Solving the Greek monkey mystery gave us an important clue to Bronze Age world

phys.org | 8/31/2017 | Staff
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The blue monkeys painted on the walls of Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini are among many animals found in the frescoes of this 3,600-year-old city. Historians have studied the murals for decades since they were unearthed in the 1960s and 1970s on the island, which was once known as Thera. But when we and a team of other primatologists recently examined the paintings, we realized the monkeys could provide a clue that the Bronze Age world was much more globalized than previously thought.

Archaeologists had assumed the monkeys were an African species, with which the Aegean people that built Akrotiri probably came into contact via trade links with Egypt. But we think the paintings actually depict Hanuman langurs, a species from the Indian subcontinent. This suggests the Aegean people, who came from Crete and the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea, may have had trade routes that reached over 2,500 miles.

Wall - Paintings - Akrotiri - Ash - Volcano

The wall paintings of Akrotiri were preserved by ash from a volcano that destroyed the city some time in the 16th or 15th century BC and offer an incredible glimpse of an early civilization in Europe. We haven't been able to translate the earliest Aegean writing, but the paintings suggest just how developed these people's society, economy and culture were.

Much animal art from this period is generalized, meaning it's hard to confidently identify individual species. In the case of the monkeys, we also don't have any physical remains from Aegean settlements to provide additional evidence of which species are depicted.

Reason - Archaeologists - Art - Historians - Egypt

The reason why archaeologists and art historians have assumed they came from Egypt is because that was the nearest location with an indigenous monkey population that had known trade links with the Aegean. As a result, the Akrotiri monkeys have been variously identified as baboons, vervets and grivet monkeys, all...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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