Minoan Art Pottery

Minoan maiden with prayer beads Fresco

Minoan maiden with prayer beads Fresco



Pottery and wall art from the ancient Minoans:


From around 2700 to 1450 BC, the Minoan civilization flourished as a seafaring and mercantile culture. The vibrant Minos culture was centred around the island of Crete and eventually dominated the Agean region. Along with its exceptionally advantageous position at the intersection of sea routes leading to the countries of the Middle East, its trading contributed to the high flowering of the culture and art of Crete. The Egyptians called the Minoans “the Sea Peoples” and had a fond appreciation for Minoan pottery and ceramics, prized for their innovative shapes and sea-inspired designs. Their vases and jugs were made in fine clay with thin walls and was an outstanding achievement at this time. Historians have learned everything there is to know about the Minoan people through their artwork. Artwork such as paintings, potttery, sculptures, and architectural designs were important to the people of the Minoan civilization in Crete.

Their decorative wares were covered in bold, flowing, rhythmic movements with patterns using linked curvilinear and undulating lines. Minoans painted their pottery decorations on wet plaster, which allowed the pigments of metal to bind to the plaster. However, this required the painter to exercise specific skills that allowed him or her to work within the time constraints imposed by the color on the plaster drying. This type of art encouraged improvisation and personal expression because there was very little time for the painter to create highly detailed art pieces. Flowing broad strokes were favored, which covered the surface more rapidly and gave their art a stylized, abstract appearance.

Minoan pottery was initially decorated with designs in dark, often shiny paint (vitreous slip), in shades of red, brown, and black, on a light surface. Between 1900-1700BC the Kamáres style developed into the most colourful and vibrant style of pottery form and decoration yet seen anywhere. Images were painted on a black-brown background in reds, whites and blues. Sea and shore fauna and flora were the most important source of design. The animals displayed a playful nature and emphasised a flambuoyant liveliness characteristic of Cretean Art. Nowhere else in the art of the ancient world was such a lightness of spirit displayed, compared to the creativity of the Minoans at the height of their power in the early 15th century BC.

From 1700BC their technique of making and handling quartz frit paste had reached a higher standard than any other culture. Many small colourful plaques, figurines and jewelry in blue and polychome were made and exported, along with their pottery, to Egypt and the Levant islands of the Aegean Sea, and also in Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and even further into the depths of Africa.




Kamares crater vessel with decorative lillies

Kamares crater banquet vessel with decorative lillies

Old-Palace period (1800-1700 BC)



Tray with handles and whirling motifs from Phaistos

Tray with handles and whirling motifs from Phaistos




Minoan pottery -- frying pan with characteristic decorative spirals.

Minoan pottery — frying pan with characteristic decorative spirals.

Iraklio museum -Minoan pottery

Iraklio Museum – Minoan pottery




Bronzen female figure Late Minoan

Bronze female figure Late Minoan.



Mycenean octopus pottery

The Minoans were conquered by the Mycenaeans and this Mycenean octopus pottery from Thissus reflects the influence of the Minoans.




Minoa, Kamaras libation vessel

Kamaras libation vessel




Elegant ewer with reed type decoration

Elegant ewer with reed type decoration that creates a pattern of dark and light colours on the surface of the pot.
Example of the decorative mannerism of the Late Neopalatial period, a work by the artist conventionally referred to, as ‘Reed – Painter’ (1450 BC).
Heraklion Museum




Large lidded pot from Mochlos

Lidded pot from Mochlos




Minoan dolphin pot

Reproduction of a Minoan dolphin pot




Minoan jar with spiral motif

Late Minoan Jar with Three Handles



Minoan pitcher Templar1307-flickr

Minoan Marine Style Pitcher

Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete

( Templar 1307 – flickr )



Handpainted Mycenaean Krater

Mycenaean Krater ca.1400-1300 B.C.


