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Sign & Countersign
If Minoans, like their neighbors and most peoples, began their calendric history counting cycles of the moon, we might find a way to count through a year of the Bull Leap fresco’s border by looking at its lunar aspects first.
Where to begin? Minoans wrote and read Linear A and B from left-to-right. The definitive fresco presents 62 crescents: close to but not the 60 phases of a 12-month, 5-phase lunar year. With one left-to-right counting clue, we have four possible crescents with which to begin.
Three of the four are blue crescents—they begin horizontal rows at top and bottom left, and atop the left vertical. While a Waning color might not seem the most auspicious basis for a New Year to “make the world live again,” we saw evidence in Chapter 1 that, at least in the later historic period, autumn did begin the Cretan/Greek year (Koehl “Marriage” 241). Why not? In a country burned dry by summer sun, winter rains enabled spring rebirth. Waning itself is a herald of renewal.
A calendar with a lunar basis, however, begins with New Moon. So do the observed Great Year’s doubled pairs of lunar/solar signs; and we find that the fresco’s left-side orange/New Moon crescent is the one candidate that begins a row. If we are in search of a Minoan-period lunar/solar calendar consistent with their writing and Great Year astronomy, the left vertical’s bottom orange crescent is where we must begin.
Now we need warning of a launch-point hazard in the Ashmolean Version of the Fresco—even as it offers the best-established color-sequence of lunar crescents.
Notice, in the left vertical, that Cameron’s and Hood’s best original fragments are at top and bottom, for the orange and blue crescents. Look closer.
Between top and bottom, the “colored blank place-holders” show the established sequence of colors—but, they are in order descending from the top blue crescent, and not in the sequence as it must unfold upward, from the bottom’s New/orange one.
Observe that, counting down from the left vertical’s original top blue crescent, we have what we expect—the colors sequencing from Waning/blue, through black, orange, red, white, blue, black and orange, to complete the vertical. But, counting upward from the left vertical’s original New/orange crescent, by established color-sequence, we look next not for black’s Dark phase, but for a Waxing moon’s red crescent. This is not to fault Cameron and Hood: it is consistent with the fact that there was nothing calendric or more than formally numerical in their Version.
To be clear: the established color-sequence, unfolding up the left vertical, should show a Waxing red crescent in the 2nd and 7th upward positions, which now are black. (Noted below, there is another problem, too, that leads to understanding.)
Let nothing about this experiment grow vague. Anchor this distinction by comparing the right vertical’s color-sequence, traveling down from blue (top) to orange (at bottom). We can see that that is the correct color-sequence in two ways.
The right vertical’s sequence is consistent with the whole fresco’s colored-crescent pattern. It fulfills the correct sequence as at last we come counting down the right vertical, to complete the whole border. You will see, by the fresco’s own logic of signs and countersigns, that this end-point is not imposed, but generic.
We can see further support for our own adjustment as we study the left vertical. Cameron and Hood, guided by the majority of original fragments for the right vertical, evidently used it to guide their creation of the sequence for the left. Again, the Ashmolean reconstruction was not informed by calendrics. It copied the right vertical into the left perhaps by the same impulse for symmetry that made Cameron and Hood, on the First Proof, “correct” the unequal horizontals. But the verticals should not be identical. This problem brings more precision.
Begin at the New/orange crescent at the bottom of the left vertical row, and count 5 phases up through one lunar cycle (orange-red-white-blue-black, with the above corrections in mind.) Then, count 2 more phases into a second Moon-cycle (orange the 6th, and “our” red the 7th). But here comes our second problem. Now, where we look next for a Full Moon’s white crescent, instead we find a reliably original blue crescent. What happened? If “the” color-sequence is broken already, how can we know where to continue counting?
We find no Full Moon’s white crescent at the start of any other row, to which perhaps to jump. Surely, a missing white Full Moon would have been an anomaly to draw Minoan attention, inviting a search for guiding clues.
We stand at a blue crescent. The most conservative, shortest jump we can make is to the upper horizontal’s first crescent at left. Yet, it is also blue: this shortest jump would entail a repetition (or doubling) of blue in the established color sequence.
We might judge this a sign against jumping that way (avoiding repetition). But again, there is no black crescent at any row’s-end position to which to jump according to color. Where is the closest black crescent? Just above, and next to be counted if we follow this doubling of blue.
We have one further clue that doubling “means something” generic in this possible Great Year astronomy: the moon and sun, whose rhythmic phases constitute a pair of signs (New Moon/Winter Solstice, Full Moon/Summer Solstice) that are doubled at each end. The Minoan use of visual doubling to signify importance will be shown throughout these chapters: it is acknowledged and central, for example, even in the iconography of the “unique cult scene” lately studied by Hallager (2007: 287). On the basis of many different, careful and unsuccessful attempts to try this labyrinth, let us try this shortest jump and see what happens.
We must not forget that apparently-missing white crescent/Full Moon. At least we will be moving in synch with the left bull-leaper, whose hands have Bull by the horns and whose feet have left the ground.
