Minoan monkeys reveal ancient cultural interconnections

Related Articles

Related Articles

The monkeys featured in several frescos in Minoan Greece suggests the civilisation was familiar with multiple monkey species, none of which were indigenous to the region.

Researchers studying the ‘blue’ monkeys in Bronze Age frescos from Minoan Greece have found they’re incredibly accurate, to the point that researchers can even identify the genus of monkey.

At the 3,600-year-old settlement of Akrotiri, Thera, vervet monkeys are commonly depicted. Their rounded greyish/black muzzle, white band on the forehead, long arms and legs, and extended tail are all key indicators.


Meanwhile, at Knossos, Crete, baboons appear to be depicted. The narrow waist but thick chest, projecting face and hairless nose are a good match for the primates.

Crucially, the behaviours of both monkeys match up to their real-life counterparts. The vervet monkeys are depicted climbing, whilst baboons are seen on the ground. This would suggest that the artists had seen, or had contact with people who had encountered these animals.

Such contact is notable as neither species of monkey is native to the Minoan region, both being found in North-eastern Africa. There is alleged evidence of Minoan contact with the continent, but these monkeys provide some of the strongest proof to support such a theory.

There is one contradiction, monkeys aren’t blue, however, cultural particularities and trends often influence how colours are categorised. In some cultures this results as blue being viewed as part of the grey-green spectrum.

Perhaps this happed among the Minoans, explaining why the coloured grey/green monkeys are depicted blue. Alternatively, they could be borrowing the colouration from the Ancient Egyptians who used blue in scared contexts.

Either way, this case of ‘archaeoprimatology’ sheds new light on Minoan frescoes and provides insight into the surprisingly interconnected world of Ancient Greece.


Header Image Credit : Antiquity

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Giant Sand Worm Discovery Proves Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Simon Fraser University researchers have found evidence that large ambush-predatory worms--some as long as two metres--roamed the ocean floor near Taiwan over 20 million years ago.

Burial Practices Point to an Interconnected Early Medieval Europe

Early Medieval Europe is frequently viewed as a time of cultural stagnation, often given the misnomer of the 'Dark Ages'. However, analysis has revealed new ideas could spread rapidly as communities were interconnected, creating a surprisingly unified culture in Europe.

New Starfish-Like Fossil Reveals Evolution in Action

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered a fossil of the earliest starfish-like animal, which helps us understand the origins of the nimble-armed creature.

Mars Crater Offers Window on Temperatures 3.5 Billion Years Ago

Once upon a time, seasons in Gale Crater probably felt something like those in Iceland. But nobody was there to bundle up more than 3 billion years ago.

Early Humans Used Chopping Tools to Break Animal Bones & Consume the Bone Marrow

Researchers from the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University unraveled the function of flint tools known as 'chopping tools', found at the prehistoric site of Revadim, east of Ashdod.

50 Million-Year-Old Fossil Assassin Bug Has Unusually Well-Preserved Genitalia

The fossilized insect is tiny and its genital capsule, called a pygophore, is roughly the length of a grain of rice.

Dinosaur-Era Sea Lizard Had Teeth Like a Shark

New study identifies a bizarre new species suggesting that giant marine lizards thrived before the asteroid wiped them out 66 million years ago.

The Iron Age Tribes of Britain

The British Iron Age is a conventional name to describe the independent Iron Age cultures that inhabited the mainland and smaller islands of present-day Britain.

Popular stories

The Iron Age Tribes of Britain

The British Iron Age is a conventional name to describe the independent Iron Age cultures that inhabited the mainland and smaller islands of present-day Britain.

The Roman Conquest of Wales

The conquest of Wales began in either AD 47 or 48, following the landing of Roman forces in Britannia sent by Emperor Claudius in AD 43.

Vallum Antonini – The Antonine Wall

The Antonine Wall (Vallum Antonini) was a defensive wall built by the Romans in present-day Scotland, that ran for 39 miles between the Firth of Forth, and the Firth of Clyde (west of Edinburgh along the central belt).

Vallum Aulium – Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall (Vallum Aulium) was a defensive fortification in Roman Britannia that ran 73 miles (116km) from Mais at the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea to the banks of the River Tyne at Segedunum at Wallsend in the North Sea.