Minoan Symbols: Horns of Consecration 𓄋

The Symbol of Sanctity

Sacred bull horns (made of limestone or clay) were one of the primary symbols in Minoan culture. They could be found on rooftops, tombs, larnakes (coffins), shrines, temple entrances, sealstonesyou name it! In some instances, the horns were depicted with flowers or the labrys (butterfly axe – expect another article about that in the near future) in between them. They were clearly a notable part of daily life as much as they were a part of mystical rituals, which is why archaeologist Arthur Evans coined them as such.

Findings from post-palatial shrines on Crete. Horns of Consecration are on the upper left and right. Displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

It has been suggested that the colossal horn sculptures atop buildings could have been used as frames for viewing stellar movement. However, one thing is for certain: these weren’t mere horns of a bull; they held religious significancebulls in general were regarded as a sacred animals to the Minoans and were integrated into most rituals.

Sacred Seat or Pot Holder… or Both?

Some scholars claim the larger Horns of Consecration served as honorary seats for royalty and/or deities. On the hand, other scholars have had a more practical use in mind: perhaps the horns of lesser size were pot-support in a hearth. While a true consensus isn’t feasible, it would be safe to ascertain that these horns were in fact multi-functional.

The Bull Under The Sun

Another element of The Horns of Consecration is its potential solar quality (the sun was an equally important Minoan symbol). Many researchers like Emilia Banou (Faculty Member at University of the Peloponnese) propose that they are a sign of sun worship as posited in the following evidence:

  • a clay model of it on the peak sanctuary of Petsophas
  • astronomical research results from various other peak sanctuaries
  • a Goddess with Upraised Arms (pictured in the first photo in the upper center) alongside a clay model of Horns of Consecration were found at the Mycenaean cemetery of Tanagra

With Egyptian influence of Minoan culture being undeniable, such religious notions relay back to Ancient Egyptian symbols of both mountain and horizon, which ultimately have a solar basis.

Me by the Sacred Horns of Consecration outside the South Entrance (Propylaea) of Knossos back in 2011. Reconstructed by Arthur Evans.

Academia.edu: www.academia.edu/20823951
BYU Library Digital Collections: www.contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/CivilizationHamblin/id/1896/
*Featured photo from Wikimedia Commons by Afrathianakis Emmanouil
*First photo from Wikimedia Commons by Rda