Now, counting rightward across the very top horizontal row, we pass over Bull’s back; coincidentally with the bodily flow and upper pointing foot of the leaping man, to reach the top right corner‘s orange crescent. Note that at first (left vertical) we started at orange and landed at blue: across the horizontal just counted, the same colors reversed or alternated. Our preliminary total is 8 + 23, or 31 crescents: six cycles of a 5-phase Moon, plus 1 phase.
Again, which way now?
At the upper-right end, we stand on an orange crescent. By color-sequence, we look for red next—but find no red crescent that begins any uncounted row.
Before, we settled for a short jump from blue to blue. Maybe now we need a longer jump by the same color-doubling pattern. For below our position, in the fresco’s right vertical and horizontal rows, we see two possible orange crescents to catch us. A jump again between doubled colors would at least follow the pattern that, however improvised on clues, got us over the first left-side problem. At least a jump from orange (top right) to orange (bottom right) has a consistency, though longer than our first jump.
What if we make a shorter jump instead, to the uncounted orange crescent at the base of the right vertical? We will count quickly upward and back to a blue crescent (right vertical, top). Then, following doubled colors, we’d have to jump leftward across the fresco to the blue crescent at the bottom left corner; then come back along the bottom horizontal, and end the year at an orange crescent (bottom row, right).
The orange crescent at right on the bottom horizontal row is a slightly better match, however; because, like the upper right orange crescent where we stand, its position is outside or beyond the right vertical: it is our present crescent’s true double. If we look cautiously before we jump, we find these two the most alike.
Also, the long bottom horizontal row of crescents ends, at far left, with a blue. From there we can see, ahead, a third consistent jump and landing-place between doubled colors—in the corresponding, uncounted blue crescent atop the right vertical.
True, the right vertical matches this orange/blue alternation observed so far. But only this approach will bring us down the right vertical according to the correct sequence of colors in the whole border.
As shown thus far, and as “traditionally” in a labyrinth, it seems we may either be lost or with too many options. Yet, a careful memory, and patience in comparing and sorting out details according to this emergent logic, always reveal that in fact we are compelled and guided by an original systematic Minoan pattern.
With at least this consistent, objective doubling-pattern in hand—so far, like signs and countersigns—we jump from the top right orange crescent to its match, the orange crescent that begins, at right, the bottom horizontal.
Now we reverse direction and run with Bull as we count across the bottom horizontal row from right to left. At the bottom row’s final blue crescent, we add our previous 31 crescents to the lower horizontal’s 23; pausing at the lower left corner of the fresco. Our new total is 54 phases, or 10 full cycles of a 5-phase Moon plus 4 phases.
We arrive at a blue crescent sign, and the fresco has chosen the way we must come out. Now, to reach that last uncounted vertical row of crescents, we need to make our third and longest jump, clear across the fresco—a second jump over Bull, and again with the leaping man in the process—to land on the matching blue crescent whose color “happens” to work like a doubled countersign.
Again, coincidentally, the right side’s helping bull-dancer holds out her arms as if to call and catch us. Her two well-planted feet correspond to the bottom of the right vertical row, where we must arrive to complete our 1-year count.
We jump and cross through the fresco’s central space, to count 8 phases down the right vertical row, and end as we began on an orange crescent. (This final doubling matched in the left vertical also has importance: further on.) The total is 62 phases—but that is still 2 more than 12 cycles of a 5-phase Moon. With a promising pattern in hand from just a few clues, there must be more to learn.
As we saw with Great Year astronomy—and again as if in a labyrinth—we must return, when faced with confusion, to the last point where we seemed to know surely where we were; characterize what happened, and apply what we learned to resume going forward. So, looking back, is there help with the problem of 62 (rather than 60) colored crescents or lunar phases per year?
The most novel aspect of our first journey seemed to be the jumps between crescents of doubled colors. What if that first doubled point, where we first jumped (at the top of the left vertical, from one blue crescent to a close-by, repeated blue one above it), was there only to guide us toward and through the need to jump?
The image below shows the Herberger Schematic with three main features clarified in color. They are the doublings of blue and orange crescents in the border’s otherwise unvarying color-sequence. Red marks the “overhangs” and groups of tracks not aligned with a colored crescent (in 3’s and 7’s); and, you find one complete circuit of the fresco, in the alternating colors of the fresco’s outermost orange and blue rows. Every detail here precisely matches the Ashmolean Version.
Surely there was a reason to double a few crescent-colors at cardinal points: only the crescent-colors that match the circuits of blue and orange rows. Their positions suggest a pattern. We found these signs/countersigns in three places: at our first short jump at upper left (blue to blue), at our second longer jump from right top to right bottom (orange to orange); and the third to get home with our longest jump, from bottom left horizontal to upper right vertical, blue to blue.
If this fresco is a calendar, a jump or skipping-over of one doubled lunar crescent makes more astronomical sense than to expect one Moon-phase to last twice as long as it normally, actually does. Perhaps, then, to learn the trick and keep counting in established color-sequence, we need to jump over and skip one of the doubled blue crescents that connect the left vertical with the upper horizontal’s left end.
