ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF AKROTIRI
COMMENTS ON THERAN MURAL PAINTING IN COMPARISON TO CONTEMPORARY MINOAN FRESCOES
Male figures appear to assume greater importance in at least some Theran paintings (e.g. the fishermen, warriors, and captains from Room 5 of the West House; the boxing boys from Room B1) than in most Minoan painting, but the female plays an important and often dominant role in several Theran compositions (Xeste 3; House of the Ladies; "priestess" from the West House) and often appears dressed in a thoroughly Minoan fashion (but note the unusual garb of the "priestess").
Relief frescoes are thus far unknown from Akrotiri, as are large scale griffin compositions and bull-jumping scenes, all of which are particularly characteristic of Knossian palatial murals. The compositions of Xeste 3 on both levels may have constituted forms of processional scenes, on the ground floor toward the altar on the east wall and on the upper storey from both directions toward the seated "goddess" on the north wall, compositional schemes paralleled at Knossos both in the Corridor of the Procession and on the Grand Staircase.
In details of dress (including flounced skirts, tight-fitting short-sleeved jackets leaving the breasts exposed, textile patterns, and some forms of jewelry) and in depictions of scenes of nature (e.g. the Blue Monkey and Springtime frescoes), the Theran murals often closely resemble Minoan wall paintings. At least two features common in the frescoes from Akrotiri, however, are not well paralleled on Crete and are unlikely to be patterned after Mainland/Mycenaean models either. The first is the peculiar hairstyle affected by many figures of both sexes in which much of the head is painted blue (probably indicative of a shaved head rather than of a specially deesigned skullcap of some sort) and only a few long locks whose positions vary considerably from individual to individual are indicated in black. It is possible that differing hairstyles are indicators of age, as Koehl has argued is the case for similar though seemingly not identical variations in male (but not female!) hairstyles in Neopalatial Crete. The second feature possibly peculiar to Thera is the wearing by females of exceptionally large earrings. Identical earrings from the Shaft Graves of Circle A at Mycenae are better viewed as evidence for the adoption of a Cycladic fashion by wealthy and progressive Mainlanders than as indicating the presence of Mycenaeans on Thera at this time.
The miniature fresco from Room 5 of the West House, arguably the most complex single work of art of the Aegean Bronze Age thus far recovered in anything like its entirety, has already provoked an enormous literature in which a broad spectrum of opinion is represented on such topics as the identity of the ships in the fleet scene, the identity of the warriors carrying the tower shields and wearing boars'-tusk helmets on the north wall, the locale of the two towns on the south wall, etc., etc. It is questionable whether such problems can be resolved with the evidence presently available. However, it is worth observing that scenes such as the towns on the south wall and the disembarkation of warriors from their ships on the north wall have contemporary (e.g. the Silver Siege rhyton from Grave Circle A at Mycenae) as well as earlier (the Town Mosaic from Knossos) parallels in other media. Note also that the ships of the fleet have several features in common with the vessels incised on EC frying pans a millennium or so earlier in the Cyclades.