Dr Céline Murphy (The Heritage Management Organisation), "How, when, who and what? Revisiting the fragmentation of Minoan peak sanctuary figurines"
Because of their allegedly ‘careless’ production and ‘poor’ appearance, it has been widely assumed that Minoan peak sanctuary figurines were not items made to last but that they were made to be broken as part of the rituals taking place on site. These assumptions, however, have rarely been questioned. Drawing upon a direct examination of – and experimental research on – a range of such artefacts, I here explore the implications that the aforementioned statements have on our understanding of human and non-human agency in the context of peak sanctuary figurine breakage. Starting with an examination of the material conditions upon which these items’ deposition at peak sanctuaries relied – namely their solid and sound manufacture – I propose that the figurines might also have been placed on display at the sites, and may not have been as immediately broken as is usually believed. Moreover, the figurines may not have been uniquely broken by humans: influence from the wider context in which they were deposited may have played a significant role in their fragmentation. In this light, it is conceivable that the breakage of peak sanctuary figurines occurred over time, over several generations, and consisted of a long-term process rather than an event isolated in a single moment. In this presentation, I therefore suggest that non-human-provoked material decay can also be considered as a form of fragmentation where Minoan peak sanctuary figurines are concerned.