One such skip would bring us 1 phase closer to 60. But which one to jump or skip-over in counting? Do we also, then, jump one of the doubled orange crescents at the right end of each horizontal row? If so, which one? Then, must we not also skip one of the final doubled blue crescents, guiding us when we jump from bottom left to the top of the right vertical? If we jump or skip over a crescent 3 times in all, we will have 59 total crescents. We cannot just jump as it suits our goal of 60 lunar crescents.
Unsure at this point, we might see if the complementary rows of solar day tracks provide a clue. As with observing Great Years, let us go back and comb or count through to keep observing, learning and discovering.
With the Schematic above or repeated below, start a new upward count from the left vertical’s bottom orange crescent. Beside it, count upward the tracks in the outermost row of them, at far left. This, we find, places us on an orange row of tracks, whose color matches the first orange crescent.
Count up that outermost row: 51 tracks. Now, we jump between the doubled blue crescents—and arrive at the outermost track along the top. As noted, another pattern of sign/countersign seems apparent—alternation of color. For the outermost (top) row of tracks where we land is now blue, matching the blue crescent-guide.
Counting left to right along the top blue horizontal row, we find 150 tracks. From the top right corner’s orange crescent, we jump down as before to the outermost row of tracks along the bottom; to find there again an alternation of color (now back to orange) that matches the new orange crescent. Counting onward (reversing direction, right-to-left) along the bottom horizontal row, we find 140 tracks.
Now, from the bottom left corner’s last (blue) crescent, we repeat our longest jump, from a blue crescent to the right vertical’s top blue one.
Here, however, we note (below, in the Ashmolean’s full colors) that the right vertical’s outermost (far right) row of tracks is orange—not blue, as we might expect by the blue guiding crescent, and by the logic of alternating colors noted so far. Should we complete our count with the tracks in that outermost orange right-side row, defying the blue guide?
To keep from breaking the logic of either pattern, we must hold to the now-blue guiding crescent that got us here—and choose the outermost blue row of tracks down the right side of the right vertical.
This choice, compelled by color-alternation, becomes our first subtle step inward through this labyrinth of 16 rows of tracks (8 orange, 8 blue). That outermost orange row will be counted in Year 2 ahead, by a logic wholly consistent with what we have established. For now, without another choice loyal to both lunar and solar fresco patterns, we count down the right vertical’s outermost blue row, and find 49 tracks.
The tracks along one full circuit of the fresco border total 390. Like our working lunar total, that is not impossibly far from the 365¼-day solar cycle. How, then, might these lunar/solar elements further refine each other? So far, patterns and anomalies in the fresco have been helpful. Let us look at another in trying to understand how to work with these features.
We return to the problematic “overhangs” of tracks on each side, and the tracks that align with blank space atop each vertical (all these points are highlighted red on the Schematic). At the left end of the upper and lower horizontal borders, we find overhangs of 3 and 3 tracks; and 3 tracks beside blank space atop the left vertical.
At right, top and bottom, are 7 and 7 tracks at the overhangs; and, in the right vertical, 3 more tracks beside blank space. These overhanging tracks total 26, a promising number, because 390-26 = 364. Something is not yet right, but let us keep on with eyes open.
Return to the start, and see how the overhangs’ groups of tracks relate to each other as we count through. The first group of 3 that we encounter, aligned with blank space atop the left vertical, matches or countersigns the next sequential group of 3 in the left overhang above it. Then, count across left to right, and at the top horizontal’s right end, the next overhanging group of 7 have their doubling 7 at lower right.
From there, count right to left. When we reach 3 more tracks hanging over the lower horizontal’s left end, we see ahead the last 3, waiting beside blank space atop the right vertical.
These anomalies, then, also link, double and sign/countersign our way along in sequence—another doubling pattern in the same circuit.
How can they help us? After all, each group of 3 and 7 is consistently doubled: there must be something special about those tracks and solar days. Yet, if we jump or skip all the doubled groups of 3 and 7, we only repeat what we did above—subtract 26 tracks from a full circuit’s 390. Close in number, still far in objective logic.
The fresco asks more of us. Like a beginning bull-leaper, we must learn when and how to jump (skip over) fresco elements; plus, where not to skip—and most important, demonstrably why.
We found doubled crescents as one pattern, their alternations another; a pattern in sequentially-doubled groups of “extra” overhanging tracks; and a further one in rows of outermost tracks along the way, in the alternating orange/blue colors of rows that match their corresponding crescents. Let us return to our most solid anchor (where we best knew where we were, and why)—the Great Year’s New Year Day, meaning New Moon/Winter Solstice, at the left vertical’s first orange crescent.
A full count-through brings us to that final orange crescent at the right vertical’s bottom. A calendar for one year, though, is not likely to signify redundant back-to-back symbols of the same New Year/New Moon event. If the New Year begins with New Moon (orange), it must actually end with a Dark/black crescent. On these grounds, there may be something “extra” about one of these first/last orange crescents that, together, comprise the fresco’s 4th doubling.