Minoan Snake Goddess figure holding snakes


Minoan Snake Goddess



Minoan wall art

 Minoan wall art

Circumstantial evidence indicates that women played a dominant role in Minoan religion and perhaps also in Minoan society. Some believe that the Minoans lived in a matrilineal, or even a matriarchal, society.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete





Minoan eight handled amphora



Pottery Jar with Octopus Design from Knossos

 Pottery Jar with Octopus Design  from Knossos,  Crete.  Late Minoan period II  c.1450 1400 BC   Fine Arts Reproduction




Wendy Shirran with a three handled Amphora

Wendy Shirran with  a three handled Amphora she made – Palace style, white earthenware with stained slips and terra sigelata, Late Minoan II, 1450-1400 BCE





Libation vase (rhyton) of serpentine, in the shape of a bull's head

Libation vase (rhyton) of serpentine, in the shape of a bull’s head with inlays of shell, rock crystal and jasper in the muzzle and eyes. Knossos. New-Palace period (1600-1500 BC)



Minoan drinking vessel

Minoan drinking vessel

Minoan Terracotta Pitcher

 Minoan Pitcher

Archeological Museum in Heraklion.





Minoan wall painting, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete473px-385px

The priestess at the altar. Detail of the painting of the sarcophagus from Agia Triada

Minoan wall painting, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete

Minoan Pottery - Iraklio museum

1. The Boxer Rhyton. Steatite libation vase with relief scenes of boxing, wrestling and bull-leaping. Ayia Triada. New-Palace period (1500-1450 BC)

3.  Steatite libation vase (rhyton), originally covered with gold leaf, with a relief representation of a shrine in a mountain landscape. Zakros. New-Palace period (1500-1450 BC)

(  http://arctangent.smugmug.com )


Carved amphora vessel

 Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete





Frieze of dolphins in the Cretan palace of Knossos

Frieze of dolphins in the Cretan palace of Knossos



Spouted jar, Kamares Ware, Middle Minoan period

Spouted jar, Kamares Ware, Middle Minoan, 2000-1700 BC



Marine Style Ceramics of the Cretan-Minoan Neopalatial Period

Marine Style Ceramics of the Cretan-Minoan Neopalatial Period (c. 1650 BC to 1450 BC).




Iraklio-museum - Minoan libation vase

The Harvester Vase. Steatite ( soapstone ) libation vase (rhyton) with a relief scene of a procession of men led by a man holding a staff – an official or priest. They hold harvesting tools and sing to the accompaniment of the sistrum. New-Palace period (1500-1450 BC)




Minoan Kamares style vase

 Kamares style vases with complex polychrome decoration, from Phaistos and Knossos.

Old-Palace Period (1800-1700 BC)

Amethyst Minoan Seal Ashmolean Museum OXford

 Minoan Amethyst Seal

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University



Kamares style bridge-spouted Jug

Kamares style bridge-spouted Jug-1800-1700 BC

( Nicholas Kaye – Flickr )




Minoan pottery

Minoan vessel. Marine Style decoration. 1500 BC.





Cretan terracotta tripod from the Minoan Palace of Malia



Collector of saffron. Fresco from the palace in Knossos. XVII century. BC.

Collector of saffron. Fresco from the palace in Knossos. XVII century. BC.


Heraklion Knossos ceramic jug

Tonkrug Katsambas




Minoa phaistos Small Kamares ware jar

Small Kamares ware jar, with bands and interconnected spirals,
Palaeopalatial Period (1900 – 1700 BC)
Heraklion Museum



Minoan Marble Bowl

Minoan Marble Bowl




Minoan Snake Goddess

 Mycenaean fish and octopus pitcher

 Mycenaean  fish and octopus pitcher






Minoan Gold Ring




Minoan Phaistos ewer

Painted Kamares ware ewer or pitcher with three handles and relief spiky decoration,
Palaeopalatial Period (1900 – 1700 BC)
Heraklion Museum



Minoan-acrobats - Ashmolean-Museum

Acrobats – Minoan Chalcedony carving

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Uni




Minoan Jug from Mochios

Minoan Jug from Mochios

Labrys pithos

Labrys pithos – 1500BC

Knossos Palace





Saffron gatherer in fresco from Akrotiri, Thera

Fresco of saffron gathering –  Akrotiri, Thera



minoan-gold-ring-Ring of Isopata


Ring of Isopata

1400–1500 BC

This famous Minoan gold ring from the Isopata tomb, near Knossos,  depicts four dancing female figures, richly clad in characteristic Minoan attire, moving through a landscape of lilies. Three of them raise their arms in ecstasy,  while the fourth one, placed in the centre of the scene and slightly higher than the others, makes a gesture – possibly of benediction. A fifth figure, much smaller than the others, appears to be descending from the sky  ( top left ) and completes the composition together with other religious symbols frequently encountered on similar representations, such as the sacred eye, the snake and the chrysalis.




