Certain groups of finds from excavations of Minoan palaces, megara, and villas have been associated with expressions of cult. These cult objects include the following.
Built altars. These were rectangular or square stepped structures made of dressed stone and crowned with sacred double horns. They have been found in the palaces at Knossos, Phaistos and Archanes. They were used for blood sacrifices and for burning the sacrificial animal, and also for bloodless offerings (sacred branches, baskets of fruit etc.).
Moveable altars. These were made of stone, were rectangular with biconcave sides, and were found with double horns and sacred branches. They were used mainly for bloodless offerings.
Sacrificial tables. These were wooden tables on which animals were sacrificed. One of them is depicted on the Ayia Triada sarcophagus.
Offering-tables. These were low, made of stone, clay, or plaster, consisted of simple round slabs or slabs with legs and had flat or slightly concave surfaces. They received offerings of solids. Some of them took the form of a lamp with a high foot, while others resembled fruitstands.
Libation tables. These were made of stone and had the shape of an inverted stepped pyramid. They were designed to receive liquid offerings (libations). They were dedicated in peak sanctuaries, and have incised votive inscriptions in an ideogrammatic script or Linear A.
Kernoi. These were composite vessels with two or more cavities to receive a variety of offerings, usually of fruit or seeds. They are found as early as the Pre-Palace period. They consist of stone, rectangular or round, slabs with depressions, or clay vessels consisting of two or more cups joined together. One fine example is the large stone kernos from the palace at Malia. The offering of a full range of seeds (panspermia) was designed to exert a magical influence on nature and lead to abundant produce. It was at the same time a thanks offering to the deity for the harvest. This secured fruitfulness during the annual nature cycle. Kernoi and panspermia offerings survived into Greek and Christian worship.
Rhyta or libation vases. These were vases. These were vases and vessels with a mouth through which they were filled and a hole from which the liquid flowed out. They were made of semiprecious stone (sometimes carved with relief scenes), metal, faience, or clay. Many were zoomorphic or took the shape of an animal head (bull, lioness, etc.). Others had the shape of a triton shell or were conical, oval, globular, jugs, etc.
Tubular stands. These were unusual clay vessels which resemble a tube, have large numbers of handles and relief snakes, small cups, bulls’ heads, and wild goats. They were used, like rhyta, for libations, or as supports for basket of offerings. They are also called “snake tubes”.
Lamps. These were functional objects, though they are usually found in places associated with cult. They are mainly made of stone with a low or high foot. Squat alabastra. These were stone or made of clay, and were low and wide with a narrow mouth, to prevent the contents from spilling. They were used for libations.
Small terracotta temples and altars, sacred horns, doors and windows. They were probably used as bases for other vases. Several of the small temples date from the Pro-palace period. Other cult objects include communion chalices, two-handled or handless situlae, in which the blood of the sacrificial victim was collected, ladles, incense-burners, braziers, and so on.
Dr Andonis Vasilakis