What do we know about New Year festivals in Bronze Age times? In Egypt, the year ended and began with a 5-day festival honoring their 5 most important deities—and, not surprisingly “behind the scenes,” this 5-day period served calendric needs as well. As MacGillivray (“Keeping Time”) and other scholars have demonstrated, some of Egypt’s most reliable calendric markers were The Decans: 36 stars and groups of stars whose timely, precise rhythms of rising/setting helped to keep religious festivals in seasonal harmony with agriculture and other endeavors.
The lunar/solar alternative was, sooner or later, some “arbitrary declaration” from time-keepers—and to that, we must not resort. Each of The Decans corresponds to an annual 10-day period, totaling 360 days—hence the need in that system too for an intercalated 5 days at New Year, to match the solar year’s 365. (Fractions later.)
That is our solar number-goal—and, to discover a demonstrable logic of how this possible fresco calendar arrives at it. We need some kind of intervention or adjustment, perhaps like intercalation, to serve the same calendric purpose.
Always looking back for what happened last time, we recall that in our first count through the fresco, we were startled by a missing or skipped-over white/Full Moon crescent; and found a blue crescent in white’s rightful established place, at the top of the left vertical. Its double—the closest blue crescent at upper left—led us to press on by jumping from there to the top horizontal row.
Now we are making a fresh counting-pass through the fresco’s border. But, we have learned things. So far at least, we must jump between segments of the border to complete a circuit. Could it be that “we Minoans,” then, like Egyptians giving special status to 5 days at New Year (for calendric purposes), should jump/skip over the fresco’s first 5 tracks or days at New Year? Our color-guides “demand” that we jump as a calendric technique.
By inference, too, as we learn, there was a second “problematic result” for the fresco that we cannot overlook, if its makers themselves intentionally omitted a white/Full Moon crescent in the first leg of our journey. In a lunar-based calendric tradition, omitting a Full Moon is as signally wrong as to skip over a New one. This must signal an important point. In fact this will help us, but only if we can see “why this problem, and why this solution” for ourselves.
At the top of the left vertical, we find a blue crescent “that should be white.” Go on from there, and the whole fresco’s established sequence of colored crescents—once it signals a 5-phase Moon—gives up visual correspondence between each crescent-color and the precise counted phase of the actual moon. This will prove consistent with other calendric purposes. It must be so to meet the central and higher priorities of keeping accurate time.
Put it another way. As in a labyrinth, we were tricked in (to learning) by appearances. For, once we allowed blue to substitute for white (in order to experiment, to count forward rightly by numbers), we tacitly assumed that we might construe one color in another’s place; that we might find ourselves demonstrably allowed to break or leap patterns—once we learned them, and then only where we know why.
Egyptian authorities initiated to calendric mysteries (to bodies of secret facts about nature and time) knew the hard-nosed reasons to mount a 5-day New Year festival. Public rites, spectacles and projects based in people’s genuine religious motives and energies literally normalized and smoothed over the vexatious, real, unmastered disjunctures of time that manifest in nature’s signs, and in front of every person’s eyes. As Wright noted in studying Mycenaean rulership (whose forms much-derived from Minoan Crete), when “uncontrollable variables” disrupted normal administration, ”ritual feasts” and “displays of symbols of power, authority and wealth” became “a major concern,” helping to distract from “instabilities” (1995: 64, 68). Such spectacles as well invoked ancestors, kinship, and rights of lineage.
Signs so far suggest that built-in guides will show us the way along the tracks that circle inward. Put together the need for a 5-day New Year Festival and a Minoan calendric technique of doubling and jumping. Precedents, contemporary practices, and signs in the fresco may underwrite an experiment forward.
Time flows not only in a calendar: time flows through it. Begin a calendar year and we resume time, not “begin” it. We have New Year day—the proper anchor for our counting (New Moon/Winter Solstice)—at an orange crescent (left vertical, bottom). And, we have its double, in the previous year’s final crescent (bottom/right vertical). Logically, coming out of one cycle into this new one of our count, we have already counted one of these verticals’ orange crescents—that last one on the right, which brought us to “this” New Year Day. Working through outermost rows first, we are counting a “Year 1” (of 4 years laid out in 16 rows), from the best beginning-point.
This crescent’s vertical measure includes 5 solar days. As you see at left (above) in the color-modified Schematic, the New Year orange crescent (left vertical/bottom) aligns precisely with 5 solar tracks.
For these reasons, there is no need to count—and a logic of doubling and jumping demands that we skip over—this first orange crescent and the first 5 solar tracks that begin the New Year. That may likely be when Minoans of Knossos observed, in their Great Year way, a 5-day New Year Festival: customs as useful as Egypt’s to smooth and reinforce their relations, and their calendar’s harmony with nature and time. Ahead we’ll see in detail how Great Year festival days might have played out in precise lunar/solar terms.
The colorized Herberger Schematic repeated above marks the New Year/first place where we jump in this new circuit. In blue, it also shows the second called-for jump to make. Let us now see precisely why the first of the blue pair is the one to jump.
Why jump the blue crescent at the top of the same left vertical (the first of these doubles), rather than its partner (at left, top horizontal)? Also, having skipped 5 solar days with the first orange crescent, how do we deal with these blue crescents’ doubling of overhanging tracks—the two groups of 3 days, marked in red atop the vertical (orange row) and in the horizontal (blue) rows of tracks?
