Iron Age, Minoan and Bronze Age Decoration

Artistic Styles: Iron Age Britain, Scandinavia, Mycenaean Greece and Minoan Crete

4th century BC | 12th century BC | 16th century BC.

Perhaps these interconnecting spirals give expression to some deeper-held belief, perhaps that discrete objects, or living people, might be formed from a single thread, or soul.

'Here is a beautiful design from an Iron Age sword handle found at Fiskerton, Lincolnshire, England, in the peat beds around the River Witham,' said Quintin. 'It dates to the fourth century BC. The iron has all corroded away but the bronze work that remains is amazing. The sword might have been thrown into the water as a votive offering from one of the wooden causeways built for the purpose. Imagine this design curled around the sword's handle so that both ends meet.'

interconnected spirals, British Iron Age design

Design redrawn from: Stead, Ian, 1985 reprinted 1996. Celtic Art: In Britain before the Roman Conquest. The British Museum Press. p 23.

'It is lovely,' agreed Miranda, taking the sheet of paper that Quintin had printed out, showing the design depicted as though in bronze wire. 'And here is a cloak-fastener from the Iron Age in Scandinavia, roughly the same age as this sword handle found at Fiskerton,' she said. 'The drawing is from a Scandinavian book illustration published near the turn of the twentieth century. Spirals again. See how it compares with a gold earring from one of the Shaft Graves at Mycenae, from the Mycenaean Bronze Age, a thousand years before?'

iron age fibulaMycenaean earring

Left: a cloak fastener dating to the Hallstad period of the European Iron Age, early Iron Age, 8th to 5th centuries BC. Right: an earing found in a shaft grave at Mycene, Myceneaen Greece, Late Helladic I, 16th century BC.

'Almost identical!' exclaimed Quintin. 'Look, the two spirals are really one. One piece of wire forms the whole thing. And when it is clasped, this cloak-fastener makes one continuous line without any break at all. I wonder whether they were both love tokens?'

Mycenaean pottery

Ceramic bowl, late Mycenaean style, 1400–1100 BC. Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany.

'Perhaps these interconnecting spirals give expression to some deeper-held belief, perhaps that discrete objects, or living people, might be formed from a single thread, or soul.' suggested Miranda. 'After all, the design seems to pervade the whole of western European art in the Iron Age and here it is again, on Mycenaean pottery, and again here, in the Queen's Megaron in the Palace of Minos which Sir Arthur Evans excavated at Knossos on Crete, dating to the Minoan Bronze Age. Perhaps it depicts an underlying unity to things that seem fragmented.'

Palace of Minos

Detail of wall decoration below the fresco of dolphins in the Queen's Megaron, so-named by Sir Arthur Evans during the excavation and reconstruction of the Palace pf Minos, Knossos. Minoan culture.

See for yourself

Spiral - Wikipedia

Minoan Civilisation – Wikipedia

Knossos – Wikipedia

La T̬ne culture РWikipedia

British Iron Age – Wikipedia

Mycenaean Greece - Wikipedia

Celtic Art – British Museum Publication by Ian Stead, beautifully illustrated, unfortunately not now available from the British Museum website but well worth obtaining if you can

Circles and spirals

Circle Line

part of a prehistoric stone circle
iron age spiral design, stylised snakes biting each other's tails

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