Minoan pre-palatial sealstones in their economic and social context : a study based on the new material from Archanes-Phourni
Sealstones are one of the most important types of artifacts discovered in the Aegean Bronze Age. Their practical use for recording and administrating purposes, their association with identity, prestige and social status, their possible religious or ritual connotations speak clearly for their importance and value. The fact that they are deposited, among other artifacts in tombs, accompanying their owners, demonstrate this value not only in life but also in death. Especially in the pre-palatial period in Crete a large number of seals have come to light, coming mostly from mixed contexts in the Mesara and Asterousia, in south Crete. The Minoan pre-palatial sealstones from Archanes-Phourni comprise an important corpus of artifacts for many reasons. They come from a site in the North of the island, in contrast to the majority of pre-palatial seals. The excavation and recording techniques used offer the opportunity to study the seals in their context, which is dated with relative certainty. The study of these seals, in comparison with the published ones from the south of the island, may offer significant information about important aspects of life in this period. The examination of materials, shapes, motifs, style groups and consumption patterns of seals may present us with useful insights about craft specialization and technology, internal and external exchange, economic organization and administration, religion and ritual, social differentiation and organization in the pre-palatial period. The study of this multiple and complex role of sealstones can offer us valuable information about the period before the first palaces.