A calendar is a cycle of time, a circle. To experiment, we enter into that ongoing flow. Also “ongoing” is the alternating pattern among these doubled features. In other words, at the end of the previous year (right vertical, bottom), we did not skip either the crescent or the tracks there. Their counts brought us to this New Year, where we enter the cycle anew, at the left vertical’s orange crescent.
Our present first orange crescent is, this time, on this pass, actually the “second” or double of the verticals’ orange pair; because of the one just passed through with the end of last year (right vertical, bottom). To begin again rightly in unbroken sequence of years, we are skipping the “second” or double of this orange pair, to start a New Year.
By a logic of alternation, when we arrive at the next doubling of color, namely blue (left vertical/top, matched at upper left), we jump over the first of the pair—here, blue. Logically, with it, we skip also the last three tracks aligned with empty space at the top of this left vertical row.
If the first 5 solar days and orange crescent that we jumped marked a New Moon/Winter Solstice/New Year Festival, what do these 3 tracks signify? Again, the lunar crescents and solar tracks articulate each other. At this point, where are we in the lunar year? Having begun this circuit of the border at the second lunar crescent from the left vertical’s bottom (now, in a sense, disregarding color), count upward to learn which moon and which lunar phase are in the real sky.
Three solar tracks from the top of this first (orange) vertical row, we come to the Waxing verge of the year’s second Full Moon: its 13th day. The answer to what those 3 tracks signify begins to suggest the calendric priorities noted above—the timing of a 3-day Spring Festival, signaled by and focused (if not always centered) on the second Full Moon.
At first, we recall, the crescents’ color-pattern seemed to skip over that white Full Moon. Help from the solar tracks, and the recognition that colors do not match actual lunar phases in the sky, returned Full Moon to its place. Without these inter-qualifying lunar/solar aspects—and without a calendar—Spring Festival’s labors and spectacles would “fall back” out of time with nature’s seasons. We will see next chapter how this festival’s timing coincides with Cretan ecology and the needs of food production.
Having completed our first (left vertical) row’s lunar/solar counts, and jumped from the 13th day (skipping 3 solar tracks) to the top horizontal’s left end, we follow an emergent alternating logic. Having skipped the first group of 3 solar tracks we encountered, we count their double of 3 tracks that begin the top horizontal, aligned alike with empty space. The first track in the top horizontal will be the second moon’s Day 14, the second day of that second Full Moon.
Likewise by this logic, we count this new row’s first blue crescent. Note for later guidance that, in this eternal chain, we skipped the first of a doubled group (of 3 tracks) that link us through this first juncture of vertical and upper horizontal.
This, by all signs and the lack of further ones, is the end of skipping any more lunar crescents as we go on. Our first two justified jumps reduced the fresco’s total lunar phases from 62 to 60: 12 Moons of 5 phases each. From here, while the crescents’ doubling patterns continue their guiding functions, the fresco presents no further anomalies in the patterns shown. Not unlike the Great Year we observed, its border seems to trigger attention by establishing and then exceeding pattern.
To sum up so far, we may see a demonstrable way in which the fresco’s logic, using alternation, doubling, and jumping/skipping patterns, is reducing one circuit’s 390 tracks to a lower number of solar days.
So far we have skipped or subtracted 5 and 3 tracks: 390-8 = 382. These anomalous tracks may be a calendric device to harmonize lunar/solar time with key natural and religious dates. This is consistent with evidences so far and with the function of a calendar.
Let us resume our latest circuit of the fresco border. Counting solar days from left to right across the top horizontal’s outermost blue row (and lunar phases by crescents), we pass through Summer Solstice (Moon 6, 20th/21st day)—without noting any special visual traits to mark it along the way—to reach Moon 7, Day 6. It is the last track directly above the outermost vertical, before the red-marked group of 7 that overhang the fresco’s top right border. If a 7-day Summer Solstice Festival is somehow signified here, why do its tracks not align with the sixth Full Moon? Evidence ahead may speak to this. Meanwhile, alternation and doubling say we must jump again, and show how and why beyond reasonable doubt.
The double of the top/right group of 7 tracks is not in the right vertical below our position (there we find a group of 3). The countersign to the upper/right group of 7 solar days is at bottom/right, in the bottom horizontal’s (now, orange) row.
Now, how do we jump?
We are up in the air above the open arms of the fresco’s right-hand helper. How do we know whether to count, or skip over, the first group of 7 solar tracks at the right end of the top horizontal? We need memory to progress, and caution not to indulge or repeat ourselves.
Last time—when we jumped from the left vertical’s top to the upper horizontal’s left end—we skipped the first of the doubled groups of 3 tracks connecting them (the ones in the top of the right vertical). Confronted now with doubled groups of 7 tracks, what is the correct (alternating) way forward to a landing-place, as we jump down from the top-right horizontal to the bottom one? Do we count both groups of 7? Skip both? Count only one group?
Again, our anchor in New Year Day serves as important a function as memory. For the first group of 5 tracks that we skipped over at New Year “stood alone” as such (as the only group of 5 skipped) in that first vertical row. Consequently, our jump from left vertical to top-left horizontal was the first new time in the present-running year that we confronted a doubled group of (3) overhanging tracks. There, by careful logic, we skipped the first of the linking doubled groups of 3.
