Scampering, climbing, jumping blue bodies flow lyrically in a pattern across a wall. These are the “blue monkey frescoes”, some dating from c. 1600-1450 BCE, from the Minoan city of Akrotiri, on the Aegean Island of Thera (now Santorini), and others – c. 1500 BCE – from the “House of the Frescoes”, near the Palace of Knossos on Crete. Shown in a fertile, rocky landscape, some of the primates are picking saffron crocus flowers. These delightful and ethereal fragments, showing a love of the natural world, were found widespread throughout Thera, suggesting that they were valued and enjoyed. The frescoes may have been a significant part of each room in which they were found, and the blue monkeys may have figured in religion. Trade with Egypt possibly brought monkeys – some as pets – to the Aegean islands. It is fortunate that these charming “blue” primates, with their white faces and long, thin tails, have survived for modern viewers to enjoy.
The blue monkey – also called the diademed monkey – (Cercopithecus mitis) is an Old World monkey with a range that includes Central and East Africa. Some are found today in Tanzania, in Lake Manyara National Park. Though not actually blue in colour, they have, at times, a bluish tinge. A threatened species, blue monkeys mainly inhabit the forest canopy. There are several subspecies, also in Africa.
Posted by Gabrielle
See: Collection of the Herakleion Archaeological Museum, Crete
The “House of the Frescoes”, Knossos, Crete
Aegean Art and Architecture, by D. Preziosi and L. Hitchcock, Oxford, 1999.
Architecture of Minoan Crete, by J. C. McEnroe, University of Texas Press, 2010.