Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Bronze Age Aegean wall paintings depicting monkeys from Crete and Thera show the animals in a variety of roles, from wild to possibly trained, to cultic or sacred. These images, while stylistically Aegean, are closely related to—and seem to be descendant from—Egyptian and Mesopotamian monkey and ape iconography. In order to better understand the relationships between the monkeys in Aegean wall paintings and those that live(d) in the Aegean, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, several primatologists were consulted to identify species-specific visual characteristics more accurately. This approach results in the recognition of a new region as a contributing source for monkey iconography: the broader Indus River Valley. Communication and collaboration with Indus and Mesopotamian specialists also prove critical for the art historical and archaeological component of this project, which facilitates the tracing of possible Indus-Aegean trade routes via the movement of iconography, raw materials, goods, people (through DNA analysis), while also considering textual documentation and color theory. With an emphasis on the primatological aspect and the growing corpus of Indus goods found in the Aegean, an image emerges of an even broader iconographic and socio-religious sphere of interaction. In this expanded system, Mesopotamia functions both as an independent source of iconography and as an intermediary that facilitated a dissemination of monkey iconography, related beliefs, and possibly the creatures themselves.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Pareja, M.N., T. McKinney, J. Mayhew, J.M. Setchell, R. Heaton, and S. Nash. 2019. “A New Identification of the Monkeys Depicted in Bronze Age Wall Paintings from Akrotiri,” Primates (Online First, Dec. 2019).
Pareja, M.N., T. McKinney, and J.M. Setchell. 2020. “Aegean Monkeys and the Importance of Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration in Archaeoprimatology: A Reply to Urbani and Youlatos (2020),” Primates (Online First, Sept. 2020).