Now, in this new top-horizontal row, the same linking and overlapped guiding logic presents an answer. In this top horizontal row, the group of 7 overhanging tracks at the right end is the second such overhanging group: behind us at left is the group of 3 not jumped. Alternating logic suggests that this time, we skip the overhanging group of (7) tracks that are the second such feature on this “new” top horizontal row.
Initiates, we experiment, follow our guides and jump. We land on the countersign of 7 overhanging tracks in the bottom horizontal row. What now?
Observe and characterize where and how these 7 tracks fall at the right-hand start of our “new” bottom row. The group of 7 at right are the first of two overhanging groups on this row (the other is the group of 3 at the left end). By the same alternating logic—having last time (above/right) skipped what was the second overhanging group (top horizontal’s 7 tracks)—here, we skip (do not count) this row’s first sign or group of 7. This is a logic based in observations, with nothing inserted or helping it along.
In terms of a year’s time-passage, we passed from early Spring to Midsummer along the top horizontal row: 150 - 7 tracks, or 143 solar days. Like the earlier doubled groups of 3 tracks that signified a timely Spring Festival, the doubled groups of 7 may indicate a 7-day Midsummer Festival (where, as we will see, a Great Year’s Full Moon does connect with Summer Solstice).
Now, with our direction reversed along the bottom horizontal (orange) row, we count from Moon 7/Day 7 (starting at the eighth track from the right), through high Summer. And, with our total of solar days adjusted again by this logic (140 - 7), we pass 133 solar days to the left end of the bottom (orange) row. We will soon check our cumulative adjusted total for the whole.
Now, at the bottom horizontal’s left end, do we skip (not count) its group of 3 overhanging tracks? Recall our whole pattern. We skipped the first doubled tracks (left vertical to upper horizontal). Then we skipped the second group (the 7 tracks at top right end of the horizontal). Next, we skipped the first group again (bottom horizontal, right end). By interlocking, alternating logic, we count (not skip) the overhanging group of 3 at the bottom row’s left end.
With this we arrive at a 3-day Autumn or Harvest Festival—which, by the position of the bottom row/left end’s last 3 tracks, begins with a symbolically appropriate Waning Moon (running from the 11th Moon’s 16th to 19th day). The year is waning, light is dying away; and a blue crescent marks the time.
Time again for our longest leap, over Bull’s back (our second time through the horns), from lower left blue crescent to its countersigning blue, atop the right vertical. Again the right-hand helper holds her arms out to catch us. We jump from an orange row of tracks to a blue one. And, as noted, the outermost blue row at the right side of the right vertical, which completes our first year, constitutes our first inward step toward the center of this labyrinth of 16 circling, interlocking rows.
The fresco’s own apparent logic of signs dictates how to handle the final doubled groups of 3 tracks (at the left end of the bottom horizontal, and atop the right vertical). Last time, in the bottom horizontal row, we skipped the first such sign (the group of 7 at lower right; and we have counted the 3 at the bottom row’s left end). Jumping once more to a new row (right vertical), the group of 3 tracks at its top is the second in these groups’ partnered sequence: hence, we skip over them. They are the last countersign leading home and onward, into another new year.
Now add up the logic-guided skips of tracks we made in one complete circuit. New Year/ Winter Solstice Festival’s 5; Spring Festival’s 3; Summer Solstice Festival’s 7 (top) and 7 (bottom); and Harvest Festival’s 3. Subtract their total of 25 from one circuit of the fresco’s gross total of 390 tracks. The result is 365.
The Herberger Schematic now shows every detail of the calendric counting-structure we have studied. The large numbered arrows (1-4) in orange and blue show the major movements in one full circuit of the Bull Leap fresco border: at center are the resulting calculations.
In Chapter 4 we will track this same careful logic through the Fresco's remaining rows of solar tracks---and see why, at that final orange crescent, a reversal of direction begins our New Year counting forward through the Fresco's 4-year structure. In Chapter 4 we'll see more of its Cretan ancestors and cousins, but here we can also note that this reversal seems to be family with actual Minoan ceremonial form. We might expect such resonances. Shank (2008: 97) noted that “numerous scholars have supported the theory that figural wall paintings acted as visual guides for people participating in ceremonies, rituals, or other activities.” She cited Cameron’s 1970s “sign-post theory” as one example. After all, the most basic likelihood is that "initiated" or leading religious and political figures, as "commissioners" of frescoes, dictated to some degree their subjects, forms and functions. Certainly, the persons who constructed and guided the actual "ceremonies and rituals" (including activities based in astronomy) had to consult and cooperate with Knossos fresco-painters—so as to generate frescoes that accurately corresponded as "guides" to their knowledge and to the actions and meanings they wished to promulgate.
