With lavish painted ornamentation and a dramatic pose, this female figurine commands attention. The bird perched atop her head announces her divine status, as birds such as doves and pigeons were symbols of a goddess throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. Found at the center of a small communal shrine at Knossos, on the island of Crete, this 8.5-inch, clay figurine from the 14th century B.C. represents a Minoan goddess. According to scholar Giorgos Rethemiotakis, the goddess’s oversized arms and accentuated eyes “vividly bring to life the message and content of the prayer, the immediate visual and mental contact of the goddess with the praying faithful.”
Minoan religion centered around goddess worship; there also is evidence of a powerful female priesthood. Since the language of the Minoans has never been deciphered, most of what we know of the civilization comes from Greek and other neighboring cultures.