Minoan bronze stand

Minoan bronze stand, c.1400BC  Cyprus, exhibited at The British Museum





Amphora vessel






Minoan Potnia – Goddess Of Animals – Theron, Minoa





Minoan large pot with palms,-Konossos

Pot with palms – Konossos




Solid gold pendant from the Minoan civilization depicting a deity holding two birds1700BC

Minoan solid gold pendant – Deity holding two birds





Minoan Kamares teapot

Minoan teapot – Kamares



 Minoan relief art Gold Cup of Tolosa in Vafio with the image of taming wild bulls


 Gold Cup of Tolosa in Vafio with the image of taming wild bulls





Small twin handled  ‘Kamares’  bowl with labrys motif





Minoan, Gold Ornament in the form of a Bee

 1700-1600 BCE

The British Museum



Minoan-priestess terracotta laque

Minoan Priestess plaque


Minoan-Ritual dancing - gold signet ring

Gold Minoan ring with females dancing



worship-ring - a cntral goddes figure with her wworshipers

Minoan gold ring



Templar-1307-flickr Heraklion-Archaeological-Museum,-Crete - gold goddess sculpture

 Gold goddess pendant

Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete





Minoan pottery pitchers

Andree Stephan




Minoan vase,

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University




Pylos temple fresco – Minoan singer with lyre ( Orpheus)

XIII century. BC




Minoan-ceramic-vessel with fleur di lis motifs and small handles

Minoan ceramic vessel with fleur de lis motifs





    Posted April 13, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    the fry pan is not minoan, it is Cycladic (Naxos 2800 b.c.)

  2. John Charles Heiser
    Posted October 19, 2014 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Thanasis. All in all, a fabulous display of the culture I have believed to be the real Atlantis for more than 4 decades. We have so much to learn. The level achieved by these potters and decorators stands as masterwork no matter where or when. Is there any mention of these people in the Hittite libraries?

  3. bailey wesowskey
    Posted November 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    awesome thanks this helped me out alot with my social studies class

  4. bailey wesowskey
    Posted November 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    awesome thanks this helped me out

  5. Sundararaju Reddi
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Very informative site. Can you tell me what the dates are for the third and fourth pieces depicting solar motifs?

  6. Sundararaju Reddi
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Very informative site. Can you tell me what the dates are for the third and fourth pieces depicting solar motifs? AH,it’s ok, just found the dates.

  7. ujio
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    lol needs more work m8

    i made all the potteries

  8. linden
    Posted November 21, 2018 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    im awseome not…

  9. Joe
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    THANASIS KATSARAS the cycladic people were Minoans. There is no cycladic civilization. Cycladic islands were colonies of the Minoans.

  10. Anne-Marie Barrett-B
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Its incorrect to deny Cycladic civilization. They have a unique and distinct culture especially the frying pans. Some sites like Akrotiri may show Minoan influence but even then there are distinct differences in the subject matter of their frescoes

  11. Anonymous
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    that frying pan is not minoan.

  12. Chicken Chet
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    why are you worked up about this

  13. Keftiu
    Posted April 29, 2019 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    The spirals of the frying pan are very common in Minoan vessels.

  14. Robert Tracy
    Posted June 6, 2019 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    Did the Cretens reach South America some of the Pottery look the same .

  15. Robbie Hood
    Posted June 6, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    As they were a nation of seafarers it is possible, but the journey was around 10,000 km

  16. Rebecca Augustine
    Posted January 5, 2022 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE the artwork of this ancient civilization. I often look to the ancient past for inspiration.

  17. Michelle
    Posted January 18, 2022 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Where can I find a high resolution version of the “Pylos temple fresco – Minoan singer with lyre ( Orpheus)” image?

  18. Rachael
    Posted October 7, 2022 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Do we know the process by which they mined / created the clay. My daughter is doing a unit on the phaesos disc and we can’t find info on the process.

  19. Robbie Hood
    Posted October 8, 2022 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Hi Rachael, the Minoans primarily used Earthenware clays that were fired at low temperatures. The Phaistos Disc was made of a baked clay, probably in a terracotta. More than likely sourced locally at Phaistos.

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