The calendar's yearly reversal of direction echoes Knossian ritual, as if borrowing it from ongoing tradition and practice to create fresco form. We noted that the Fresco's rows of crescents and tracks present a color-guided journey inward by circles—in effect, a spiral—where at the center or "end," to continue one must turn around in place and reverse direction. Kerenyi (in his 1976 Dionysos: 96, italics his) details reliable traditions of a Minoan form of ceremonial dance that became known as "the Knossion" (when goldsmiths also turned its lines into visual decoration). Held within a "sacred precinct" which might correspond to the Fresco border's aspect of a "rocky surround," this dance was "a procession which led by way of concentric circles and surprising turns to the decisive turn in the center, where one was obliged to rotate on one's own axis in order to continue the circuit."
Our progress through the Fresco border also happens to fulfill what Costis Davaras (1976: 172) defined as "the true labyrinth pattern"—which dictates that, "beginning from a single entrance, one has to pass through all corridors only once to reach the center of the design" (emphasis added). Davaras further notes that the "maze dance" traditions of Knossos, "performed with labyrinthine convolutions, [and] trod with measured steps to the music of harps," took place "on an area marked with sinuous lines," which were built in "to guide the steps of the dancer." The parallels between Fresco-form and social forms seem obvious.
We might wonder if these correspondences are coincidence, or something to expect between them, since both are spiral-form measures, and both are descriptions and expressions of cyclical time. As we'll see, ceramics and iconography across these chapters speak in similar terms.
Is there also a connection between the fresco’s abstract guiding signs and the Bull-leaping figures' places and postures? We noted these coincidences and contrasts of motion above, along the guided way. If Bull is shown “flat-on” toward us the viewers, why are the left-hand leaper’s feet higher than those of the right’s? A smaller/younger “initiate” or beginner is one answer. But clearly, Bull lifts the leaper upward, drawing (perhaps) our counting-eye in that correct direction. It seems a complementary contrast that where we finally land (right vertical, bottom orange crescent) coincides with the right-hand leaper’s help, her feet solidly planted, poised for more.
This study attempted every conceivable other direction and approach to these signs, patterns and anomalies built into the original Bull Leap fresco. They included Herberger’s own use of modern month-lengths, and with alternating 30- and 29-day months, as in some contemporary Egyptian and Near Eastern evidences. None, including an Autumn New Year, arrived close to these clearly interlocking results. These patterns also connect with evidence shown and in detail ahead.
You saw the science and conservatism in Herberger’s Schematic, how closely he built from the original fragments and two Versions. Could Herberger “make this up” in clever ways big and small, with a maximum possible variance from original elements of perhaps 3 solar tracks? If Herberger’s Schematic is “off” the original Bull Leap fresco by even that much, would it justify dismissal of fresco patterns and correspondences, and return its border to mere decoration?
Marshack did not think so (see the full text of his 1972 review in the “Coda”). Although Marshack noted that the original border was “more than 50% destroyed,” his review respected Herberger’s reconstructive precision to “within 1 or 2 tracks,” and called for more analysis rather than dismissal. Marshack was also concerned that there was “no known tradition of comparable notation from any culture” of Minoan times. While that appears true, none was required.
Certainly, a lunar/solar pattern in a fresco’s border would be more complex than a notation used by Minoans in the counting-house. But as shown (Chapter 2), both of its essential elements (“1’s” and crescents) were already signs in Minoan writing. There is complexity in the border-pattern’s use of color, but evidence shown and to come suggests that in contexts, its colors are consistent with their other mainstream Minoan uses. We might say that the border-pattern exploits Minoan use of colors, having observed (one clue at a time) the way its doublings-within-a-sequence and its alternations call for countersigns; for responses that reveal its operations.
The fresco’s doubled groups of “extra” tracks fall where annual festivals would belong if, following the norm, they were linked to the ecological rhythms of food-production: festivals and ceremonies timed by a calendar as moveable feasts. A systematic symbolic pattern that meets these real-world functions seemingly must be a calendar. Decorative chance would not likely present these correspondences.
At this point let us compare and contrast Great Year evidences so far with calendric discoveries at Knossos (2001) and Mount Juktas (2000) by Mary Blomberg, Goran Henriksson and others. As noted in Chapter 1, did “the” central Minoan calendar begin its New Year at Winter Solstice or Autumn Equinox?
At Knossos, Blomberg’s and Henriksson’s sightings proved that a person looking out (eastward) from the inner end of the West Wing’s “Corridor of the House Tablets” would see the sunrise on both Spring and Autumn Equinox aligned along the northern (left) edge of the doorway. 11 days after Autumn Equinox, they would see the sun rise along its southern (right) edge. At Autumn Equinox also, the rising sun’s light struck a “bowl-like stone” laid into the corridor’s innermost floor. If it were filled with water, sunlight off its surface lit up a double axe incised on the lower wall some inches away, with the door-frame’s shadow just touching one of the sideways axe’s blades. Their findings matched previous observations of the significance of the same days at Mount Juktas.
There, at both Equinoxes, the sun rose into “the saddle” between two crests of the lower mountain (2000: Fig. 2), and did so again between other points 11 days after Autumn Equinox. At the same times, a shadow reached to a niche along the western side of a structure there. The central significance of that configuration in the Knossos throne and elsewhere will be shown (Chapters 7-9). At both sites, the sighting of a New Moon on that 11th day offered “the special value of predicting the [same] phase of the moon at the following Autumn Equinox” (2000: 83).
As both authors note, it seems “scarcely possible to overestimate the practical and religious value of such a system in the Bronze Age” (2001: 616). “The lunisolar calendar of [Classical] Greece was introduced as an ecclesiastical [religious, sacred] calendar, and succeeded in establishing itself as the civil calendar owing to the close connection between the religious and the political life" (Nilsson Reckoning 278). Bitsakis (2008): “This knowledge linked celestial cycles to cycles of human institutions,” and was “not simply an instrument of abstract science”: it “exhibited astronomical phenomena in relation to Greek social institutions.”
“The area of the well-known pillar crypts” is “the generally recognized center of cult for the palace” (2001: 614), but that West Wing includes multiple recognized centers, not least the throne room. The corridor existed since Old Palace times (perhaps 2000 BCE), but the calendric device seems difficult to date—complicated by Hood’s view (2005: 45) that most of the West Wing was “leveled and reconstituted” at some point between 1700 and the New Palace constructions. Were its doorway alignments built-in, or noticed in a later period? Was the water-reflective aspect deliberate or discovered by accident? When was the Labrys incised on the nearby wall? The 11-day interval involved as a calendric anchor for these sightings seems to suggest a discovery of alignments after the structures were built. Otherwise, they might match in their own terms the throne’s actual alignment with Winter Solstice day.
As Blomberg and Henriksson note, there were no extraordinary structures atop Mount Juktas until New Palace times (after 1600: 2000, 87). While Chapters 7 and 8 must detail more of those developments, these authors suggest on evidence at other sites (2005: 58-61) that orientations toward autumn and the west might betoken Mycenaean presence and influences. If the rise of “Zeus” at Mount Juktas coincided with many mainland-based effects, the West Wing corridor’s calendric alignments might reflect a Mycenaean discovery rather than a Minoan invention. Certainly, Knossos needed a thoroughgoing calendric system before then.
There is no inherent contradiction between a Great Year cycle and ceremonial observations of Spring and Autumn Equinox. Possibly many Minoan centers insisted on their own autumn New Year traditions. The latter were probably older traditions that continued to surround those of the “great” Knossos cycle, not only enriching yearly ceremonial life, but serving in the breach when lunar/solar Great Year strings of signs revealed their disjunctures (Chapter 8).
They were after all to be observed in shorter time-periods, and profoundly useful. Combination might be the case as Blomberg and Henriksson acknowledge the many signs of an “8 or 9” year period at Knossos and, hence, in Crete to some degree (2000: 86). The sighting of New Moon as a sign to intercalate or add extra months along that period suggest what pan-Cretan evidences already reflect, that Minoans had multiple calendric understandings and devices in simultaneous operation.
This is further reflected in two works of 2006 by Sabine Beckmann: theorizing an Autumn-based calendar in the evident cycles of flowers in the Knossos “Blue Bird Fresco,” and as well in possible Minoan reliances on the constellation Taurus, connected with farming and maritime rhythms.
Surely, if Autumn Equinox were “the” Minoan New Year, its signs and symbols would be clearly as central and visible as those shown (and much more ahead) in the Knossos throne and in other central sacred contexts. There is a way also that Labrys as such might connect with Autumn New Year theory, articulated by MacGillivray’s “Astral Labyrinth” (2004, 331-332):
I see the simple staff, with crossed diagonal lines forming two opposed triangles of equal proportions, standing upright at the center of the twin peaks as a symbol of the equality of day and night: the equinox. I currently wonder if this so-called double axe, thus read, might not represent the fullness of the sun’s yearly journey and so be shorthand for the sun itself.
Marinatos (2010) agrees as she shows that in many ways the double axe “is the sun,” and can be “interchangeable with the sun disc,” although “not identical with it” (116-17, 129). But MacGillivray’s insights, like many more signs of the Great Year ahead, include a fuller account of the moon’s place(s) within this symbol as well:
While the twin peaks device [or, “horns of consecration” treated in Chapters 7-9] is practical, it and the double axe can also symbolize the passage of time, the changing seasons, perhaps the changes in the earth and [in] humans as they pass through the seasons of their lives….The doubled double-bitted axe, with [doubled or] extra projections on each side…could symbolize an extension to include the moon and stars, which are seen to make a journey similar to the sun’s across the skyline each solar year. This doubled axe could symbolize the marriage of the sun and moon, perhaps the union of the solar and lunar calendar.
This describes much of what we will see ahead in Labrys as part of a Minoan Great Year cycle. The question remains as to the identity of their New Year’s annual day. More evidence might decide.
We will keep testing the Bull Leap fresco and work to resolve unanswered questions. Let us see what emerges when we track through the remaining Years 2, 3 and 4; when we look to see whether the fresco’s layout and other aspects correspond to Cretan ecology; and when we compare features and patterns with other central Minoan remains, artifacts and symbols. Then, with more contexts from astronomy and archaeology, we can explore how such a calendar could have come about, and see what evidence exists for the part it may have played on what Driessen and McDonald called a troubled island.
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