subject has certainly been improved in a significant way, and, on behalf of the Organising Committee, I would like to express our gratitude to all of you for your presence and for your contribution. One aspect, however, seems to have been rather disregarded: the enjoyment we can get from simply looking at the paintings. I am well aware that aesthetic contemplation is not what Bronze Age Aegean painters aimed at. But I wouldn't like to end the present meeting without inviting you to forget for a while all the scientific issues we have discussed and to let the images simply work on your senses - temporarily to forget, for instance, the chemical composition of such colour and enjoy it just as colour. This is what Maria Shaw does with much sensitivity at the end of her paper, when she comments on "the ability of the Theran miniature fresco to engage the viewer emotionally", or what Clairy Palyvou does when she emphasises the temporality of colour and the temporality of light in the paintings. Such an approach is fundamentally an individual one, indeed. But it should not be neglected, since it is in my view one of the essential conditions for the survival of the paintings.