Monkeys in Aegean Art

30 Dec 2019

At www.newscientist.com/article/2227146-ancient-monkey-painting-suggests-br... ... some see the Minoans as early forerunners of the Phoenicians but more importantly there was a three pronged trading by ship activity in the Bronze Age that linked the Egyptians with what later became Phoenicia, the eastern Mediterranean part of the Levant, and the Aegean world (centred around Crete and the Cyclades, and later, with mainland Greece). The Minoan world had plentiful links with the Egyptians - and trading entrepots such as Byblos, Ugarit, Tyre and Sidon etc. The Mediterranean ports brought products from the Aegean to Bronze Age Syria and Palestine and products from further east ended up at the Mediterranean ports for transhipment to Egypt and the Aegean. This story illustrates the process. A bronze age painting on Akrotiri (the island of Santorini off the coast of Crete) shows a monkey that lives in Asia. Akrotiri, blown apart by the Thera volcano, has been a blessing, some might say, to modern archeologists, as the ash and debris has preserved some remarkable aspects of Bronze Age life on the island. There are several wall paintings in the building in question and they depict many kinds of monkeys - many of them resembling the Egyptian olive baboon. However, one of them looks very much like a grey langur and is depicted holding its tail in a characteristic S shape. Grey langurs live in modern Nepal, Bhutan and India and at one time lived in what is known as the Indus civilisation. In other words, langurs were traded as far west as the Aegean, possibly by intermediaries in the Middle East (such as Babylonia or the Arabs). The other possibility is that Aegean boats were already doing  what the Phoenicians of the Iron Age did - sailing down the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean.